Development Proposal for 41 Curtin Place – With Q&A

A Development Application (DA) has been lodged with the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate. The proposal is to replace the north-western block of shops on the Curtin Square (the chemist, bookshop, milk bar, etc) with a six-storey building, including a double-height retail ground floor and five residential floors (50 apartments), with three levels of car parking underground. The total height above the square is 24 metres.

The community has concerns that a large building will loom over, and overshadow the square, which will change the current pleasant character of the shopping centre. There are also concerns about an increased pressure on car parking around the shops.

In November 2015 the Curtin Group Centre Master Plan was released which outlines a vision, planning principles and strategies to guide growth and development in the centre. It aims to identify what is important about the centre and how to enhance its environmental, social and economic sustainability. The master plan process was informed by input from the community and stakeholders, including traders and lessees in the centre.

The development does not meet many of the principles embodied in the Curtin Group Centre Draft Master Plan. The Master Plan recommends 2 storey buildings on the square with 4 storeys at the back of the block.

The WVCC is not opposed to development but believes this development is too large for the site and will be to the detriment of the character of the shopping centre.

If you would like to object to the development please submit a written representation by 31 January 2017. Details for lodging a submission are at http://www.planning.act.gov.au/development_applications/pubnote

The Curtin Residents Association Inc is advocating for the development to be reconsidered, there website can be found at http://www.curtincollective.org/curtin-residents-association/


Some Questions and Answers re the development

The following information has been supplied to WVCC.

To view the plans go to http://www.planning.act.gov.au/development_applications/pubnote#C  and look for:

Development Application: 201630437

Address: 45 CURTIN PLACE

Block: Section: 62

Proposal: PROPOSAL FOR 6 STOREY MIXED USE COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT – demolition of the existing buildings, construction of mixed use building, comprising of three basement levels, a ground floor retail level with replacement public toilets and five upper residential levels. The development includes on and off site landscaping including upgrading surrounding hard surfaces and the reconfiguration of existing at grade car parking. Installation of a new awning above the ground floor and lightweight aluminium screen extending above unleased Territory Land and installation of a new substation in the Strangways Street verge.

Period for representations closes: 31/01/2017

 You can leave your feedback whether positive or negative at https://form.act.gov.au/smartforms/landing.htm?formCode=1251 until 31 January 2017.

The owners have said from the outset (June 2016 community meetings and http://www.curtinplace.com.au/) that the building is at the end of its useful life and it cannot continue operation as it is not economical to do so.  Therefore the logical extension is that the building has to be closed until such time that a commercially viable development is approved.  All leases expire in September 2017 providing the opportunity for the building to be closed from October 2017. 

No. The owners need to ensure that any redevelopment is commercially viable for the life of the building, at least the next 50 years. Hence they are designing a building for the future not the past –  10 contemporary shops and 50 private rental units located close to services and public transport in a catchment servicing 16,500 people responds to future demand.

The owners assess that the provision of 2 stories across the site and 4 stories at the very sourthern corner in the Draft Master Plan does not constitute a commercially viable development.

Four stories across the entire site would create more shadowing of the Square than the current 6 storey set back proposal.  Modelling shows that the Draft Master Plan guide of 2 storeys across the entire site actually creates the same if not more shadowing of the Square than the current proposal.  This is because the proposal has only one storey across the entire site and 5 storeys deeply set back and in an L shape so the tall elements are not in the lightshed that causes shadowing of the Square.  In other words, to create a commercially viable proposition and minimise overshadowing the upper levels need to be set back and higher.

The owners advise that from October 2017 when the leases have all expired the building will be closed and fenced off with hoarding:

  • If the DA is approved, for about 12 months until the basements and ground floor can be re-opened; and
  • If the DA is not approved, indefinitely until such time as a development that the owners consider to be economically viable is approved.

No, the residential units will not be sold and are intended for long term rental.  Short term rental has never been considered. The reason for rental rather than sale is that the site has been owned by the same family since the 1960s and they wish to retain ownership for future generations.  To date most interest in renting has come from young professionals and people looking to downsize or to move close to relatives who for reasons of affordability or choice do not wish to purchase.

The owners of the site have heard all the views expressed.  They have made an assessment that the current building is uneconomical to continue operation and that it would not be a commercially viable development if the scale was changed.  In response to community feedback other than scale, the owners have included:

  • an additional basement level of car parking
  • more off site landscaping on the ground level
  • installation of a new awning above the ground floor for the privacy of courtyard users
  • lightweight aluminum screening to the building façade to improve the aesthetic and for natural temperature control within units
  • improvements to current infrastructure by installing a new substation in the Strangways Street verge
  • commercial space for the existing traders and a few more shops as well.  Note: The leases for the existing businesses expire in September 2017 apart from one lease that has a longer period with a clause that takes account of redevelopment.

a). Desired character –

The design of the new development aims to meet the key recommendations of the recent Group Centre Draft Master Plan (below) by providing contemporary and expanded retail and private rental units located close to services and public transport in a well lit and landscaped safe pedestrian environment that contributes to safety through improved passive surveillance at night and to increased patronage of group centre businesses.

  • Reinforcing the vibrant, urban village character and social identity of the centre core precinct as an attractive place for people to relax and enjoy
  • Building on the centre’s attractive ‘urban village’ style of development
  • Improving the pedestrian amenity and connections across Strangways Street
  • Creating an east–west pedestrian and cyclist link that will better connect the centre to a future rapid public transport hub on Yarra Glen
  • Enhancing the western open spaces to incorporate informal recreational uses for the community
  • Ensuring public spaces are walkable, safe and attractive
  • Providing efficient and safe traffic and parking strategies.

b). Appropriate scale and function of the use –

The use being a Group Centre servicing a catchment of some 16,5000 people across 5 suburbs and providing social, environmental and economic sustainability that contributes to a more resilient community.  The most sustainable aspect of this scheme is that the development is located within proximity to an urban (group) centre that occurs on an existing public transport route. 

c). Minimizing detrimental impacts –

Overshadowing:  The draft master plan allows for 2 storeys across the entire site and 4 storeys at the southern end.  What appears not to be well understood is that 2 storeys across the entire site actually creates exactly the same shadowing of the square as does the current proposal.  This is achieved because the proposal has only one storey across the entire site and the five upper levels are deeply set back and in an L shape so the tall elements are not in the lightshed that causes shadowing of the square. The modeling shows that to maintain existing levels of solar access the recommendation for 2 stories across the entire site in the draft master plan would have to be reduced.

Excessive scale: The draft master plan contemplates 6 storeys across the road on the Statesman Hotel site and its surrounding car parks which is on a much higher grade to the Curtin Place site.  When that project proceeds it will be the closest height reference point and because of the grade, will visually look like it is 2 storeys higher than Curtin Place.

The proposed building is 22.7m total height at square level. This includes ground level contemporary commercial for a better shopping experience and 5 storeys quality residential. 

The draft master plan has not been finalised following 2 rounds of consultation.  The most recent public information is that in an interview last week on breakfast radio 2CC, EPSDD indicated they may embark on a 3rd consultation round following community representations.

 

Some shops are on month to month leases, some leases expire in September 2017 and some leases have redevelopment clauses that allow for a break in trading for redevelopment purposes.  If the redevelopment does not proceed because the owners believe it is not commercially viable, they will have to make a commercial decision whether or not to re-lease the premises. The proposed building has sufficient space to accommodate the current shops and a  few more as requested during the consultations. 

Because the five upper levels are deeply set back and in an L shape, the tall elements are not in the lightshed that causes shadowing of the courtyard, in fact, it has the same impact as two stories across the entire site.  In summer, shadowing commences around 2pm and completely shades the square by 4pm which would be welcome respite from the heat.

Car parking and traffic studies indicate there is sufficient capacity to accommodate the commercial and residential volumes proposed. There are 3 levels of basement car parking.

Long term rental is generally defined as more than 1 year.  This is relevant for several reasons a few being that it excludes Airbnb and ‘party’ type leasing to people who may not care for the quiet amenity of the area; it encourages tenants who want to make it their home and so care for the premises and environment; and it also makes it easier to develop a sense of community between immediate and near neighbours.

There will be an enclosed waste receptacle area on the ground floor with a roller door opening for garbage collection access.  Tenancies not associated with the 44 Curtin Place redevelopment will be responsible for their own waste collection and storage.

The Curtin Group Centre services a catchment of some 16,000 people, not just the suburb of Curtin. There is a younger demographic moving into the catchment area who are looking for a different offering to those in other age cohorts.  Working to a building lifecycle of 50 years plus, the owners are considering who will be using this redevelopment in the future and future proofing its commercial longevity.

A Regulated Tree is a tree that is located on leased Territory land in an area declared as a Tree Management Precinct and is either:

  • 12 metres or more in height; or
  • 5 metres or more in circumference at 1 metre above ground level; or
  • with two or more trunks and the total circumference of all the trunks, 1 metre above ground level, is 1.5 m or more, or
  • 12 metres or more in crown width.

More information is available at http://www.tccs.act.gov.au/city-living/trees/information_about_tree_protection_on_leased_land

The process of lodging a DA commenced in early November after several additional studies had been undertaken following the mid year community consultations.  The checking process took longer than anticipated with queries going back and forth until it was finally accepted by EPSDD in December.  There is a 15 working day public notification period for developments such as 44 Curtin Place.  Allowing for public holidays and the additional time provided by EPSDD for responses, well over 15 working days will be provided by close of notification on 31 January 2017.  EPSDD decides the notification period.

During the consultations that took in public meetings, individual meetings plus telephone, website, email and social media interactions, one third of respondents did not want any change; one third wanted change but had concerns about the scale; and one third were in favour.  The difference in views broadly reflected demographics of over 50s, 40-50s and under 40s respectively.

 

The proposal has 3 basement car parks, one ground floor commercial and five residential stories of 50 units above.  The owners of the site heard all the views expressed and made an assessment that it would not be a commercially viable development if the scale was changed.  In response to community feedback other than scale, the owners have included:

  • an additional basement level of car parking
  • more off site landscaping on the ground level
  • installation of a new awning above the ground floor for the privacy of courtyard users
  • lightweight aluminum screening to the building façade to improve the aesthetic
  • improvements to current infrastructure by installing a new substation in the Strangways Street verge
  • commercial space for the existing traders and a few more shops as well.  Note: The leases for the existing businesses expire in September 2017 apart from one lease that has a longer period with a clause that takes account of redevelopment.

Through design setbacks, winter solar access to the courtyard has been maximizedAdditional work has been undertaken to test building design options and their shadow impact on the courtyard.  The modelling of the current design indicates that there is a similar shadowing impact from the two storey heights proposed in the Curtin Group Centre Draft Master Plan to the set-back five storeys above ground level now proposed for the 44 Curtin Place redevelopment.  While there will be shadow impacts south of the proposed building these shadows affect the car park area only. 

The project team has been guided by the Curtin Group Centre Draft Master Plan that indicates the possibility for uplift in building height over the site and the recommendation that the Group Centre be an attractive ‘urban village’.  This suggests the possibility of a commercial and residential mixed use building of ‘human scale’ up to five or six stories which is supported by about one third of consultation participants.  The ‘Rules’ and ‘Criteria’ have equal status on the Merit Track DA review process and provide the evaluation framework.  The owners believe that the proposal requires a significant residential development component to realise the ‘urban village’ concept and make the project economically viable. 

The aim of the proposal is not to replicate the 1960’s building instead providing a contemporary shopping experience for customers and retailers in high quality design and sustainable built form, and rental accommodation well located to services, shopping and public transport.  This vision for the Curtin Group Centre was supported by just under a half of consultation participants most of whom were under 45 years old and some older residents looking to downsize.  On site rental accommodation would provide housing choice and the residents would provide business stimulus and better night time surveillance.  The proposed first floor garden for use by building residents will provide external landscape relief from the balance of the building.  The owner-developers of 44 Curtin Place will comply with all development conditions under the Territory Plan.    

No, the units are for long term private rental.  There is pent up demand in Canberra for quality long term rental particularly as levels of home ownership are influenced by factors such as affordability, employment mobility and a growing trend towards more liquid investments

In addition to the planning authorities who make the decisions, key stakeholders in the planning process are typically

  • Community members
  • Key agencies
  • Developers

In the case of Curtin Place, we consider everyone from current tenants of the site, immediate residential and commercial neighbours and community service providers all the way to Curtin Group Centre users from within its catchment of some 16,000 people; we consider the needs of key agencies who need to ensure public safety, utilities and amenity; and we consider the investment risk of developers and their need for projects that provide commercial longevity and a viable commercial return.

Visually yes.  Because of the sloping grade across the site the overall height addressing the square is 22.7m to the parapet, and the service area (west) to the parapet is 24.13m.

The current Curtin Group Centre draft master plan contemplates 6 storeys across the road on the Statesman Hotel site and surrounding car parks which is on a higher grade to the 41-44 Curtin Place site and visually will look like it is 2 storeys higher than the proposed Curtin Place. 

Yes, the access road to the dentist and doctor will remain open throughout construction.   A Construction Management Plan will be prepared following the Development Application process to ensure access to all shops and services are maintained throughout the build.

Yes. We understand the importance of maintaining pharmacy services in the Group Centre throughout the construction period and are working with adjacent property owners and there are several options to make this happen. 

Some of the one and two bedroom units are designed to enable them to be configured as three bedroom units if required. This will assist with successful private long term rental as market requirements change over time.

Versions:

  • Orginally published 7 January 2017
  • Updated 23 January 2017 with Q&A
  • Updated 25 January 2017 with additional Q&A
  • Updated 31 January 2017 with additional Q&A
  • Updated 1 February 2017 with additional Q&A
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