ACT News

ACT government puts Currong and Allawah flats sites on the market

The ACT government will sell the sites of the rundown Currong and Allawah flats in central Canberra in February next year, taking advantage of federal government's public asset sale bonus payments. 

Chief Minister Andrew Barr will announce on Saturday the release of the 25,630 square metre Braddon site, which is expected to house about 515 new homes in buildings ranging from three to 12 storeys. The sale will also make way for a potential commercial space of about 4100sqm.

For sale: the Currong Apartments site.
For sale: the Currong Apartments site. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

A restricted auction for the land, at Cooyong Street and Ainslie Avenue, will take place on February 10. 

Demolition of the dilapidated Currong buildings had been expected to begin in August or September this year but substantial works were delayed and demolition of the eight-storey former student housing is currently under way. Planning approval was received in January.

The buildings - considered to be Canberra's first medium and high density public housing, were designed for share houses and for married couples by principal architect Richard Ure for the Department of Works. They were built between 1956 and 1959.

The development saw significant numbers of public servants move from communal hostels to private dwellings for the first time. Despite foundation rents of £4 and 7 shillings per week, the buildings quickly attracted long waiting lists. 

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Allawa, and the adjacent Bega Court building, include eight buildings of three storeys. Currong is made up of six staggered, L-shaped, eight-story blocks and included 184 one bedroom and 28 two bedroom flats. Together, Currong stood as Canberra's tallest buildings until the 1970s and were considered luxurious with small kitchens and bathrooms, heating and hot water and wide views.

Managed by ACT Housing since the 1980s, Currong was decommissioned and unsuccessfully offered for sale in 2008. 

Housing tenants will be moved from the Allawah Court buildings in 2016 and 2017, before it is demolished. The government expects planning approval for new developments to be completed during this time. 

Mr Barr said  current tenants of Allawah Court will be relocated as part of the government's renewal of a series of identified public housing sites around Canberra.  They will be assigned new homes as part of the program.

The government is also preparing for the demolition of 1960s public housing buildings in the Northbourne Avenue precinct at Dickson and Lyneham, with the proceeds and 15 per cent asset sale bonus payment going towards the city-to-Gungahlin tramline.

The territory will receive about $60 million in payments under a deal signed in February, including for the sale of outdated government office buildings and the ACTTAB betting agency.

"One of the key priorities of my government has been urban renewal, ensuring to make sure we grow into our potential as a city while still maintaining everything that is great about the Canberra of old," Mr Barr said.  

"The sale of the site marks the beginning of one of the city's biggest urban renewal projects, the revitalisation of the Northbourne corridor."

Total cost for the Currong demolition was estimated in late 2014 at $3 million but the price blew out to $6 million after significant amounts of asbestos and other hazardous materials were found on the site.

In April, the ACT Heritage Council opted not to give heritage protection to buildings in the Allawah and Bega Courts precinct, finding the 1956 and 1957 flats did not make any important contribution to the ACT's public housing history. 

The proposed sample area would have included two buildings and a garden area at the Boolee Street end of the precinct, near the intersection with Cooyong Street and opposite Glebe Park.