Canberra Services Club considers $45 million Manuka Oval redevelopment or sale
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Canberra Services Club considers $45 million Manuka Oval redevelopment or sale

The Canberra Services Club has applied to deconcessionalise its lease on a prominent block of land next to Manuka Oval with a view to building a potential $45 million mixed use development, or selling the block.

The land, at Block 1, Section 15 Griffith, was at the centre of a controversial unsolicited bid by the GWS Giants and Grocon to redevelop, which Chief Minister Andrew Barr ultimately ruled out just before the 2016 election.

The Canberra Services Club has been homeless since the building was destroyed by fire in 2011.

The Canberra Services Club has been homeless since the building was destroyed by fire in 2011. Credit:Karleen Minney

It has sat idle since 2011, after a fire destroyed the old Canberra Services Club on the site, leading to the club merging with the Canberra Club, buying the old RUC Club in Manuka on Blackall Street and retaining ownership of its original site.

The application follows Planning Minister Mick Gentleman late last year calling in a development application to build a new media centre at the oval, to meet International Cricket Council requirements.

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The National Capital Authority also late last year finished a development control code for the oval precinct, but a master plan for the area promised by Mr Barr in the wake of the failed GWS-Grocon bid appears to have stalled.

Club president Mike Kinniburgh said if the application was approved, the club was considering either redeveloping the block into a potentially $45 million mixed use project, a "rubbery figure", or selling it.

He said the site remained the club's "spiritual home" and if developed, it could include residential development, a new club and restaurant, significant car parking, offices and meeting spaces and possibly a small gym.

But he said the club would also consider going to the market to sell the block, depending on what members decided in its annual general meeting expected in April or May this year.

The club also still holds 60 authorisations for poker machines to be used on the site, which are currently in storage, while 15 machines it owns are operating at the Blackall Street club.

While Mr Kinniburgh said the club was already in talks with a number of private developers over the first option, those talks were subject to confidentiality agreements.

But he said neither the GWS Giants, nor Grocon, were among those parties that had expressed interest in being involved in any redevelopment.

Mr Kinniburgh said if the club decided instead to sell the block, it would first be looking to secure a suitable, and larger, block of land in Manuka which it could develop as a new club.

He said whatever option the club pursued, it would also consider redeveloping the old RUC Club into a similar mixed used development, to have two clubs, which he hoped would provide a stronger financial footing for the future.

A social impact assessment by Elton Consulting lodged with the application does not detail any future development proposals, instead saying removing the concessional status was "required to maximise the options available to the club" including market listing the site.

Mr Kinniburgh said a wider land swap proposal to facilitate that development, involving a memorandum of understanding with the now-defunct Land Development Agency and Defence Housing Australia, had "expired".

That arrangement, which would have seen the Manuka Occasional Child Care Centre move to the Telopea Park School's tennis courts site, with the club to move to the child care site and GWS Grocon to develop the club's old site, was ultimately abandoned after a public backlash.

He said while that deal with the government had expired, and the other proposals for the site were higher priorities, he would not rule out anything at this stage.

The club has been advised by Colliers International's Paul Powderly on their options since at least 2016 and Mr Kinniburgh said Mr Powderly had played a key "behind the scenes" role in the application to date.

A Colliers valuation of the site lodged with the application puts the 2468 square metre block at a current market value of $250,000, with an "original value in 1984 of $48,000, claiming the club would face a pay out of just $125,000 to remove the concessional status.

The application to remove the concessional lease is currently open for public comment on the planning authority's website.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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