ACT News

Mick Gentleman to lead delegation to the US and Canada to look at light rail

ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman will lead a delegation of planners, architects, business leaders to the United States and Canada next week to gather ideas for Canberra's urban renewal.

Mr Gentleman is visiting Tucson, Seattle and Vancouver, cities which he says all have similarities with Canberra, "be that through their planning hierarchy, the shift away from a car-dependent society, or the increase in the importance of creating a sustainable place for people to live".

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman hopes to gather ideas to bring back to Canberra.
Planning Minister Mick Gentleman hopes to gather ideas to bring back to Canberra. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

With him will be representatives from the Master Builders Association, the Australian Institute of Architects, Cox architecture, the University of Canberra, the Canberra Business Chamber and Community Housing Canberra.

Four government officials, including Mr Gentleman, will make the trip, along with about six others. 

Mr Gentleman said the group would look at "planning around sustainable transport networks such as light rail, the creation of urban villages and how policy and planning levels stimulate economic activity".

The government is looking to open a new front of residential and commercial development at West Basin beside the lake, and to develop Northbourne Avenue as a zone of high-density living, supporting the tram that will run from Gungahlin to the city and arresting the city's suburban spread. 

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Announcing his trip to a meeting of architects on Tuesday night, Mr Gentleman said for urban intensification to be  successful, it must be matched by quality design and protection of Canberra's leafy suburbs and landscapes.

He counted Braddon, New Acton and the Kingston Foreshore as "planning success stories".

"These are the exciting types of active, mixed use precincts with a high-quality public realm that I would like to see in other parts of our city," Mr Gentleman said.

The light rail project was not just a transport project, but had the potential to "fundamentally transform and enhance the shape and form of Canberra and the quality of life for its people", he said.

"The best light rail networks demonstrate design and construction quality of a world class standard. Capital Metro will establish a new benchmark for integrated sustainability, engineering, art, landscape architecture, and urban design."

He said the tram project would see "a balanced composition of beautiful landscape and built elements such as stops and termini that are of the highest design quality, and are elegant, robust and enduring".

All of the street infrastructure, including poles, stops, signs and street furniture would have "integrated urban design elements" and "public art that is contextually relevant", he said.

Northbourne Avenue would become a series of urban villages, culminating in a plaza between the Melbourne and Sydney buildings.

The group travels from February 20 to 29. The trip is expected to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 a head, according to Mr Gentleman's office. The non-government delegates would pay most of their own costs, with the government offering a $2000 grant to  those representing peak bodies.

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