A new look for Belco?

September 30, 2015
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Do you think the CIT Bruce campus should move to be next to Westfield Belconnen? Do you want 18-storey high-rises on the sites of the old Belconnen Remand Centre?

Consultation officially starts today on the draft Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan. It’s an important document that will shape both Belconnen and the broader ACT for the next 10 years and beyond.

The suburb of Belconnen will be transformed by high-rise developments over the next decade. The 27-storey Wayfarer hotel and apartments are already under construction, joining the nearby 18-storey Altitude and Sentinel complexes. There are also 16- and 24-storey residential developments already approved for development on the Belconnen Markets and Westfield sites respectively.

The new draft master plan continues this trend towards high rise development, with more than 10 additional sites identified for buildings developments of 12 storeys in height or greater. If all of these are approved, an additional 3300 residents (more than the entire population of nearby Aranda) will be moving into the high density residential district between Chandler St and Eastern Valley Way alone.

The draft master plan identifies ways to revitalise and make better use of Emu Bank and Lake Ginninderra, and better integrate the University of Canberra with the town centre through better signage and road, pedestrian and cycle connections.

However, the biggest change to the character of Belconnen would be the redevelopment of Lathlain St into the “Main Street” of the town centre.

Currently a fairly boring road linking Westfield Belconnen to the Belconnen Markets and Bunnings, the draft master plan calls for a complete revamp of Lathlain St, with 6m-wide footpaths and 18-storey high rise developments on ACT Government sites including the former Belconnen Remand Centre and the soon-to-be vacated Fire and Ambulance stations.

The draft master plan flags the relocation of Belconnen Community Services, the Belconnen Library and even the CIT campus of Bruce to Laithlain St. The services area behind Lathlain St would also be revamped, encouraging opening of live music venues and other noisy activities further away from residential housing. The construction of a well-marked cycle path linking Florey to the Jamison shops through Lathlain St would further strengthen travel options between nearby suburbs.

By transforming Lathlain St into a community hub and a “destination” with brand recognition similar to Kingston, New Acton and Braddon, the draft master plan aims to encourage greater commercial activity, particularly after hours, in the town centre.

These plans present opportunities as well as challenges for Belconnen. A new generation of families and older residents are interested in the option of high-quality apartment living. As people move into the town centre, there will be increased demand for high quality cafes, restaurants and other commercial services. But there will be challenges to meet as well from increased traffic congestion and in terms of ensuring sufficient parking capacity for employees and shoppers.

A number of strategies have been identified to address parking issues, including building additional multi-storey carparks, and the roll out of smart parking in Belconnen if the trial in Manuka is successful.

The most important thing if you live, work, shop, or eat in the Belconnen town centre is to get involved and have your say. There are also many consultations happening until November 20, so log on to haveyoursay.planning.act.gov.au to see where you can meet the people making these decisions, and to contribute your views to the future of the town centre.