The north Canberra community has been invited to have its say on a large mixed-use development proposed for the corner of Northbourne and Wakefield Avenues in Braddon.
Canberra developer Evri Group plans to redevelop the site, which it has owned since 2000, with approximately 430 build-to-rent apartments, alongside retail, dining and wellness facilities.
Vacant since early 2021, existing office buildings on the 10,663-square-metre site will be demolished to make way for three buildings, ranging in heights up to 13 storeys.
Evri Group has begun a community consultation process for Block 9 Section 7, which is expected to run until November 1, 2021 before a development application is lodged.
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The development would be among some of Canberra's first build-to-rent blocks, a concept that has been gaining popularity in Australia in recent years for its potential to solve housing affordability issues.
Build-to-rent refers to residential developments where all units are held in single ownership and rented on a long-term basis, as opposed to build-to-sell where individual owners lease to tenants.
Evri Group development manager Rob Speight said bringing a build-to-rent development to Braddon could help alleviate some pressure on the rental market.
"Canberra's metrics are extraordinary when it comes to low vacancy, high rental numbers. We think that those metrics show that there's clearly a need for a relief on the rental sector from a supply and demand issue," he said.
According to the Real Estate Institute of Australia, Canberra's rental vacancy rate at June 2021 was 0.7 per cent, one of the lowest in the country. The average rent for a two-bedroom unit was the highest of all capital cities at $510 per week.
When it launched in 2020, apartments in the Amaroo build-to-rent development were listed from $360 to $490 per week.
Mr Speight said renters would pay a standard rental fee and have access to a number of services and amenities within the building, such as a cinema, a gym and yoga studio, rooftop gardens, an indoor swimming pool and function spaces.
Concierge-style on-site management would also be on offer.
"Whereas you might have a strata manager that's operating a number of properties off-site, our management occurs on-site," Mr Speight said.
"We know that people move to Canberra and it's a pretty unfamiliar place. We want to help people find new residences within the city and feel at home immediately."
The development is planned to comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a small number of 'small office, home office' (SOHO) residences, which are split-level terraces with dedicated home office space.
North Canberra Community Council (NCCC) chairperson Jochen Zeil said one of the biggest concerns with new developments along Northbourne Avenue was consideration of communal green spaces.
"That has become so important in the COVID crisis - outdoor places where people can sit, parks, playgrounds," he said.
He also feared views may be impacted by a large development on the corner block.
"I remember that one concern about that intersection was its vista to Black Mountain and that, in some way or other, had been a feature in [Walter Burley] Griffin's plans for Canberra. So there's a concern about the interference of that view," Mr Zeil said.
NCCC deputy chairperson Jane Goffman said modelling was completed in 2019 to demonstrate the visual impact developments on the intersection would have.
She said the ABC and Mantra sites were the main area of focus at that time, as there was no indication 220 Northbourne Avenue would be redeveloped.
"In order to judge the visual and heritage impact of this current proposal we'll need to examine the modelling extremely carefully," Ms Goffman said.
Mr Speight said natural, green spaces would be an important consideration in the development.
"There's a lot of focus on the preservation of the Northbourne Avenue motif, which is a really native Australian look," he said.
"There's a lot of beautiful trees there that we, of course, will be retaining which is core to the site. We'll be adding a lot more green space for shade. Shade is a core component today and moving forward in the future - so a lot of deep-rooted planting zones."
According to planning documents, pedestrian access will be encouraged through the site on the ground level with access to the commercial tenancies.
Evri Group has engaged Purdon Planning as part of the consultant team for the redevelopment.
Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus Landscape Architects, two firms behind Canberra's NewActon precinct, have also been engaged for the project's design.
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