The ACT government has released the last two major blocks of public housing on Northbourne Avenue for sale, saying buyers will be judged not only on price but on design and build quality.
The prominent blocks, which were formerly the Northbourne Flats, are a combined 39,000 square metres and were put to the market on Tuesday as part of the ACT government's sale of land in the corridor to pay for its light rail project and encourage higher-density city living near the city.
The Northbourne precinct, including blocks closer to Dickson, is expected to yield 3500 apartments. Tender documents describe Northbourne Avenue as the most significant approach route to the city and one of the most important streets in Canberra. They envisage new "urban villages" centered on light rail stops in the corridor.
Block 1 Section 68 and Block 4 Section 60 are opposite each other and zoned CZ5 mixed use for high-density development, with design guidelines that envisage buildings up to 25 metres high.
They border Haig Park in the south. The Turner block, bordered by Forbes, Greenway and Condamine streets is the larger of the two at 23,372 square metres. The Braddon block, between Haig Park and the Canberra Rex hotel, backing on to Henty Street, is 15,607 square metres.
City Renewal Authority chief executive Malcolm Snow said releasing the two sites together by tender allowed for "design quality" to play an important role in the sales.
"Using a tender process allows us to judge proposals based on design and build quality as well as price. This method also makes it easier for national and multinational companies to prepare bids, ensuring we give ourselves every opportunity to receive the best proposals," Mr Snow said.
Mr Snow said the new government architect, Catherine Townsend, would ensure "a high quality of design".
Tender documents say the winning bidder must be briefed by the City Renewal Authority within 60 days of the project delivery deed, then present concept designs within six months of the deed. The winner must also take part in at least three independent design reviews conducted and chaired by the ACT government architect as part of the National Capital Design review panel. And a draft development plan must be submitted to the City Renewal Authority for discussion.
The requirements are in marked contrast to the sales of the two blocks further north, Lyneham on Northbourne and Dickson on Northbourne.
Developer Johnny Roso's Art Group paid $37 million in August 2016 for the first of the Northbourne mega-blocks, Dickson on Northbourne. He proposed a design competition but in April this year, Art Group submitted an application to build 409 apartments, in the first stage of a $92 million development.
In March last year, JW Land, also known as SHL, bought the 25,000 square-metre Lyneham on Northbourne site for $45 million. The site has the capacity for more than 500 apartments, plus commercial space.
Tender documents say design for the two new sites being released must create "a symbolic stitching of the sites across Northbourne Avenue" and "provide a series of tall tower forms that are subtly angled away from being simply perpendicular to Northbourne Avenue".
The buildings must meet or exceed a minimum seven-star energy rating with at least 70 per cent natural light penetration and air circulation into living areas.
The Braddon site has 109 trees, 74 of which are regulated and five considered dying or damaged, tender documents say. The Turner block has 97 trees, of which 73 are regulated.
Mr Snow said the proposals for the two sites would include a masterplan that considered the previous Weave Design, chosen in a design competition in 2011, as well as existing site constraints, the interface with Haig Park, the city and Gateway Draft Urban Design Framework, light rail and other site opportunities.
He said proposals also needed to demonstrate "how they will adopt a people-focused approach" to the redevelopment and include a place proposition plan and community consultation plan.
"Canberra, and in particular the Northbourne corridor, has undergone significant changes since the Weave design was first conceived but we still want new proposals to reflect its principals and ambitions for a coordinated precinct," Mr Snow said.
Tenders close October 4.
The sales will leave only Macarthur House as the final Northbourne building to be sold under the government's asset recycling initiative. Macarthur House is due for release later this year.
The government will also sell a section on London Circuit near Commonwealth Avenue, adjacent to a block bought this year by the Morris Property Group. Barry Morris has plans for up to 1200 apartments on section 63, now known as section 100, and will extend Edinburgh Avenue to Vernon Circle, allowing the government to sell the neighbouring block.