Client: ACT Government – Economic Development Directorate
Canberra’s population is projected to grow to 526,000 over the next 40 years, with most of the growth in the older age groups – an expansion of the over 65’s cohort of nearly 260 per cent. The challenge is to ensure we deliver enough suitable housing for these older Canberans at prices they can afford and near services they need. Seniors need greater access to transport and services, generally have more time for leisure and community activities, and less likely have a need for large houses with numerous bedrooms large garages and gardens. Remaining connected with the community and the services they are familiar with, but not necessarily wanting to remain in the family home are primary reasons why ageing in place is gathering such momentum and importance. Helping people to downsize to something more appropriate for their physical needs can lower public health costs, while ensuring older Australians maintain their independence for longer – a better result for all.
In parallel with this phenomenon, the ACT Government has over a number of years closed a number of older school sites and decommissioned a number of ovals given the upkeep costs. To this end the ACT Governments Economic Development Directorate (EDD) commissioned AMC in 2014 to undertake site analysis / opportunities and constraints study to inform a formal public consultation process with the Higgins Community. This included two drop-in sessions and a community workshop to set the scene for what might be possible and indeed viable in terms of redevelopment of the site. The workshop included a focus on retirement and aged care accommodation, a child care centre and affordable housing along with a Community Irrigation Recreation Park (CRIP).
The community workshop process resulted in healthy and frank discussions with general consensus that retirement aged accommodation made sense as did a child care centre but significant concerns remained around the form and scale of the development and the requirement to redevelop the oval. However, through an effective consultation process there was an openness to right sort of development on the oval site. In fulfilling its role, AMC developed a comprehensive understanding of the site and developed and prepared 5 information posters with the ACT Government Communications team to help stimulate conversation in the drop-in sessions based on its broad experience in the design of retirement aged care accommodation, child care centres and affordable housing, could provide a context for what might be feasible for the two sites. AMC subsequent developed a number of masterplan options for the combined sites from low to high density with a range of different configurations.