Developer Geocon has confirmed it intends to include a hotel in the Kingston Arts Precinct, which will bring Canberra's so-called key arts organisations together in new buildings around the historic Kingston Powerhouse and Fitters' Workshop.
The precinct would embrace the historic buildings on the site to create a flexible and inviting space where arts organisations will be brought together in a critical mass, according to a leading Australian architect working on the project.
David Sutherland, a partner at Fender Katsalidis who helped designed the New Acton precinct, said new buildings in Kingston would "beguile and encourage" visitors towards the site's heritage buildings, which the plans "actively celebrate" heritage, rather than leaving the Powerhouse and Fitters' Workshop as "heritage tombstones".
He said individual arts organisations would retain their sense of individuality, but there would be shared meeting rooms and other facilities in the precinct's arts building.
Mr Sutherland said the best architecture referenced the spirit of the place and he would prefer to spend six months participating in community consultation than on a worldwide study tour for the project.
"It really has a great sensibility of urbanism at its heart, much more so than I think [other arts precincts] did. And what I mean by that, it's really concentrated on people rather than an abstract sequence of open space," he said.
The essence of the site's master plan was getting people to respond to the precinct, Mr Sutherland said.
The buildings would need to retain flexibility for future arts needs and should not be designed solely for current arts processes, Mr Sutherland said.
Geocon planning and development director Dan Stewart said the precinct would "ideally" incorporate a hotel in the mixed-use precinct.
The ACT government overturned a ban on a hotel in the precinct in 2016 with a "technical amendment" to the Kingston master plan.
The ACT government announced earlier this month they had signed a deal with Geocon to deliver the precinct, agreeing to spend $78 million on development works.
The money would include $50 million for purpose-built arts facilities for resident art organisations and accommodation for artists. It followed $1.8 million allocated in February to create a new arts management body for the precinct.
Progress on the precinct had appeared stalled when negotiations between the Suburban Land Agency and Geocon continued two years after the the developer won the tender in 2017.
Minister for Urban Renewal Rachel Stephen-Smith at the time of the announcement said the precinct would add to the vibrancy of the Kingston foreshore.
"We'll continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure we deliver a precinct of the highest quality and with excellent design outcomes," she said.
But local residents' groups have raised concerns preliminary plans produced by Geocon and architects Fender Katsalidis ignored the Kingston site's heritage values.
Kingston and Barton Residents' Group president Rebecca Scouller last week said the new precinct needed to honour the precinct's heritage and be strongly connected with Lake Burley Griffin.
Key arts organisations slated to move to Kingston include PhotoAccess, ArtSound FM, M16 Artspace, Craft ACT, and Canberra Contemporary Artspace.
Those organisations, along with Megalo and the Canberra Glassworks which are already located in Kingston, signed confidentiality agreements in order to see planning documents during negotiations for the precinct.
A closed briefing for stakeholders and residents' groups was held on Wednesday evening. A start date for construction is expected to be between 18 months and two years away.