Lovett Tower, the iconic building which once stood as the tallest in Canberra but has sat vacant for five years, is set for a new lease on life.
Brite Developments has released plans to refurbish the 24-storey building for student accommodation and commercial space, with the development application expected to be submitted this month.
Woden's "marker building" on Keltie Street stands at 93 metres and has been home to several government departments since it was constructed almost 50 years ago.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Veterans' Affairs vacated the office in 2016. It has since been vacant.
Brite Developments' Jonathan Preston said Lovett Tower's refurbishment would help revitalise Woden town centre.
"We saw the opportunity to take this, think outside the square and turn it into something that can breathe new life into Woden town square," he said.
"We see the accessibility to public transport, the expansion of the hospital and the growth of the town centre will support more commercial accommodation, and it's a different product to those other developments."
The building was the tallest in Canberra until last year, when Geocon's High Society eclipsed it at 27-storeys.
Mr Preston said the tower's iconic facade would remain the same, aside from ramps which would be added on the western side to accommodate more parking.
The plan includes turning the first five levels into car parks, to add 86 spaces to the 17 currently in the building.
Some of the existing car spaces would be removed to allow for electric vehicle charging and bike storage.
Ramps would be constructed on the western side of the building, facing towards Corinna Street, and would extend beyond the current footprint of the building.
The next three levels would house 116 student accommodation units which would each have an en suite.
The current communal bathroom spaces in the office building would be refitted as communal kitchen and recreation areas.
The plan was in response to the new Woden Canberra Institue of Technology campus, set to be completed in 2025, which would accommodate up to 6500 students.
The remaining floors would include 184 serviced apartments for commercial operations, including 50 luxury apartments.
Mr Preston said the development would be gas-free and powered entirely by rooftop solar.
The lobby would include three commercial spaces for lease. Mr Preston said there were plans to make it accessible to the community and include local art displays.
"There's been a lot of eyesores in the area for quite some time and I think people are ready for the change. This building isn't feasible as an office and I think everybody realises that after watching it sit vacant," Mr Preston said.
Brite held community consultation sessions throughout February.
On concerns the plan included too few car parks, just 86 for 300 units, Brite said the development had to balance creating enough car space without it taking up too much of the building.
At the early stage of community consultation, Mr Preston said they were open to respond to demand and would look at increasing student accommodation if there was need for it.
"There are ways we can have student accommodation that is directly associated with CIT or it can be privately operated but with a view to support CIT students," he said.
Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick supported reinvigorating the building she said could be the heart of the town centre.
"It has been mothballed for some time so we support the refurbishment of it into an active building," she said.
"Woden is the major social and commercial hub of Canberra's south. We need to activate it and we need to have a heart.
"Woden desperately needs that heart ... that vibe that attracts people to it.
"The ground floor of Lovett Tower is critical to enable that."
Ms Carrick disagreed with the plan to turn five levels into parking, arguing it should be made available to the public as a cultural space, with a separate car park constructed nearby.
One in 10 office buildings in the ACT were currently vacant, with plans to build several new office spaces in the pipeline.
Canberra was the only capital city not to record an increase of office vacancy rates as a result of the pandemic, with 10.1 per cent of offices empty according to the Property Council of Australia's latest Office Market Report.
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