Canberra's tallest building may be reinvented as aged-care facility

Canberra's tallest building may be reinvented as aged-care facility

Canberra’s tallest building looks to be heading for a genteel retirement; a possible conversion into an aged-care facility after its last public servant packs up their desk.

And the best hope for a large transaction in the capital’s struggling office market has been snuffed out with the Customs service confirming its long-mooted move from its Civic headquarters had been "terminated".

Lovett Tower in Woden.

Lovett Tower in Woden. Credit:Graham Tidy

Another big requirement, 30,000 square metres of offices for the Department of Social Services, has also been fulfilled with DSS commissioning a new building right next door to its present Tuggeranong Office Park HQ, to be owned by the same landlord, Cromwell Property Group.


Lovett Tower in Woden, which has been home to hundreds of bureaucrats from the Veterans’ Affairs, Environment and Prime Minister and Cabinet Departments looks set for a change of pace, with its landlord Cromwell looking to cash in on the shortage of retirement accommodation around Canberra’s town centres.

The 26-storey building stands at a towering 93 metres, and is the third tallest structure in the ACT after Black Mountain Tower and the flagpole at Parliament House.

The Canberra Times revealed last week that several large industry players were disappointed after customs placed its requirement for up to 24,000 square metres of offices under "review".

An ACBPS spokeswoman made it official on Friday, confirming the deal had been "terminated" in the wake of the agency’s merger with Immigration.

"Customs and Border Protection yesterday (July 17 2014) notified tenderers that the current Request for Tender Process for the Provision of Leased Office Accommodation in the ACT has been terminated," the spokeswoman said.

"The basis for this decision is that it is not in the public interest to proceed given the change in the requirements following the announcement that Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will be brought together from July 1 2015."

The federal Department of the Environment abandoned its floors in Lovett in June and moved its public servants to the city's parliamentary zone.

The news follows the announcement that the tower's main tenant, Veterans' Affairs, will move to Civic in June 2016 to share offices with the Australian Taxation Office in a move the government says will save $84 million over 17 years.

The remaining floors in the 40-year-old landmark block are leased by Prime Minister and Cabinet in a deal that expires the same time as that of Veterans' Affairs.

Cromwell Properties Paul Weightman has confirmed that the company wants to pursue an aged care or residential conversion of the tower, noting a move towards "densification" and a growing demand for medium-density living in Canberra’s town centres.

ACT Property Council Executive Director Catherine Carter said Cromwell’s strategy for Lovett Tower was a good news story for the capital’s real estate sector.

"There is massive demand for retirement accommodation in and around Canberra’s town centres and right now, that demand is just not being met," Ms Carter said.

"Any building that is being converted, upgraded, refurbished or put to other uses is a good news story."

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