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Accolade for Canberra Town Planning Director Nichelle Jackson at NAWIC Awards
Monday, 23 September: Canberra Town Planning Director Nichelle Jackson has been awarded the ACT Woman in Business Award by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) at the 2019 Awards for Excellence held at the National Arboretum on Friday, 20 September.
Established in 2015 by Directors Pieter van der Walt and Kip Tanner, Canberra Town Planning has grown to become the largest and most widely respected planning consultancy in the ACT and Capital Region. Canberra Town Planning now directly employs 16 professional team members, and works collaboratively on a range of projects with other planning and design professionals, providing a holistic approach to the achievement of best practice town planning outcomes.
Originally engaged by Canberra Town Planning as a contractor, Nichelle quickly became integral to the growth and success of the business. She was appointed as a Director in 2018 in recognition of her work and contribution, and her ethos to go above and beyond to help clients solve complex problems to achieve development outcomes and investment value.
Nichelle is highly regarded within industry for her unique skill set and impressive credentials, including formal qualifications in architecture, property economics and environmental management, and her experience in leading significant development projects through development approval.
During Nichelle’s time with the business, Canberra Town Planning has become responsible for more than half of all complex development approvals in the ACT and has expanded into NSW with the establishment of the Capital Region and NSW South Coast Divisions.
Canberra Town Planning Director, Pieter van der Walt, said: “Nichelle’s contribution to the Canberra Town Planning business and to industry is remarkable. She’s grown to become a leader who’s making a meaningful and positive contribution to the future of Canberra and region every day. The fact that she is a woman who is succeeding in what is still a male-dominated industry, is testament to her skill set, drive, and professionalism.”
The NAWIC ACT Woman in Business Award marks the second occasion in 2019 that Nichelle has been formally recognised by industry for her achievements. In March, Nichelle was also recognised as ACT Young Property Professional of the Year, together with Chris Farrington from DOMA, by the Property Council of Australia.
“I’m proud to be part of such an amazing business and feel privileged to work with such a great team. As a local Canberran, it’s a privilege to be able to play role in helping to shape Canberra’s future. I’m humbled to have been acknowledged by NAWIC and look forward to working with industry to create great places for Canberrans to enjoy,” Nichelle says.
Woden: Ripe for Reinvention
Could this be Woden’s time? An influx of property investment and a reinvigoration of its dining precinct looks set to bring the Woden town centre into the light. Canberra Town Planning Director, Nichelle Jackson, shares her thoughts and aspirations for the town centre at the geographic heart of Canberra.
Why Woden is poised to prosper
Woden is a bit like a mouthful of jagged, broken teeth: a jumble of tall towers and squat geometric boxes that look like they’ve been placed at random. But a trip to the dentist isn’t in order. What Woden needs is a massive dose of density.
Despite some nervousness in the community, density is the solution to Woden’s ugliness. Because density is just another word for people. And people bring life.
While it’s unclear whether Woden was named for the Norse god of wisdom or the Aboriginal word for possum (wadyan or wadhan), everyone I speak to is in furious agreement on one point: Woden is ripe for reinvention.
Woden has languished after years of under-investment and has been characterised as a place of windswept squares, Soviet-style office blocks and a sea of surface car parks. But the geographic centre of Canberra is at the early stages of what could be a spectacular revival.
“Woden is definitely going through a period of significant urban renewal,” says Nichelle Jackson, Director of Canberra Town Planning.
“There’s a lot of development going on and it’s the right type of development – active development – shops, dining areas, residential. Once this is finished, we’ll have that critical mass of population and the elements that will make it as vibrant as Lonsdale Street.”
Could Woden really become Canberra’s next hipster haven?
Nichelle says Woden’s “rigid formal legacy” with its “monolithic office buildings” are a challenge, but new developments introduce a “fine grain” and “human scale” to the town centre. It’s this “fine grain” that is found in Melbourne’s laneways, and loved in the streets of Europe.
“We’re getting diverse buildings, and we’re getting a more active public realm,” Nichelle adds. “And we’re seeing that in the revitalisation of the Alexander and Albermarle buildings which will inject more life in and around the square, with retail, activity and a whole bunch of new residents.”
From derelict to delightful
The rebirth of the A&A buildings is a catalyst for change, says Jure Domazet, managing director of the developer behind the project, Doma.
He admits that the dilapidated buildings on Furzer Street held back the entire town centre “because they are in the middle of the whole northern area of Woden”. But his vision for the new A&A apartments promise to transform derelict into delightful.
Built in 1968, the buildings lay dormant after the public service moved out in 2011. But Jure says the buildings’ central location and good bones made them an attractive adaptive reuse proposition.
Ideal orientation, narrow floorplates, high ceilings, large windows and on-trend concrete meant Doma’s design team could “play up the industrial aesthetic”, Jure says, and provide a blank canvas for creative types to make the most of the character.
Doma’s vision for the 188 warehouse and loft-style apartments, which are on track for completion in 2020, considers the spaces between the two buildings, which are being repurposed as commercial and retail. A childcare centre, commercial gym, cafés and gastro pub are in the mix.
One of A&A’s great contributions to the area is in its green space. “We deliberately set out to create a green oasis in the middle of the town centre with food and beverage opening up to it,” Jure says. North Walk, which runs alongside A&A, could be the “perfect spot” for weekend farmers’ markets, “changing the whole character of the town centre, providing a northern bookend to a Westfield ant-trail with the Bradley Street redevelopment forming the southern bookend”.
“People are worried that Woden is becoming all apartments and no employment, but it’s not like Woden’s running out of land for offices,” Jure adds.
“If a tender came out [for government office accommodation] there would be a lot of interest. In the meantime, there’s nothing bad with having people living in Woden. Bringing people creates opportunities.”
Renaissance or resurgence?
George Katheklakis, Managing Director of KDN Group, grew up in Woden and says he is “sentimental” about the area.
“As a kid I can remember ‘The Bridge’ with all the alternative shops. There was Norman Ross at the top [of the escalator], Palm Court and Clock Court.”
He says that Woden is, like the rest of Canberra, “poised to prosper” provided it has “the right settings in place to attract investment”.
KDN has been involved with several developments in Woden, including Charles Perkins House, home to key Woden anchor tenant the National Indigenous Australians Agency.
George, a trained architect, thinks “renaissance” is a bit rich. The Florentine idea of symmetry and beauty is a somewhat elusive goal in Woden, he thinks, but the town centre is nevertheless “in an extremely fortunate position”. The foresight of the former National Capital Development Commission means there’s enough land reserves for future office, residential and community buildings.
The area is a key employment node for the federal government, and “we need to ensure they’ve got room to grow”, he says. But we have space in spades. “If I stand at the Hellenic Club and look back towards the town centre, there are still paddocks between them.”
George thinks Woden is still “breaking free” from its initial form, with office towers connected to the shopping centre. He wants to see more “visionary” ideas for the town centre emerge and isn’t satisfied we’ve got it right with the current master plan.
The great challenge for the ACT Government is to balance the mix of land uses – with residential and retail bumping up against community, medical and aged care facilities “which are all important parts of a town centre”.
Turning the tide
Phil O’Brien, General Manager of Amalgamated Property Group, is equally excited about Woden’s “rejuvenation”. He also grew up in the area and has been fascinated to watch ex-Canberra residents move back to Woden to raise their own children.
Amalgamated Property will deliver more than 1,000 apartments over an 8-year period. Among those is Ivy in Irving Street which will cater to everyone including live-in owners, families and young professionals looking for “amenity without the upkeep”.
Other major developments are reshaping the built environment. Geocon, which transformed the abandoned Juliana House on Bowes Street into Australia’s first Green Star-rated hotel, is now busy transforming the nearby Medicare site. Geocon’s ambitions for Grand Central Towers, inspired by the famous train terminal in New York, includes 430 apartments.
Westfield Woden has also evolved since Perron Group purchased half a stake for $335 million in 2016. In April, Westfield unveiled a $21 million upgrade to the dining precinct on Bradley Street, adjoining the HOYTS Cinema complex. It’s amazing to see how some edgy street art, playful fit-outs and swinging seats perfect for the selfie-set can transform a space. The place is now packed with people munching on churros or downing five o’clock drinks.
“What Westfield has done is fantastic; it’s bringing people back to the precinct,” Phil says.
“But Woden town centre isn’t just about Westfield and what’s happening during the day. It’s about the night-time economy too. Encouraging residential development does that – and it hasn’t been since the late 80s that I’ve seen Woden so vibrant at night. We’ve got great confidence in Woden.”
Member for Murrumbidgee and Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel is also excited about the transformation happening in this central part of Canberra.
“Woden is my home town and it is really exciting to see it emerge as a mixed-used precinct with commercial and residential developments, a mass-transit transit hub, thriving businesses and services and high-quality public spaces and community facilities.
He points to several ACT Government projects supporting the regeneration of the town centre including upgrades to public space in the town centre square, a new community centre and new bus interchange. “The Government is also looking at the option of moving the CIT main campus to Woden into a state-of-the-art new facility.”
Meanwhile the Government’s $1 million ‘Woden Experiment’ offers up performance spaces and sun lounges, pop-up food vendors and tennis tables. Due to the success of the installation in bringing more people to the square, the Minister has announced that the program will be extended by six months so the community can benefit through the summer. And of course, plans for the second stage of the Canberra light rail, which will terminate in Woden, are taking shape.
“Light rail will be just as transformational for Woden as it has been for the City and Gungahlin. We want to connect light rail to Woden and extend the regeneration, jobs and an even better transport network to other parts of Canberra,” he says.
Poised to prosper
Woden’s unmet potential is in plain sight. Look up at Lovett Tower, Canberra's 93-metres high skyscraper, and see a missed opportunity in concrete and steel. Plans to reimagine our tallest tower as a vertical retirement village have been shelved and it lies half empty. What the future holds is anyone’s guess.
“There are still lots of empty sites that haven’t got a determined future yet. The possibilities are there – but we need population to realise Woden’s potential,” says Cassandra Keller, Principal of ClarkeKeller Architecture.
Cassandra agrees that Woden needs more than just Westfield, and argues that the town centre is “starting to branch out and develop a new character”.
Cassandra designed the Southern Cross Club’s $20 million Stellar building on Yamba Drive, which opened in 2018. She calls it a “marker building” that “starts the section of rejuvenation” in that part of the town centre, attracting a diversity of age groups – from seniors’ yoga classes to parents’ groups, children’s swimming classes to hyper-fit gym junkies.
She’s excited to see “small clusters of retail opening up with different hours”, and “people living in the heart of Woden on the weekend”. Quirky craft stores and escape rooms, day spas and Indian spice huts can coexist alongside offices and apartments. In fact, that’s what the fine grain is all about.
“We’re on the cusp of Woden’s renaissance. What we’re seeing emerge now is just the very beginning of what we can expect to see in the years ahead as we densify. It’s very exciting.”
This article originally appeared in Magazine: Black + White for Spring 2019. Find out more about Magazine here.
High power recruit adds firepower to Canberra Town Planning’s growing team
Canberra Town Planning has bolstered its growing team with the appointment of Andrew Connor as Senior Town Planner.
Canberra Town Planning was established by directors Pieter van der Walt and Kip Tanner in 2015. Since then the business has grown to become the largest planning consultancy in the ACT.
Mr Connor has more than 12 years’ experience in planning, most recently as Senior Town Planner with Knight Frank Town Planning in Canberra.
Prior to this, Mr Connor was Manager of Statutory Planning at the National Capital Authority. He has also held key planning roles with Waverley Council in Sydney, and with private consultancies in both Sydney and Canberra.
“Andrew’s impressive track record managing complex planning projects, his deep advisory experience and strong client focus will add further firepower to our growing team,” Mr van der Walt says.
A qualified urban planner, Mr Connor is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia and sits on various PIA committees.
“I’m passionate about planning as a collaborative process, and about bringing industry, government and the community together to create the best possible places for everyone to enjoy,” Mr Connor says.
“We are poised at an exciting time in Canberra’s history, and I am excited to be working with Canberra’s leading planning advisory firm to shape the growth of our city, region and beyond.”
Canberra Town Planning now employs 14 planning professionals and is responsible for more than half of all complex development approvals in the ACT. The consultancy has recently expanded into New South Wales with South Coast and Capital Region divisions.
In May, Canberra Town Planning directors Pieter van der Walt and Nichelle Jackson were recognised for their outstanding contributions at the Property Council of Australia ACT Awards.
Mr van der Walt was awarded the Allan Wylucki Property Professional of the Year Award while Ms Jackson was recognised as Young Property Professional of the Year for 2019.
“We are very proud of our role shaping Canberra’s future. Our mission is to leave a positive legacy for the people of the nation’s capital and Andrew’s appointment will help us to achieve this mission,” Mr van der Walt concludes.
Canberra Town Planning Directors recognised for excellence at Property Council Awards
Canberra Town Planning Directors Pieter Van der Walt and Nichelle Jackson have been recognised for excellence at the Property Council of Australia ACT Awards held at Hotel Realm on Friday, 3 May.
Pieter Van der Walt was awarded the Allan Wylucki Property Professional of the Year Award while Nichelle Jackson was recognised as Young Property Professional of the Year for 2019.
Canberra Town Planning was established by directors Pieter van der Walt and Kip Tanner in 2015. Since then the business has grown to become the largest and most widely respected planning consultancy in the ACT. Canberra Town Planning now directly employs 14 professional team members, and works collaboratively on a range of projects with other planning and design professionals, providing a holistic approach to achieving best practice town planning outcomes.
Canberra Town Planning is now responsible for more than half of all complex development approvals in the ACT and has expanded into NSW with the establishment of the Capital Region and NSW South Coast Divisions which are gaining ground with a number of strategic projects.
Mr Van der Walt has helped shaped cities in countries around the world, including South Africa, Southern Africa and Cyprus. His work includes strategic planning across a wide range of commercial, industrial mixed use and residential developments, as well as nationally significant transport and water infrastructure projects. He says Canberra Town Planning has a combination of deep experience, local knowledge and a commitment to inspiring solutions that “make Canberra great”.
“It is a great honour to be recognised by the property industry, and a privilege to be able to work with a team of incredible people without whom this success would not be possible. The planning profession is getting noticed. We are shaping Canberra, and our mission is to leave a positive legacy for the people of the nation’s capital,” Mr Van der Walt says.
An experienced town planner with qualifications in architecture, property economics and environmental management, Ms Jackson has experience working on small and large-scale commercial, industrial, mixed use and residential projects.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Canberra and to help play a role in influencing Canberra’s future. I’m humbled to have been acknowledged and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead to create great places for Canberrans to enjoy,” Ms Jackson says.
What’s Canberra’s formula for Goldilocks density?
Canberra Town Planning Director, Nichelle Jackson, took part in an interview with HerCanberra about getting the formula right on density. Read on for insights and views:
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Goldilocks density’? It captures the notion of perfect density: not too high, nor too low, but just right.
Goldilocks density is “dense enough to support vibrant main streets with retail and services for local needs, but not too high that people can't take the stairs in a pinch,” international architect and editor for design at Treehugger.com Lloyd Alter explains.
In Lloyd’s mind, it means a city that is dense enough to support bike and transit infrastructure, but not so dense to need subways and huge underground parking garages. A city “dense enough to build a sense of community, but not so dense as to have everyone slip into anonymity”.
As Canberra grows – and the latest population projections suggest our city will be home to half a million people in 10 years’ time – we need to put our heads together to create our own formula for Goldilocks density.
Urban planners and designers have been thinking about good density for decades. Urbanist Jan Gehl argues that the best cities balance buildings at the ‘human scale’ with careful consideration of the “space between the buildings”.
Jane Jacobs, an urban writer and activist who championed community-based approaches to planning, once famously argued that the safest streets were “intricate sidewalk ballet”, as density brought with it a “constant succession of eyes”.
And researchers at Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong have recently examined density from a health perspective, finding that the optimum density for healthy living was more than 32 homes per hectare. (In comparison, according to a technical report into Canberra’s land use conducted in 2010, Kingston is roughly 36 dwellings per hectare, Gungahlin 13 and Weston just five.)
Density doesn’t immediately imply high rise, Nichelle Jackson, an Associate Director with Canberra Town Planning, tells me. “The great cities of the world don’t just have density – they have a diversity of density,” she explains.
“We need more than single houses on big blocks and high rises – we need everything in between.”
Canberra isn’t alone in grappling with the challenges of growth. Australia has grown by 3.75 million people in the last decade, which is the equivalent to building the homes and infrastructure for a new city the size of Canberra each year.
But while other cities are sticking out the “we’re full” sign, Canberra is embracing the opportunities of growth. Our economy is strong, city-shaping projects are coming to fruition, and optimism is in air.
While Nichelle concedes that many people see it as “un-Canberran” to densify, it is actually in harmony with the vision laid out by Walter and Marion Griffin. She points to architect Colin Stewart’s thinking on the topic. In a paper published in 2008, but which is still much admired today, Colin argues that the Griffin vision was “largely based on principles of grand boulevards with public transport, high-density development, mixed use, a walkable scale and integration with the natural landscape”.
However major growth in the 20th century focused on ‘suburbanism’ with the car as the primary means of transport. As we built expressways and parkways to accommodate cars, the ‘Y’ plan emerged. Colin and many other urban planners around Canberra argue that our current city-building projects simply revisit the original intentions of the Griffins – and that means greater density.
Looking ahead, the Australian Bureau of Statistics projections peg our population at anywhere between 612,000 and 939,000 residents in 2066. “Growth is inevitable. If we try to ignore it, we’ll end up with bad growth. But if we work together to try to shape it, we’ll get sustainable growth,” Nichelle adds.
Clever density – Goldilocks density – can only occur when the community has certainty, Nichelle adds. “Strategic planning ensures people don’t get surprised – they can see what the development will look like in their neighbourhood and be part of the conversation.”
Nichelle likes Lloyd Alter’s definition of Goldilocks density, but adds a few non-negotiables. “In Canberra, Goldilocks density means being within walking distance to café culture but just a short drive away from wide open space. It means balancing gardens with galleries, playgrounds with pop-up shops. It supports a melting pot of people who are prized for their individuality and celebrated for their contribution to the community. And it supports a rich built environment that is ever-evolving but at the same time timelessly Canberran,” Nichelle concludes.
What does Goldilocks density mean to you?
This article was first featured in HerCanberra.