Proposed Development on the former ‘ABSOE’ site

Update on West Village, Tuesday 8 November

 

On Monday 7 November, the Deputy Premier published the details of her approval of the West Village development on the former Absoe site.

Under the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan, development on that site was limited to a maximum height of 15 storeys and a maximum site coverage of 80%. The state government has now approved a maximum height of 22 storeys and a maximum site coverage of 80%.

[Site coverage: The proportion of the site covered by buildings and structures attached to buildings (definition from City Plan 2014)]

For full the decision from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad

Click here

The previous West Village plans approved by Brisbane City Council failed to comply with the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan because they included a whopping 95% site coverage. This is one of the main reasons that the State Government intervened in this development, and it’s a positive outcome that the developer will be restricted to 80% site coverage, as this will allow for more open green space on Boundary Street and Mollison.

However, there was no justification whatsoever for increasing the building heights to 20 and to 22 storeys.

The developer did not have any legal entitlement to 22 storeys, nor did the developer have any legal entitlement to build a certain number of apartments.

We now have a situation where instead of nine 15-storey towers, the developers have approval for one 22-storey tower, two 20-storey towers, five 15-storey towers and one 8-storey tower. (See below plan from the State Government’s decision notice). There is no change to the size of the large shopping mall.

 

It’s important to acknowledge that the Deputy Premier’s approval includes a number of minor mandatory conditions which are small but significant improvements upon the Brisbane City Council’s approval. These include a childcare centre (size unspecified), a 500m2 ‘community space’, a cultural strategy that requires permanent and temporary public art installations, and better pedestrian and cyclist linkages through the precinct.

These small improvements are to be celebrated, but in the context of an $800 million development with 1250 apartments and 4500m2 of retail space on a 2.6 hectare site, they seem tokenistic and insufficient. For a mega-project of this scale, the community would reasonably expect far more from the developer in terms of community space and public infrastructure.

The conditions also limit the developer to 1250 apartments. Previously, there was speculation the developer might build as many as 1350 apartments, so it’s possible the developer will be redrawing plans to combine some of the one-bedroom apartments into three-bedroom apartments. If that’s the case, the inclusion of more three-bedroom apartments is another improvement to be celebrated, however given the major increase in the number of storeys, the developer also appears to have gained thousands of additional square metres in residential floorspace (compared to what they should have been able to build under the neighbourhood plan), which represents a substantial financial windfall.

In short, although the State Government has sought in the media to frame this approval has a compromise, in truth, it looks more like a gift to the developer.

This approval does not appear to address key community concerns about height, about insufficient infrastructure (e.g. local school capacity), or about the economic risks of increasing the supply of inner-city apartments in an already-saturated market when debt-to-income ratios are so high.

The amended approval seems to have been premised on a desire not to reduce the developer’s yield. By this, I mean that the State Government sought to improve design outcomes on the site without making any changes that would affect the developer’s profits. (Note that the $800 million figure is the amount of revenue the developer expects in sales, and that this figure has not changed since before the call in)

It seems the State Government has prioritised the developer’s ability to make short-term profit ahead of the interests of future residents and the broader community.

Despite significant height increases, no affordable community housing or public housing has been included in the project.

All of us want to see the Absoe site developed, and there is broad community support for medium-density residential. We all understand the need to densify the inner-city and reduce outer-suburban sprawl, but the community should be given more input and control over planning and development approval decisions.

I have consistently taken the view that buildings of 5 to 10 storeys in height made more sense for the Absoe site than the 15 storeys that were permitted in the neighbourhood plan. I am deeply disappointed that the State Government has now approved 20 and 22-storey towers when it appears that there was no compelling reason to do so.

My key statements and previous opinion pieces relating to this development can be found below.

I’d love to hear what you think of this amended approval. Feel free to email or call my office (3403 2165) and give us your opinion.


 

111 Boundary St, West End

 

A highrise residential development of nine 15-storey towers was planned for the former Absoe site on the corner of Boundary and Mollison Streets in the heart of West End. As explained above, the Queensland government has now approved an even taller development.

For the past two years, part of the site was used for the Boundary Street Markets and the Motor Room. For many years before that, the buildings also provided affordable housing for artists, circus performers and musicians, and housed offices of production companies, record labels, design studios, art galleries, smaller bars and venues for local music.

The ‘Preliminary Approval’ DA – essentially the masterplan – was approved on May 18. A group of local residents have produced an alternative vision for the Absoe site, which strikes a better balance between high density housing, community space and public open space.

In June, I requested that the Queensland Minister for Planning, Jackie Trad, use her ministerial powers to call in the development, and on July 27 she finally responded by initiating the call in process. This meant that the State Government took over control in terms of assessing and approving this development.

Our core demand remains that ordinary residents should be given more input and control over the design and development of large inner-city sites like the Absoe site.

Hope lies in unified community action to demand real participatory planning.

Media

What has the Deputy Premier Agreed to?

Councillor Jonathan Sri has slammed the Deputy Premier’s decision on the West Village development as “further pandering to the interests of property developers at the expense of sensible planning outcomes and the community’s needs.” “Based on what’s been released so...

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The Economics of West Village

By Dave Eden -  Dave (@withsobersenses) writes at withsobersenses.wordpress.com and thewordfromstrugglestreet.wordpress.com' The West Village project on the old Absoe site is dressed up in all the right language (or at least it was before they took all the content off...

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A Lost Opportunity for Boundary Street?

I grew up in northside suburbia, to a soundtrack of lawnmowers and lonely dogs, and was always troubled by the Queensland predilection for chewing up farmland and forests in favour of low-density, uninspiring suburban sprawl. I moved to the inner-city because I wanted...

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