Canberra is renowned as one of the world’s great planned capitals and has evolved to develop a unique identity with wonderful parks, gardens and tree lined streets. However, Canberra is more than this. As it matures it can be become a truly great city – an exemplar of a progressive, inclusive and vibrant city with a distinctive urban culture. The City Plan and Linking the City to the Lake are two current projects fundamental to making Civic more than just a ‘drive through’ City.
A multi-disciplinary team led by the ACT Office of the Coordinator General including Hill Thalis, JILA, SMEC, Macroplan Dimasi and Tania Parkes Consulting have conceived a far sighted plan for the transformation of Civic. In ambition and scope, the project can be compared to other major waterfront projects in other Australian cities such as Barangaroo in Sydney, Docklands in Melbourne, Southbank in Brisbane and Perth waterfront. City to the Lake is starting with a strategic public initiative – to create a robust and memorable public domain and waterfront in line with the Griffin Legacy.
Learnings have come from the most progressive cities which have reversed their motorway-dominated ways such as San Francisco, Boston, Portland, Barcelona, Seoul and Toronto. They have either demolished or undergrounded their inner-city motorways to allow much improved access to their waterfronts. Rather than turn its back on the Lake and Commonwealth Park, the City will embrace these wonderful assets of the national capital – not remote and segregated but unified with the centre of the City.
West Basin will be a great public waterfront address for the City. It will be anchored by a new pleasure beach and aquatic centre that signifies that this is a place for all Canberrans and visitors and that West Basin is for everyone. Not an elitist enclave. It will be a place where the daily life of the City can engage with the Lake.
Capital Metro is a key plank of this vision. It transforms the way people engage with the City Centre. Light rail will move large numbers of people into the city quietly and beautifully.
Civic needs to also accommodate major recreation and cultural facilities. Do we invest in the existing Bruce Stadium or locate a new stadium in the City so that it is close to the other attractions of the City centre, accessible to all – supported by enhanced public transport? A new stadium anchoring one end of City Walk could bring life to an area that is currently lifeless. It could be a unique and memorable with views to Parliament House. As well as this, a new convention centre is proposed to be sited overlooking City Hill, a key gateway site to the Central National Area and apex of the National Triangle.
The key to connecting the City to the Lake is how we treat Parkes Way. It is currently a major barrier that disconnects the City from its waterfront and its main City parks. To overcome this barrier it is proposed to construct Parkes Way as a split-level boulevard allowing free flowing traffic at the lower level and local City streets at the surface.
Stormwater will be captured and treated through a series of water gardens before entering the lake. Ferries and water taxis will deliver people at a new Civic ferry terminal and new public waterfront with new restaurants and cafe pavilions and continuous public access for cyclists and pedestrians on generous, separated paths.
The project will unlock value. It creates 24 new urban blocks on land that is currently surface car parks and over-scaled road reserves. It will provide memorable and robust public domain and facilities to become a place which is more attractive to residents and visitors, where people will happily stay longer. It will be more active, safer and accessible with diverse activities during the day and at night.