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Government moves to demolish dilapidated Currong apartments

Tom McIlroy

Published: April 16 2015 - 11:39PM

The dilapidated Currong apartments in central Canberra look set to be demolished by August, as the ACT government calls for tenders for the removal of the eight-storey former student housing. 

A planning application for demolition of the graffiti-clad buildings was approved in January and tenders have been called from contractors. Applications of intent to tender for the work close at the end of the month. 

In a separate development on Thursday, the ACT Heritage Council opted not to give provisional heritage protection to buildings within the adjacent Allawah and Bega Courts precinct, finding the flats, built in 1956 and 1957, did not make any important contribution to the course of the ACT's public housing history. 

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

The territory plans to redevelop the whole precinct into new residential and commercial premises, as it moves to create urban renewal in Canberra and build increased population density along the proposed light rail corridor.

Total cost for the Currong demolition was estimated in late 2014 at $3 million.

Officials told the Land Development Agency that wood in the 1959 buildings was degraded, windows were rotten, and cracked concrete existed throughout. 

No public objections to the demolition plans were received. The site includes five trees that will be protected. Temporary construction fencing is around the buildings. 

The Currong site will be redeveloped for homes with stepped heights from three to eight storeys. The current 212 units will be replaced with 190 dwellings.

Plans for the Allawah site will see it increase from 114 dwellings to 288, and the Bega site will grow from 114 dwellings to 403.

The Heritage Council noted the Allawah and Bega Courts and the Currong flats "represented the first major housing project in the federal capital since the Federal Capital Commission-type houses" of the late 1920s.

Their scale and density represented a significant departure from previous public housing styles around the capital.

An ACT government spokesman said officials would ensure nearby residents and communities were fully informed about progress on the demolition, including through a communications and engagement plan.  

Public housing tenants, private residences and the Gorman House arts precinct will be consulted and have the opportunity to raise concerns about the works. 

"The government is working closely with the tenants of Bega and Allawah flats to make sure we understand their needs and circumstances," the spokesman said. 

"We know that many of our tenants have unique needs, including those with children or limited mobility, and we are determined to find them accommodation in housing and communities that meet those needs."

Northside Community Service chief executive officer Simon Rosenberg said a new community taskforce had begun providing information and support to residents through regular events. 

Housing Minister Yvette Berry and officials have joined residents at barbecues, and Mr Rosenberg said it is still too soon for complete information to be given to all residents about the timeline of relocation and options for new housing. 

"I think the key thing for the tenants is that they come at this with very different motivations," he said.

"We have to treat people individually, because some people are very keen to move and some people are feeling that they are quite anxious about the fact that somewhere they've stayed for a long time will no longer be their home.

"In each extreme we are assisting them to go through that process as best we can, so they will be as informed as they can be."

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