Heritage claims for new city apartment block 'far fetched': National Trust
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Heritage claims for new city apartment block 'far fetched': National Trust

The National Trust has described as "far fetched" claims that a new high-rise on the corner of Ainslie Avenue and Cooyong Street reflects the homes of Reid.

In its revised application for a 12-storey apartment block, being considering by the planning directorate, SHL and parent company JW Land have incorporated features that it says reflect nearby houses.

A view of the laneway off Cooyong Street in designs for a the apartment block.

A view of the laneway off Cooyong Street in designs for a the apartment block.

Timber portal entries are inspired by portico entries of the area. A "tower pop-out" on Ainslie Avenue is a "contemporary reinterpretation" of the chimneys of the original Federal Capital Commission houses in Reid.

Textured detail above the shopfronts on Cooyong Street is "accents in panelised bronze" and "a contemporary response to the ochre bagged render" of the original Reid and Braddon houses.

SHL's designs, showing the bagged ochre elements of nearby houses reflected in the planned building.

SHL's designs, showing the bagged ochre elements of nearby houses reflected in the planned building.

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Eric Martin, from the National Trust, dismissed the claims, saying the "functional need for a chimney to discharge smoke is no support for an apartment tower" and the "roughcast or pebble dash render is not "bagged ochre" but was a functional detail of the period".

SHL's claim that the building "has been designed to these surrounding elements, to build upon and not detract from their inherent values" and drew inspiration in colours and textures of the area was "not supported on the evidence presented", he said in a submission on the proposal.

The biggest issue was the scale of the 12-storey corner block, and how the new building would relate to the areas, including Gorman House across the street, and there were no drawings to reflect that.

"The comment that "the design has also taken inspiration from the Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre incorporating off-white concrete finishes" fails to understand that the facility across the road is the Gorman Arts Centre and that the existing colour is not the original colour which was much richer and had an ochre toning," he said.

The proposed Currong Street frontage of the SHL building looking on to Gorman House, incorporating a large elm on site.

The proposed Currong Street frontage of the SHL building looking on to Gorman House, incorporating a large elm on site.

But he said the new design was an improvement on the first, which was withdrawn by SHL in after considerable opposition, including from the Greens, whose Caroline Le Couteur blasted the proposal earlier this year as "completely unacceptable".

JW Land's head of development in Canberra, Michael Prendergast, rejected the criticism, saying, "The architectural response is compatible with, and sympathetic to, the past, present and anticipated future built conditions of the area."

SHL's designs showing how the tower pop out reflects chimneys on heritage homes nearby.

SHL's designs showing how the tower pop out reflects chimneys on heritage homes nearby.

JW Land's revised application says it will have 329 apartments, down from 366 in the earlier application, and three levels of basement parking for 657 cars.

Its design incorporates a laneway through the building, and JW Land says there will be public bike parking and electric car recharging spaces. Apartments will be larger than in the earlier plans with more natural light and winter gardens. SHL says it has set the development back further from Cooyong Street, increased green space, increased protection for the large American elm on Currong Street and added rooftop solar and rainwater recycling.

The planned 12-storey tower block on the corner of AInslie Avenue and Cooyong Street, now approved.

The planned 12-storey tower block on the corner of AInslie Avenue and Cooyong Street, now approved.

The "pop-out" to the corner tower would create drama and prominence in the Cooyong Street facade.

Ms Le Couteur said the new designs were an improvement, but her main concern had not been addressed. The plans still did not reflect the Territory Plan variation which had been done for the site and which envisaged a building of eight storeys, not 12, and a suite of sustainability measures.

"A lot of intellectual and emotional energy went into that and it was filed somewhere in Actpla," Ms Le Couteur said. "That is very sad from the point of view of the local community and the outcome is not as sustainable as it would have been had we followed the original plans."

The developers had told her they hadn't even seen the Territory Plan designs, Ms Le Couteur said.

Mr Prendergast said the sustainability measures were above the requirements of the Territory Plan.

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Rainwater recycling and solar panels would held reduce body corporate fees and running costs and improve liveability.

And he said Ms Le Couteur's criticism of the planning was about the government process and outside of the control of the developer.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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