The developer of the former public housing site in the city has gone back to the drawing board on its plans for an 11-storey tower and 366 apartments after planning officials raised concerns about the proposal.
SHL Developments bought the key former public housing site on the corner of Ainslie Avenue and Cooyong Street at auction last year and submitted plans in January this year.
But the planning directorate said it had "a number of concerns about the design quality of the proposal for this important site". SHL was now amending the plans and would resubmit, the directorate said.
The January plans were for a tower on the corner, and a seven-storey building fronting Cooyong St, lowering to five storeys facing Currong St behind.
Greens parliamentarian Caroline Le Couteur led opposition to the design, rejecting it as "completely unacceptable" and failing the test of sustainability and liveability. She said the government had promised a highly sustainable development, but the plans went nowhere near.
The National Trust said it was "extremely disappointing" that heritage had been "summarily dismissed" as an issue, given how close the development was to the heritage-listed Gorman House and Braddon and Reid conservation areas. Trust chairman Eric Martin questioned whether there should be a six-to eight storey building across the road from Gorman House.
The Reid Residents Association said there had been no meaningful consultation, with most of the letterbox drop going to government flats, since vacated, and no letterboxing of the vast majority of residents in the surrounding suburbs. No community meeting had been held, and lodging the planning application over Christmas looked deliberately timed to avoid community comment.
The group questioned what it said were plans to extend Petrie Street across Cooyong Street and through the new development, creating a new through road.
The proposal downplayed or ignored the heritage impacts on Braddon, despite the location. The most interesting part of most cities was the "old town", but in Canberra the aim looked to be "just knocking it down and putting up apartments".
"This is a major development initiative for an important part of the city," the group said in a submission to planning. "This site is unique because it is the only part of the city where the city centre actually meets established residential suburbs … The development should be, but isn't, about creating an international urban planning exemplar for residential development on the fringe of the CBD …
"It should be designed as a place where everyone would want to live and be happy. Instead, it is being treated as a run of the mill, bog standard, high rise construction project to provide a quick fix cash cow to generate as much money as possible for Housing ACT."
Plans to redevelop the site have long generated debate, as the government first changed the Territory Plan in 2011 to allow high-density development to replace the Currong public housing block, along with neighbouring buildings, including the Allawah and Bega public housing on Cooyong St.
The Currong blocks have now been demolished, with demolition costs blowing out to $14 million after extensive asbestos finds. SHL, which paid $47 million for the site, is to demolish the Allawah blocks in front.
Another of the 13 submissions was from resident Chris Emery, who said a 12-storey building would be out of step with the surrounds and overshadow people living nearby including on the other side of Ainslie Avenue. Some neighbours would get as little as three hours of sun a day, he said, also predicting the building would create a wind tunnel.
The development did not provide the required six metre setback from Cooyong Street for landscaping, and did not provide the trunk bike path that was required. Plans for carbon neutrality, solar panels, grey water recycling, public housing, green walls and winter gardens had disappeared.
Submitter Elizabeth Teather objected to the tree removal, the too-narrow footpath, and the lack of a trunk cycle path. Dr Teather said there was no justification for an 11-storey tower in an area of low-rise residential in Reid and Ainslie Avenue. And she was concerned about congestion at the single entry and exit point for the underground parking. She said it was misleading for the application to claim there would be "security foot patrols" when that would be up to the body corporate to consider and fund.