Developer Johnny Roso’s Art Group has applied for permission to build 409 apartments replacing public housing on Northbourne Avenue, in the $92 million first stage of his development.
The apartments are to be across six buildings facing Northbourne in front and Dooring Street behind. Three of the buildings are nine storeys and the others seven and eight storeys. The buildings fronting Dooring Street are about 19 metres tall and the Northbourne frontage 25 metres tall, plus rooftop planting and services.
In August 2016 Mr Roso paid $37 million for the first of the Northbourne mega-blocks to go under the hammer as part of the ACT government’s sale of land in the corridor to pay for its light rail project and encourage higher-density city living near the city.
The site was previously home to the Dickson Towers and Karuah public housing blocks, as well as the tourist information centre now housing the light rail project office. It extends north all the way to Morphett Street, Dickson, and when he bought it Mr Roso promised a design competition, for what he said would be a “world-class precinct” with a village atmosphere.
Mr Roso has now lodged a development application for the section at the southern end of his site.
At the same time, the government has submitted plans for a new estate development plan that covers most of Mr Roso’s land, although excluding a section in the middle to be developed separately. The excluded section includes the public housing that is to be preserved under a heritage deal and the estate development plan suggests it will include commercial development and a hotel.
The estate development plan also appears to includes a section of park surrounding the Blue Gum school in Dickson, an area quite separate from the Northbourne block. Its inclusion is not explained in the application, but is perhaps an upgrading of the green space.
Mr Roso’s first development application is for an apartment estate, to be called Soho. Of the 409 apartments, most will have two bedrooms. He proposes 78 one-bedroom units, 294 two-bedroom units and 19 three-bedroom apartments. Eighteen one and two-storey terrace apartments will face Northbourne Avenue, at ground and first floor. Forty-two adaptable units for people with disabilities are also proposed.
Parking is across two and a half basement levels, with space for 644 cars at the entry off Dooring Street.
Rooftop gardens are planned on three of the buildings – a pool garden, an edible garden and a “zen garden”.
The territory plan says 70 per cent of apartments must get at least three hours of daytime sunlight, between 9am and 3pm, in mid winter, but this proposal says due to the siting of the development, only 43 per cent of the apartments get at least three hours sunlight. Another 29 per cent get two hours sunlight, and 11 per cent get one hour of sun on the winter solstice. Sixteen per cent get less than or no sun on the winter solstice.
The government’s estate development plan looks to have met major opposition from some government agencies, with the transport and city services directorate raising concern about the proposal to access the apartments of Dooring Street. Traffic volume would exceed 3000 vehicles, with no mitigation measures, the directorate said. In response, the government said the traffic count on Dooring Street was a result of limiting access from Northbourne and it had “a separate project to maintain traffic safety and amenity along the street though a reduction in speed”.
The city services directorate also complained about the removal of trees, including in the Hope Street playground. In response, the government said the playground proposal was “in concept stage”.
The directorate’s conservator said the removal of trees would fragment the cohesion of the landscape and diminish its quality. Keeping a few medium and high quantity trees “does not particularly meet any objectives of the Act”. But the government has responded, “The ACT government has sold this site as a redevelopment opportunity to increase population density along the light rail corridor. The redevelopment of the site will include a whole new landscape scheme that may work with some existing vegetation, but is likely to introduce a whole new landscape aesthetic and quality.”