Plans are under way to redevelop a prime heritage-registered site in Yarralumla, which includes buildings from Canberra's first decades and has housed CSIRO staff for more than 45 years.
The owners of the former forestry school will consider a wide range of development options for the site as part of a new master planning process.
"Forestry Place could be many things. Because of its size, heritage and location, the site could host educational, residential, commercial, cultural or community future uses ... or a combination thereof," a website for the project said.
The 11-hectare site which housed the Australian Forestry School between 1927 and 1964 was sold to Gunyar Pty Ltd in June 2002. The CSIRO retained a 20-year lease for use and management of the site.
The crown lease for the site is held by a trust for the Sydney-based Shepherd Centre, a registered charity which supports early intervention for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
Developer Oakstand Property Group has been appointed by the charity to manage the site's development under the banner Forestry Place. Tania Parkes Consulting has been appointed to lead the master plan process.
"Developing a draft master plan is the first stage and will include collaboration with the National Capital Authority and the community to progress and develop this exclusive site," the website said.
Yarralumla Residents Association president Mike Lewis said the local community was keen to maximise the site's benefit to the community and protect the heritage nature of the precinct.
He said the residents' association had established a sub-committee to develop a series of community objectives for the site.
"A community hall would be a good thing. There's nowhere in Yarralumla at the moment where community groups - badminton or pilates or yoga, that sort of group - can meet. Having a community hall would be a good benefit for the community," Mr Lewis said.
"Obviously, heritage, traffic and parking are issues for us - [along with] privacy for existing residents and minimising disruption during any construction process. But if it's going to be developed for residential for example, there will have to be a change in land use," he said.
Mr Lewis said the residents' association would continue to engage in good faith with the master plan process and the site's developers. He said the signs were positive for a good outcome but the "proof of the pudding is in the eating".
The Australian Forestry School opened at Yarralumla, then called Westridge, in 1927. It closed in 1964 ahead of the opening of the Department of Forestry at the Australian National University. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has occupied the whole site since 1975.
The original school's accompanying principal's residence, Westridge House, was also used by the CSIRO as a research facility until 2009. It was converted back to residential use and sold, most recently in 2018 to Jaehee Choi for $6.05 million.
Canberra lobbyist Peter Conway, acting on behalf of the owners, this week wrote to ACT and federal parliamentarians to advise them of the process.
The site is controlled by the National Capital Authority, which would need to seek a variation to the National Capital Plan to allow for residential development.
Gunyar Pty Ltd also bought the Gungahlin Homestead site from the CSIRO in 2002.