A NEW vision has been unveiled for the central areas of Canberra.

The City to the Lake project promises to bring a new vitality to our city by breaking down the barriers created by arterial roads, building on under-used lakeside land and filling the spaces in between with vibrant urban and residential development.

Over the next two decades the area will be transformed by taking advantage of the Griffin Legacy amendments in the National Capital Plan. Parkes Way will be pushed underground and in its place will be a tree-lined boulevard inviting people into street cafes and shops and across to the new lake foreshore. A waterfront boardwalk will be built at West Basin and a new aquatics centre, urban beach, stadium and convention centre are proposed. The project is expected to provide a home for up to around 20,000 new inner-city residents.

This is an exciting project and one that will contribute to Canberra continuing to develop as one of the most beautiful and modern cities of the world.

Care needs to be taken however to ensure this vision does not become blurred. The City Plan, of which the new project is a one part, promises to be the overarching urban strategy for Civic. For many years the Property Council has called for a Civic master plan to define the strategy for the city and provide certainty about development and infrastructure. This City Plan must now be the priority. Without it there will be little for the lake to link to other than a series of under-used, disconnected spaces and empty commercial office buildings.

While we look to the future it also remains imperative to finish what we've already started.

Kingston Foreshore, an area which now hints at becoming Canberra's premier lakeside location for food and cafe culture, needs to be fully realised before a second lakeside destination.

Large infrastructure projects across the city must also be thoughtfully staged to ensure long-term investment interest is maintained - particularly given the commitment to light rail.

The future is looking bright for the capital - let's now make sure we keep our sights focused.

■Catherine Carter is ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia