National Capital Authority head Malcolm Snow will head the new City Renewal Authority, in charge of the development of Northbourne Avenue, the city and the lakeside.
The new job gives Mr Snow a crucial role in shaping Canberra's main gateway, with the government having declared a special planning precinct for the blocks either side of Northbourne Avenue, but no detailed designs or new planning rules released yet.
The government has already sold off large blocks of land to developers, including Johnny Roso on the Dickson side of the avenue, SHL/JW Land on the Lyneham side, and Doma in Dickson. It is also seeking prices for the demolition of Macarthur House, where a Land Development Agency brief envisaged potentially lifting height limits from 32 metres to 50 metres.
To date, little information has been released about the high-density apartment buildings, office and shopping space to replace the public housing that has dominated the strip, but government ministers have made several trips to north America for inspiration.
Mr Snow said the first step was to develop "a really clear aspiration about what we're trying to create" - which involved not simply higher density but also great quality.
"Guidelines will have to be developed, but the very first step is to restate exactly what the aspiration is and if that's done clearly then people will buy in and understand what we're trying to do," he said.
"In the capital of the nation we should be aiming to create one of the world's most beautiful and functional boulevards. That's what Burley Griffin imagined it could be when he saw light rail going down it."
Development must "respect the scale of the street" as well as take full advantage of the spend on light rail, he said.
"We need to be able to make sure that as many people as appropriate can work, live and play along that corridor and that's the transformation that we have to get right."
Asked about the government's sale of land before development guidelines were in place, Mr Snow said he was looking forward to what remained to be done, not at the past. And as for a new convention centre, a centrepiece of the City to the Lake project that has now been effectively shelved by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Mr Snow said it was an "opportunity waiting to be realised" but not a government priority.
A chief executive is yet to be appointed for the Suburban Land Agency, which will develop new suburbs.
Describing Mr Snow as "a constructive innovator", City Renewal Authority chairman Michael Easson said he looked forward to working closely with him to deliver the ambitious goals set for the new agency.
Mr Snow had led major city revitalisation in Asia and Britain, as well as Australia. He headed the South Bank development in Brisbane, was former head of design with the City of Melbourne, and was director of consultant Urbis.
Mr Snow headed the federal National Capital Authority for five years.
Mr Barr said he was delighted at the appointment of Mr Snow, who had the skills "to make the city a place people want to go – through excellent design, welcoming public spaces and great events".
Mr Snow starts August 28, on a salary pegged by the Remuneration Tribunal at $312,420. The Land Development Agency was headed by David Dawes who officially finished on July 1 but was on leave for some months before. Mr Dawes was also director-general of economic development, a role that no longer exists.