A Master Plan for Canberra’s CBD

Finally! Work begins on a master plan for Canberra’s CBD

At last a new strategy for Civic is on the horizon. The recently announced City Plan will be a ‘blueprint’ for future development in Civic - a legacy project that will provide a framework for the role, function and design of our City beyond the Centenary.

This is welcome news, particularly for the Property Council which has been calling for a Civic master plan for more than a decade.

It is of concern that for so long there has been no overarching strategy for the heart of our City. The absence of such a plan has led to languishing public spaces, lost opportunities for adaptive reuse of older buildings, and a lack of focus for the mid-city precinct (particularly the Sydney and Melbourne buildings). Only a master plan can provide certainty about future development in the City and give direction to strategies for design, transport, infrastructure and sustainability.

The visionary ‘City to the Lake’ and ‘Capital Metro’ projects are valuable kick-start developments for the future of Civic. Both are significant ventures that will contribute to Canberra as the nation’s capital and as a working city for our community. Both should be considered and intelligently integrated into the new City Plan. Carts and horses, however, come to mind. The missing piece in these initiatives has been a guiding urban strategy for the precinct. Before rushing into any more major projects for Civic the master plan must first be finalised.

A master plan for the City must take into account the role of Canberra as the National Capital as well as reflect community needs and desires. It should consider the potential of heritage and under-utilised buildings. It should identify all modes of transport and potential networks. The plan needs to be more than an aspirational document. It should specify targets and outline costs as well as benefits and opportunities generated by development and infrastructure programs.

The City Plan is an opportunity to give Civic a fresh start, setting a new standard for urban development and civic design. It is time to get it done and do it right.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia