Have Your Say Survey – Q&A

Canberra CBD Limited’s CEO answers some questions.

The recent Have Your Say Survey uncovered some key questions the community have about Canberra’s CBD and the future of our City centre. Below Jane Easthope, CEO of Canberra CBD Limited responds to some of the most frequently asked questions and concerns.

Q: Who is the CBD of the future for?

A: All of us! Canberrans have expressed a great deal of pride, goodwill and loyalty towards our CBD. You’ve told us that you are ready for change but you want that change to be authentic and appropriate for locals.  When we get this right, the benefits to visitors will naturally follow.

Q: We’ve got the City Plan – isn’t that enough?

A: Master plans are done by citizens. As soon as they are published they are old. It is a fixed future. Action plans work better as a road map to the future. The City Plan focuses on land that government owns such as carparks, road corridors and public housing, therefore it doesn’t look at the CBD as a whole.

The survey confirms that Burley Griffin legacy is important and that the vision, planning and accountability should always recognise the strong bones that underpin the design of the CBD and City Hill.

Q: City to the Lake looks like a cool project – can we do that now?

 A: Yes it is but let’s try and fix the broken old CBD first. The extension to Constitution Avenue and a new frontier on West Basin will further stress the CBD. Is the population in the City at a level to warrant another hub of development that is outside of walking distance?

Cool isn’t planned – you have told us that you want activity but whether it is ‘cool’ is not something that can be prescribed but something that will happen.

Q: What do we do with the older parts of the CBD?

A: We need to manage the all parts of the CBD because if it appears that we don’t want it then no one else will. The surface/pavements are very important because streets need to say something. The skyline needs to tell you something about the place. Next time you’re in the older part of CBD open your eyes and see if it looks loved.

You can’t have artistic, creative people without having great architecture. The team of owners, design consultants and builders produce good outcomes within frameworks that encourage creativity. Many will state that the Territory Plan is a constraint.

We should convert and redevelop underused buildings because successful revitalisation needs more than just new and updated buildings. Any change should be practical, especially around transport and parking impacts.

Together we have to define the essence of our CBD – the point of difference. We don’t just want shiny and new; we need to shape our city in a way that reflects our unique identity.

You have told us that you appreciate that Government should articulate the vision but you know that it is business that drives the change and that you want ownership over the renewal story. Any help in removing barriers and creating incentives for businesses is good for everyone.

Q: I still want to drive and walk?

A: Think about being a tourist staying in the CBD. If you were working in Hotel Hotel, QT or Peppers and your guests wanted to walk to see the sights and experience local culture beyond the immediate precinct, what would you say about the CBD? How would you mark up their orientation map? Where would you draw the circle of you are here and here’s the circle that you should walk to?

A city loop bus that includes the parliamentary zone and all of its big attractions would greatly assist CBD. Many cities such as Wollongong have their bus paid for by the government. Where’s ours given that the CBD is a similar size to our bigger neighbouring cities? The CBD stretches from Haig Park north of Braddon to the West Basin Foreshores and from ANU to the CIT.

Several development sites need to be dedicated to multilevel car parking such near the Pool and London Circuit. People like boom gates because then you pay for your stay. Developers should be asked to replace car parking even if it is temporary and later, they can be converted when more people catch the tram or bus or bike and walk

We need to think about making it easier to choose alternative modes of transport to and in and around the city including getting people on their feet. How they start the journey from home influences this and has a huge impact on parking. Revenue raising is not going to benefit the CBD.

The CBD is full of basement carparks reserved for senior public servants and private sector owners and staff. On the weekends these carparks are empty and unreachable behind security doors. Can’t something be done to make these spaces available? Can’t the security be on the doors into the building rather than the roller door?

You have told us that you are supportive of change as long as the parking is responsive to current needs not what could happening in years to come when Capital Metro might help with the load.

Q: Why do parts of the CBD and the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings look so unloved?

They are in multiple ownership and taxes and charges prevent consolidation. Retail has moved over to toward the Canberra Centre and owners are having trouble renting the old buildings out. Offices have been vacated by the public service and other smaller to medium enterprises have  made choices where car parking is easier. There is an oversupply of space compared to demand.

Lease Variation Charge is like a mining tax. The national capital is on a lease system and no one actually owns their property outright like in surrounding NSW. When the property is improved and the mix changes, the developer is required to pay government a tax on the change of use. For each apartment it is tens of thousands of dollars which is often not viable. It’s easier to do this interstate or by buying a new block of land in Molonglo, Gungahlin etc. The cranes in the CBD are from the previous tax settings which weren’t as high as they are now.

Approximately 5% vacancies are acceptable in street level shops. More than this means a problem. We have a problem – it’s almost 18%!

Retail is the glue for experience and social interaction. Let’s try and get some interaction on street level and not in an air-conditioned enclosed experience.

Government should provide interventions/incentives for eventual gain. They must adjust LVC to unlock the CBD.

80% of the CBD’s economy is serving the local and Canberra region economy. We must build up the local economy by having more people living in the CBD and thriving small businesses

You have told us that you want to see the blockages to renewal addressed and that locals come first. Canberra residents are strongly connected to their city so any renewal needs to authentic and appropriate.

Q: I love the eclectic mix in Braddon

 A: It’s nice now, but there are no government owned land parcels in Braddon so there must be incentive to create pocket parks, artworks, parkings and means of connectivity across the long blocks.