Brilliant new plans for brickworks

In Toronto, a down-at-heel distillery has become the city’s place to see and be seen. Designer boutiques and hip cafes rest cheek-by-jowl alongside gorgeous art galleries and artisan shops. People flock to the Distillery District day and night, and it considered Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destination.

In London, the derelict Battersea Power Station on the bend of the Thames will soon be home to 4,000 apartments, three hotels, more than 250 shops and restaurants, a large riverside park and its own tube station – with the project generating tens of thousands of new jobs in construction. 

And in New York, a run-down section of elevated railway tracks has been transformed into the two kilometre High Line Park, attracting investment, encouraging local start-ups and supporting vibrant new arts initiatives.

These three iconic and inspiring urban renewal projects demonstrate how abandoned industrial areas can be ‘relifed’. While not on the same scale, the ACT Government’s ambitious and exciting vision to revive the Old Canberra Brickworks can tick all the urban renewal boxes.

The revised masterplan, released by the ACT Government last week, will increase residential density along a major transport corridor, increase our housing stock, present new commercial opportunities, and create a unique heritage destination.

More than $5 million will be spent on conservation and adaptation of the Brickworks itself – with new offices, studios, galleries and community facilities attracting activity to the area. The local community will also get five new parks amounting to seven hectares of green space.

While there are concerns about building height and traffic management still to be resolved, the Brickworks redevelopment is a perfect example of how investment in the right heritage development can deliver economic and social dividends. Urban renewal can drive economic growth, provide employment opportunities and create exciting new places for people. In the case of the Old Canberra Brickworks, we can ensure Canberra’s valuable heritage is preserved for future generations.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said he wants to steal the Lonely Planet Coolest Little Capital in the World Award from Wellington. With the redevelopment of the Brickworks, we could be well on our way.

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