Massive overhaul of Canberra, with plans for extra 37,000 dwellings, towers along light rail route
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Massive overhaul of Canberra, with plans for extra 37,000 dwellings, towers along light rail route

The Barr government is set to lift height limits across the urban renewal precinct, in some places up to 48 metres, to allow an extra 37,000 dwellings along the stage one light rail route and out to Exhibition Park.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and new National Capital authority chief Sally Barnes on Thursday released plans detailing a massive overhaul of the city and Canberra's north, stretching to the ACT border.

The ACT Government's proposal to overhaul Canberra's city and north.

The ACT Government's proposal to overhaul Canberra's city and north.

Photo: Daniel Burdon

While the existing planning rules would allow for up to 11,000 dwellings in the area, raising height limits and residential expansion would allow for an extra 37,000 dwellings, or up to 75 years worth of supply.

Of those, an extra 4000 dwellings would be available through "height uplift opportunities", an extra 8000 in the "city centre expansion", including the City to the Lake precinct, and up to 6000 at "key government sites".

Some 8000 new dwellings could also be built in what the government has dubbed a "northern investigation area", covering the land currently home to the racecourse and Exhibition Park.

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The release of the plans follow Chief Minister Andrew Barr two weeks ago slamming those opposed to raising height limits as having a "small town, backwards, 1940s mindset".

It comes amid rising concerns about potential gentrification of the city, new targets showing no new public housing for the urban renewal precinct for the next four years and a government land release agenda criticised as "gouging" prospective homebuyers to bolster territory coffers.

While the plan would need wholesale changes to both government and NCA planning rules, it has the authority's official endorsement, indicating it would proceed, subject to community consultation.

The route into Civic from the territory's northern border would be divided into three zones, an outer "approach route" from the border to Flemington Road, an "informal park boulevard" from Flemington Road to Antill Street and "The Avenue" from Antill Street to City Hill.

Under the proposal, the approach route would be divided into six zones of different tree and grassland plantings from the border to Flemington Road.

From Flemington Road to Antill Street, building height limits along Northbourne Avenue would be raised from 8.5 metres to 18 metres.and immediately behind those blocks, facing the parallel streets to the east and west, raised from 8.5 metres to 12 metres.

The "avenue" proposed would be divided into two zones, with a "formal landscape avenue" from Antill Street to the Macarthur Avenue intersection, with the current 25 metre height limit raised to 27.5 metres.

Along that section, the existing height limits on blocks immediately behind those facing Northbourne Avenue to the east and west would also be raised from 12 metres to 18 metres.

From Macarthur Avenue to City Hill an "urban avenue" is proposed, with the current 25 metres height limit also raised to 27.5 metres.

The current three-lane Northbourne Avenue would also be reduced to only two lanes from Antill Street to London Circuit, replaced by wider verges and a separate cycling path, with "medium term" plans for only two lanes up to Macarthur Avenue.

The report also shows government estimates there are currently 17,250 dwellings in the area with "growth capacity" of 37,000 new dwelling, equivalent to "75 years' supply at projected growth rates".

It also highlights the redevelopment of "under-utilised" surface carparks across the area, including the current city centre carparks on London Circuit and "currently vacant" land adjoining Parkes Way.

"Also, around two-thirds of development facing Northbourne Avenue is yet to reach the intended 25m building height," the report reads.

Instead, developers of the proposed taller buildings would be encouraged to build underground carparks, as part of mostly mixed-used towers with commercial or retail space at ground level and residential or commercial on higher levels.

While the government last year tried to hose down reports it was planning towers at the Macarthur Avenue intersection to be allowed to rise up to 50 metres, the plan shows height limits would be lifted on each corner block to 48 metres, one corner of which currently houses ABC Canberra.

Similarly, at the intersection of Antill Street and Northbourne, developers of the two southern corner blocks would be able to build up to 32 metres high, compared to the current 25 metre limit.

And the intersection of Philip Avenue and Federal Highway, building heights would be raised to 22 metres for the two southern corner blocks.

The public has until April 27 to comment on the plans on the government's 'yoursay' website, with seven "meet the planner" sessions starting from today from 3pm to 6pm at the Dickson shops.

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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