JW Land’s Ainslie Avenue apartment building wins planning approval

As of 1 January 2018, the management of the City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy transferred from In The City Canberra to the City Renewal Authority. Views expressed in these articles may not reflect the views of the Authority.

The ACT major projects group and planning authority have approved JW Land’s new 12-storey building for the corner of Ainslie Avenue and Currong Street in the city, after initial designs were rejected.

The approval clears the way for construction of 329 apartments on the former public housing block, along with some restaurant and retail space and a child care centre, plus three levels of basement parking.

The redevelopment has been controversial for the scale and prominence of the block and the scale of the building, which includes a 12-storey tower on the corner, and lower buildings behind facing the historic Gorman House precinct.

The site was auctioned by the ACT government 18 months ago, with SHL (whose parent company is JW Land) winning the bidding at $47 million. The same company is doing the Campbell 5 apartment development and has also bought a landmark Northbourne Avenue block for apartment development.

JW Land’s first development application was rejected, with the planning directorate citing problems with plot ratio, building design, building entries, privacy and overlooking, protection of the registered trees, and lack of bicycle and motorbike parking.

It also met strong opposition from Greens parliamentarian Caroline Le Couteur, Greens, who said it was “completely unacceptable”, failed the test of sustainability and liveability, and didn’t live up to the promises made to nearby residents.

But a decision from the planning directorate this week said the revised plans addressed the concerns, subject to a new landscaping plan. The major projects review group had considered it on June 26 and agreed it was substantially improved. Concerns regarding the “interface” between units and between apartments and the child care centre had been addressed. Pedestrian access was also better.

Answering concerns about over-shadowing of nearby buildings, the directorate said the development would not impact adjoining developments compared with overshadowing from the now-demolished public housing. The shadow cast would impact a smaller part of the apartments to the south and would not block solar access from 9 am to 2 pm at the winter solstice. Apartments in the new building would receive “reasonable solar access in daytime living areas”.

The planned 12-storey tower block on the corner of AInslie Avenue and Cooyong Street, now approved. 

The plans also included rooftop gardens and solar panels.

The National Capital Authority gave guarded support, saying the new plan was “much more considered and has a higher quality of exterior resolution than the previous plan”.

But it said there was no sun shading to the glass facade and changes of glass colour “do not provide the level of contrast we had anticipated”.

Overall, the materials palette “is quite dark and does not help mitigate the fact that the Ainslie Ave facade will be largely in shadow”.

“We also note that the choice of materials and massing to reference houses in Braddon and Reid is not convincing,” the authority said.

The new proposal claims to reflect elements of nearby heritage homes in Reid and Braddon, including their portico entries, the original chimneys and the render – claims that were dismissed by the National Trust as far fetched.

JW Land has said the new plans include public bike parking and electric car recharging spaces, with larger apartments, more natural light, a bigger setback from Cooyong Street, increased protection for the large American elm on Currong Street and added rooftop solar and rainwater recycling.