Build your House of Bricks 

As the pressure continues for government to release new land for housing in Canberra it makes sense to consider vacant or under-utilised sites in our existing suburbs. Filling in some of these suburban blanks is smart policy - making the best use of the excellent infrastructure that we have – our roads, storm water and sewer and electricity connections and taps into established community amenity. New residents have immediate access to local shops, doctors, public transport and cycle paths. Urban infill also responds to demands for more housing choice matching the needs of Canberrans wanting to right-size, and to a sustainable future making best use of our buildings and places that are past their ‘use’ by date.

The Canberra Brickworks in Yarralumla is one site that offers exciting urban infill opportunities on the south side of Lake Burley Griffin. The brickworks hold an important place in Canberra’s history - the first industrial manufacturing facility in the national capital, the brickworks produced the ‘Canberra red’ bricks for most of our early public buildings including around four million bricks for old Parliament House. In later life, the old kilns were used for antiques sales and markets until safety issues closed the site in the late 1990s.  Nearly twenty years later the wonderful old kilns and surrounds have stood largely disused and inaccessible to the public – despite a number of sensible efforts by the ACT Government to reuse the site for residential development. This sort of hole in our urban fabric is inexcusable in a sustainable and equitable society

The most recent Government plan has been released to rejuvenate the surrounds of the site and bring fresh love and a new lease of life to the area. The strategy will facilitate restoration of the brickworks - making safe what is currently a near-derelict heritage site - establishing three new parks, including one on the site of the old quarry that looks set to become a spectacular facility for the community, and another in the Yarralumla Railway Remnants area. New buildings next to the parks will include around 1,600 dwellings, commercial opportunities and a public space for community and cultural events and pop-up shops for boutique creative businesses. Future adaptive reuse of the kilns will also be considered.

This responsible re-development proposal by the Government is exciting for Yarralumla and for Canberra. It respects the heritage value of the site and amenity of existing residents and provides new housing, open space and business opportunity in the inner-south. What a fantastic next step in the continued development of our beautiful city.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia