Belconnen Town Centre Renewal

Belconnen Arts Centre, Emu Bank, Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen, ACT, Australia

Belconnen Town Centre is approach 50 years of age. Lake Ginninderra was finished in 1975. The Belconnen Town Centre followed shortly afterwards. We are familiar with the renewal of Woden Town Centre. Now we can expect a similar process with the renewal of Belconnen Town Centre. The first place making activities started in 2020 with the development of the Circus Area.

Contents

  1. Create a place for people in Belconnen
  2. 2020 Belconnen Town Centre consultation
  3. 2021 Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
  4. 2022 Belconnen Circus Precinct moves forward

Create a place for people in Belconnen

An effort to make the heart of Belconnen Town Centre better for people with parks, facilities and pedestrian and cycle paths. The report’s name is misleading, but the idea is great, particularly for Belconnen cyclists.

What attracts people to a place is the existence of other people at this place

Mattsson 2019

The Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report does not have the most catchy title, but the contents are good and that is what counts. Belconnen Town Centre is getting an upgrade. Suggest how to make the town centre a welcoming place for people.

Big box shopping centre has poor relationship to the surrounding streets or public life.

Place Character. Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report, Suburban Land Agency.
Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report, Movement and Connections
Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report, Movement and Connections, Suburban Land Agency
Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report, Place Character, Suburban Land Agency
Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report Talking Points page 33
Belconnen Urban Land Release Sites Discovery Phase Report Talking Points, Suburban Land Agency page 33

2020 Belconnen Town Centre consultation

Changes to the Belconnen Town Centre are afoot. The urban planning review for Belconnen foreshores started in December 2020. The urban space around Westfield will be made a nicer place for people – creating place. Further information on YourSay. Getting good bike paths past Westfield in Belconnen have to be a priority.

History

Belconnen existed way back in 1974. Admittedly, it was pretty bare. It all started with a lake and a strange looking government building. Westfield Centre followed with only cars in mind! Allowing Westfield to enter the playing field turned out to be a decision with real and lasting consequences for urban planning in Belconnen Town Centre.

The scope

There are four open spaces that can be connected up in an otherwise rather crowded town centre. Further, the link to the university could be improved.

Emu Inlet Park

A park on the intersection of Benjamin Way and Emu Bank on the foreshore Lake Ginninderra. Currently closed to construction, this park is still a bit dull. Having said that, it has the best lake views and good connections around the lake.

Belconnen Arts Centre, Emu Bank, Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen, ACT, Australia
Belconnen Arts Centre, Emu Bank, Lake Ginninderra, Belconnen

Margaret Timpson Park

Margaret Timpson Park is past its glory days in the 80s when they partied here. Now it looks rather grey. Colour would help. People do not feel safe walking here despite being  under the eyes of The Sentinel. Elections here are exciting with shoppers running the gauntlet between waiving party faithfuls.

Margaret Timpson Park, ArchivesACT, (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Margaret Timpson Park with Westfield through the gates, ArchivesACT, (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Circus Area

If you have been to the circus in Belconnen you would know this area. Most of the time it is just a bare, gravel circular area north of Westfield. It is hard to know what to do with this as it is moated by roads. A Priority Crossing for the Belconnen Bikeway is certainly a must.

On a personal side note, riding to Westfield if you don’t have much to buy is fun… until you hit Westfield. That’s when you start feeling like a Martian and when you encounter loads of people who are clearly in a hurry to get to or to leave the shops!

Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, Canberra
Circus area on the left. Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, Canberra

Lathlain Street

Lathlain Street has now been dubbed Eat Street. Westfield is separated from the Belconnen industrial area on the hill by nothing more than a green strip of land (demolished police, ambulance and fire station) that extends all the way to the Belconnen Bus Depot. Currently, not pretty, but it could be. Belconnen Town Centre is not flat but a step up of about 8 m above Benjamin Way.

Lathlain Street, east of Westfield, Belconnen, ACT, Australia

Cycling connections

Belconnen Bikeway runs from Florey to Westfield, past the circus area, and then along Emu Bank.

Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, Canberra
Main Community Route (MCR), Belconnen Bikeway, Belconnen, Canberra

A connecting bike cycle path along Benjamin Way, along the low road, past Westfield (see photo below) is missing. This is also the case along the high road, Lathlain Street (Eat Street). Both are Main Community Routes to CBR Cycleway C5 via Aranda. These bikeways were promised during the 2016 ACT Election and have since been dropped. Time to put it on the map again. 😉 And for poor pedestrians to get grumpy when you ring the bell to get past them on the shared path.

Intersection, Emu Bank, Belconnen Arts Centre, Lake Ginninderra, ACT, Australia
Looking towards Westfield on Benjamin Way. Intersection, Emu Bank, Belconnen Arts Centre, Lake Ginninderra

2021 Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief

The Belconnen Town Centre will be upgraded. The process has now moved on to the design brief stage. A tender for a more detailed design will be issued next. Step-by-step we are getting closer to the goal.

The Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief (2021) is written in the language of urban planners. It feels all a bit vague, but I assume that it means much more to practitioners. What is difficult is that urban planner speak is in details about the zones, which seems to be very granular and undermines network and systems thinking. The zone codes are just as foreign until one has familiarised oneself with them.

Most of us are interested in the look and feel of the new development and to gain an understanding of where it is going. The Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief is certainly helpful with maps and photos. It is worth a good look.

Belconnen Town Centre upgrade should improve active travel and create a sense of place. This must be welcomed. However, the consultations were never about cycling. The consultations were about place making and never queried the interests of cyclists directly. When creating place, urban planners still see bikes as means of transport. The assumption is that people park the car and walk, or take the bus. The neglect of cycling infrastructure investment would suggest that with ACT Transport too, bikes are also the poor cousins. In the ACT, cycling remains marginalised in the Movement and Place Framework, and fits uncomfortably in both movement and place. It should not be that way, and demonstrates how alien cycling is to most. For many people, cycling is a sport and not something you otherwise do. Many cyclists think that way, too. Our strong car culture is reflected in that cycling infrastructure is not given high priority.

The contents

Here is a brief overview of the contents. The key community message describes where we are now and where we would like to be.

Key community message, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Key community message, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief

The study area map shows the three precincts. A precinct could be any area, large and small, and are defined on the study area map.

  1. Former water police precinct
  2. Circus site precinct
  3. Lathlain street precinct
Study area, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Study area, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Water police precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Water police precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Circus site precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Circus site precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Lathlwin Street precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief
Lathlain Street precinct, Belconnen Town Centre Place Design Brief

It will certainly be worth the wait.

2022 Belconnen Circus Precinct moves forward

The redevelopment of the Lake Ginninderra foreshores continues with an update from the Suburban Land Agency (SLA). The process is a bit esoteric, but the process will decide which – if any – cycle infrastructure we will get in Belconnen along Emu Bank. It is not clear what the cycle infrastructure requirements are, which is worrying.

The Circus Sites Precinct is not so much being sold but rather the SLA has developed in 2020-2021 a Place Design Brief. The process is similar to that followed in the Molonglo Valley for the local Wright shops. The SLA seems to be happy with the outcome there and hopes that it will pay off in Belconnen.

In 2021, the Suburban Land Agency released land for sale and development in Belconnen Town Centre through a two-stage tender process. The Belconnen Lakeshore land release is made up of The Circus Sites Precinct together with the Former Belconnen Water Police site (Block 29, Section 149 Belconnen) at Emu Inlet Waterfront. The first stage, a Request for Proposal (RFP), was released to the market on 17 June 2021 and closed on 7 October 2021.

Belconnen Lakeshore land release update, Suburban Land Agency. 12 April 2022, accessed 21 April 2022.

The Request for Tender (RFT) is a 2 stage process. The 1st stage is a beauty competition, where the SLA tries to identify likely private partners. The Place Design Brief explains what is expected. The 2nd stage is to narrow down the proposal to produce the desired outcomes. It is not clear to me how the price of the land is being established.

SLA is currently finalising stage 2 RFT documentation and are planning to release the RFT in May to the selected tenderers invited to participate in the stage 2 RFT.

Belconnen Lakeshore land release update, Suburban Land Agency. 12 April 2022, accessed 21 April 2022.

The nature of the 2nd RFT is a little hard to imagine. Only the following information is available.

The RFT currently being finalised will include:

1. More detailed project delivery requirements that tenderers will be required to address in addition to the Place Design Brief. 

2. More detailed development and design information including on-site and off-site public realm improvements to be included in the sale and development of the land.

3. A requirement to respond to how the liveability of apartments will be addressed with a view to achieving improved liveability outcomes. 

Belconnen Lakeshore land release update, Suburban Land Agency. 12 April 2022, accessed 21 April 2022.

Note here that cycle infrastructure is never mentioned, and it was not mentioned in the previous steps either.

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