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Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

Acton waterfront makeover detailed in new Place Plan

The City Renewal Authority’s Acton Waterfront Place Plan – released today – outlines how the West Basin waterfront’s public spaces will be developed and will influence designs for future stages of work undertaken in the next three to four years.

A ferry service, fine dining, a major playground, swimming beach, an over 40,000 square metre lakeside public park, and a boardwalk wrapping all the way from Henry Rolland Park to the National Museum of Australia, are all outlined in the ambitious Place Plan.

The plan envisages a precinct that’s both a destination for everyday life, supported by a network of small amenities, and also a major recreational destination with appeal for the broader Canberra community and tourists.

Four ‘key’ destinations along the Acton Waterfront, which include the existing Henry Rolland Park, are outlined. The remaining three include:

  • The Heart – to be built where Acton Park is currently; it will be the “intergenerational” focal point of the waterfront featuring green space, the major playground, foreshore dining, event space, and more;
  • Cultural Landscape – the western foreshore between the National Museum and Edinburgh Avenue – will feature a swimming beach on the lake edge, kayak launching ramp, a small-scale natural play area and more;
  • The final component, Streets and Lanes, comprises the street network connecting and running through the precinct, which, according to the document, will be “sociable, activated and green”.

City Renewal Authority chief executive Malcolm Snow said the Place Plan puts forward an “unmatched opportunity to give Canberra safe and attractive connections between its city centre and the lake”.

“By implementing this Place Plan, Acton Waterfront will be a place for all Canberrans to enjoy the lake in the way that its original designers always intended,” he said.

Connecting the ‘City to the Lake’

With Parkes Way having long served to divide the Acton waterfront from the City, the Place Plan outlines a number of ways in which the waterfront will be made more accessible.

Light rail stage 2A, which will extend the service from Civic to Commonwealth Park, is due to be operational by 2024 and will drive foot traffic there.

Further works include a “legible network of streets, cycle paths and pedestrian paths [that] enhances connectivity and accessibility to the lake from the city”.

This will include a direct cycle connection to Marcus Clarke Street, a pedestrian and cycle connection to New Acton via a shared path bridge over Parkes Way, and, more curiously, a ferry connection to the National Museum.

Making a visit to the National Museum on foot more realistic appears to be a goal of the Place Plan too, with the promenade’s boardwalk to continue along the peninsula to the national institution.

Ferry landings adjacent to key nodes including near Henry Rolland Park will link the light rail stop to the Acton w aterfront and the National Museum.

 “The creation of an attractive and accessible new public space at the Acton waterfront is critical to addressing the missing connections between the city centre, the lake and the national institutions on the Acton Peninsula,” said director of the National Museum of Australia, Dr Mathew Trinca AM.

henry rolland park acton waterfront place plan stage one
Stage 1 of the West Basin promenade, completed in 2018, included Henry Rolland Park and 150 metres of boardwalk beginning near Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

A long-term precinct in the making

The Place Plan was developed taking into account almost two decades of planning and consultations as well as a new community engagement process.

The City Renewal Authority say it is consistent with the planning intentions set by the Commonwealth’s National Capital Plan and builds on the ACT Government’s 2013 City to the Lake plan.

Stage 1 of the West Basin promenade, which commenced in late 2016 and was completed in 2018, included 15 metres of boardwalk beginning near Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Henry Rolland Park.

The next stage of the Acton waterfront boardwalk, due to commence this year and take two years to complete, will add an additional 500 metres and add two new public jetties.

Beyond the work outlined in the Place Plan, further stages of the project will include low-rise, mixed use precinct of small-scale commercial, cultural and residential buildings.

This mixed-use precinct is a few years away and will be built over several years in accordance with the National Capital Plan requirements. These include being setback from the lake edge, low density and low height.

In a statement issued on 11 August, the Lake Burley Griffin Guardians were critical of the fact the Place Plan “does not show how much of our existing park is to be taken by apartments”.

“It can be assumed the apartments are still to fill up Acton Park and block vistas across the lake,” they wrote.

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