The ACT government’s Suburban Land Agency (SLA) is looking for developers to help it create a green, walkable, medium-density, mixed-use central precinct for the new suburb of Whitlam.

The Whitlam local centre precinct looks like it will be a fitting tribute to the 21st prime minister of Australia, with a strong focus on social equity and sustainability. 

From a sustainability standpoint, the only major flaws with the precinct are Whitlam’s distance to Canberra’s CBD, its lack of light rail access and the lack of a bus interchange providing frequent services to nearby centres (such as Belconnen).

Given the new precinct’s proximity to the nearby suburb of Fraser, observers say it’s a missed opportunity to not have a direct bus service from Whitlam to Fraser (even though this could be a bumpy ride, given the condition of some of the local roads).

The new suburb is just north of the Molonglo River at the intersection of Coppins Crossing Road and William Hovell Drive. It’s five km south of Belconnen, and around nine km west of Civic, on the far side of Black Mountain, the National Arboretum and the Tuggeranong Parkway.

The SLA envisions the 18,000 square metre mixed-use activity centre will provide the surrounding community with a hub for lifestyle services, shopping and social activities (including by offering a range of informal community meeting spaces).

The precinct’s development is guided by a design and place framework that brings together a range of modern best practices for sustainable urban design.

The local centre is to be accessed by a slow speed main street, with active ground floor retail on its western frontage, anchored by a supermarket on the southeast corner. Above the shops, also facing the main street, will be four to six stories of residential units.

In the middle of the block will be a public plaza that will extend across the main street as a raised crossing, providing access to a new local primary school across the road. It will feature extensive landscaping, including a public lawn and a water feature.

Running in parallel to the main street, down the middle of the block, will be a laneway that will provide secondary access for pedestrians and cyclists.

This laneway will be a landscaped green space that will provide access to a range of “missing middle” medium-density homes. There will be two additional laneways with grand public staircases that will connect the plaza to nearby local streets.

Together, the public laneways, surrounding streets, and the plaza will provide landscaping with deep soil connections across the site. Additional green space will be provided by rooftop gardens.

All internal common areas and corridors are to be naturally lit and ventilated, with at least one window visible from any point in the space.

Around 200 to 300 diverse residential dwellings will be built in total across the site, with 15 per cent to be made available through the ACT government’s Affordable Home Purchase scheme. These will range from studio apartments through to four-bedroom units.

Developers interested in tendering for stage one of the project have until Thursday 16 August to submit their applications through the Tenders ACT website. Additional information is available on the SLA website.

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