Everything you need to know about Canberra’s new ‘City Renewal Authority’

After ten years of servicing the Canberra CBD in so many ways, In The City Canberra (ITCC) will close its doors for the final time on 31 December 2017.

Canberrans are entitled to ask “how does this affect me?” and even though the work we do is what makes Canberra’s City and Braddon District exciting, refreshing and somewhat seamless, a changing of the guard will occur following 31 December 2017. A handover process is already underway to facilitate this process and ensure a smooth transition.

So, here is everything you need to know about the City Renewal Authority (CRA):

What is the need for the CRA?

The CRA will work with the private sector and the community to further develop their area of responsibility from Dickson to West Basin including the strip either side of Northbourne Avenue that flares out to include Haig Park. Their area of responsibility includes our City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy collection area in the City and Braddon District. This is the levy that has funded us to deliver events like the Curry Festival, Christmas, Skate and soon the Taste of Braddon, that brings new people to the District. This is the levy that funds us to clean at least a graffiti off buildings each day and deal with old and tired pavements and buildings. The $1.8million generated by 608 levy payers has been valued and respected in all of our decisions. This money is being transferred to the CRA to aid their significant challenge of balancing improvements and renewal with land sales revenue. It is highly anticipated and needed.

The last concentration of investment in the CBD was in 2010 to 2012 when the City Improvements Program went part the way to fixing broken pavements and in 2014 with the Bunda Street share way. Of course, there is money being spent on the new wall, board walk and park at West Basin, but that’s far away from the heart of the CBD.

The timing is right and we are shouting from the roof tops about the government’s commitment to fix up our CBD and working through the impediments to quality places, spaces and buildings.  The ACT is one of Australia’s fastest growing areas, having reached a population of 400,000 this year, with another 100,000-people forecast to call Canberra home by 2033. This means the demand for the upkeep and innovation of our CBD is equally increasing.

Who exactly is the CRA and how are they governed?

The CRA and its sister authority, the Suburban Renewal Authority, replaced the Land Development Agency as of 1 July 2017. The City Renewal Authority and Suburban Land Agency Act 2017 legitimises their existence. When the Act came into place, ITCC was advised that the Authority would take over all our responsibility at the end of 2017. The CRA board is exceptional including renowned interstate professionals with expertise in urban design, architecture, town planning, sustainable development, affordable housing and community engagement.

The Chair of the Board, Dr Michael Easson AM, recently welcomed industry veteran Malcolm Snow to the team in the position of City Renewal Authority CEO. Malcolm brings with him a wealth of experience with over four decades in urban planning and brings a powerful CV, including heading Brisbane’s South Bank development, head of design with the City of Melbourne, leading city revitalisation projects in Asia and Britain, and of course his recent experience heading up the National Capital Authority. He is openly and passionately committed to this renewal program and bringing everyone with influence along for the journey.

Being an open government, the ACT Government encourages community input and engagement, placing Canberrans at the center of the governance process. You may be interested in the Minutes of their meetings.  More on this can be found here.

How is the CRA financed?

The Levy that has funded ITCC over the last nine and a half years, will be transferred to the ACT Government’s City Renewal Authority. At $1.8m, this is a small amount to what is required – a drop in the ocean. For example, the three yearlong City Improvements Program had $22m and now we are delighted to see the same team reassembled after a five-year lull eyeing up what needs to be done outside the Waldorf and Transit Bar alongside Akuna Street, in the Sydney Building and other building laneways. The other funding comes from government taxes and charges and land sales of public housing, carparks and other government assets.  At this stage no one has indicated that the collection area of the City Centre Marketing and Improvements levy will expand.

What are the long and short-term goals of the CRA?

The CRA have outlined three major projects;

  • Transforming the West Basin
  • Renewing Haig Park
  • Activating the CBD

Additional missions and visions can be found in the City Action Plan summary below. Activating is an interesting term because basically it means taking existing areas and making them more active. Events, markets, popups, portable parks etc. Hopefully it means dealing with the legacies from times gone by that no longer suit us such as the chess pit in Garema, the old pink pavers that absorb bird poo, gum and other rubbish, the tired old enclosure protecting the merry-go-round and perhaps its location.

How can I contribute to the work of the CRA?

The ACT Government has initiated a platform that allows anyone to have their say on the happenings within the Territory. There are a couple related to the CRA area such as the Renewal Strategy, the Popup Park in Garema and the work of City Services in maintaining the area. These can be accessed via Your Say.

Are there any previously planned ITCC initiatives which will not commence?

Yes. Projects include:

  • Waste enclosures in the laneways, particularly Odgers within the Melbourne buildings
  • Seed funding Government to deliver a major upgrade to the roundabouts and Elouera Street in Braddon
  • Award of any further grants under the Grants In The City program for events such as the Multicultural Festival, Skate in Garema etc
  • A range of street art projects including Saraton Lane, Petrie Street Art, Verity Lane Substation
  • A cleaning blitz to remove stains and gum on pavements and public places
  • Wayfinding signs to complement the proposed Light Rail
  • Online wayfinding and business directory embellishing Google Maps
  • Decorative light projects in Verity Lane, New Acton and Haig Park
  • Various works, including tree planting in City Walk near the Merry-Go-Round and sheep sculpture, fixing Verity Lane median kerbs, picking out the heritage features of the Sydney and Melbourne buildings with elegant lighting and the Garema ‘big screen’ prototyping

How does the work of the CRA change my life as a Canberran?

The term renewal implies that parts are broken and need a review about how they can better serve all of us. It may mean changes to the Territory Plan, the City Plan and so-called red tape and prohibitive charges. The role of CRA is to ensure ongoing improvements are made that are design led and people-focused.

Their work to oversee the transformation of Northbourne, the Sydney and Melbourne buildings and City Hill, the crossings over/under Parkes Way and the progress of big ticket items like the Aquatic play space, the Stadium and the Convention Centre and the extension of light rail are pivotal for the future of the CBD. There’s lots to do, combined with the maintenance of the CBD, which is what people notice on a daily basis – including cleaning, safety, quality and people gathering to socialise.

You can access the City Action Plan here. Meanwhile, subscribe to the CRA’s newsletter and stay up to date with what’s happening in your city.