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Giants and Grocon downsize Manuka plan and vow to protect heritage

The Giants and Grocon have revised their plans for Manuka Oval, cutting apartment numbers from 1000 to 650 and promising to leave Manuka Pool and its grounds alone.

The companies have also abandoned plans to demolish the heritage former child welfare centre, which will be retained for change rooms or a similar facility as part of the new cricket nets. And a key heritage tree will be retained.

The new plan scales back the apartment and retail development on the Manuka Pool side of the oval, so it no longer encroaches on pool grounds and no longer requires the demolition of the heritage building. Instead of rising as high as nine stories at the Canberra Avenue end, the two new rows of buildings will be four stories at the pool end of the development, rising to seven stories at their tallest.

An extra 270 basement parking spaces have been added to the 1350 already planned and the developers are working on a basement drop-off point for Telopea Park school students to meet concerns about busy street drop-offs.

A 150-room hotel remains in the plan, but plans for a club on site have been dropped. A gym will still be part of the development, but retail space, along with apartment numbers, has been cut by 30 per cent.

Giants chief operating officer Richard Griffiths said the development cost was now $550 million, rather than $800 million. The company was still hoping to spend $80 million to $100 million on the stadium but that was subject to detailed costings.

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Grocon spokesman David Waldren also revealed the bid had already passed the first stage of the government's unsolicited bid process, and the developers had already submitted a detailed business case under the second stage. The business case has not been released.

The revised plan comes after trenchant community opposition to the development, in which the Giants and Grocon want the government land and permission to redevelop the area around the oval, including shops, a hotel and offices, in return for upgrading the oval, including permanent covered seating.

The proposal has also run into political trouble with news that Labor Party figures David Lamont and Pierre Huetter were working for the Giants and Grocon to win government approval. Mr Huetter, who is husband of Labor minister Meegan Fitzharris, has since resigned from the project.

Mr Waldren said Grocon had been "very happy with the original proposal" and remained happy with the new proposal.

"Some of the language has been somewhat colourful," he said. "We have worked really hard to listen to what is the underlying story, the underlying concern, and address that. Aesthetics, architecture are inevitably a conversation had around personal opinion and no doubt people will have personal opinions about what we've done.

"I don't think we have attempted to land an ocean liner in Manuka. We've always said the project will be open to design competitions and that we'd have multiple hands delivering different parts. Those things are subsequent stages, they're not available for the community to see at the moment, and that, I suspect, is part of the issue that we've had."

Mr Griffiths said "Manuka Green" was "a unique proposal that guarantees AFL and international sport will be played in Canberra for the next century".

In April, Mr Griffiths criticised opponents of the project as "local residents who resist change" and didn't want increased population growth and density.

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