Like home owners and investors, mixed-use residential developers such as Geocon are making strategic development decisions based on proximity to infrastructure and amenities, including public transport, shopping and dining. They have also tapped into the increasing demand for unique amenities and facilities.

Until a few years ago, Canberra, town planners and residential developers focused on creating and expanding satellite town centres and neighbouring suburbs. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), from 2006 to 2016, the largest population increases in the ACT occurred in the outer northern areas of Harrison (up by 7,100 people), Bonner (6,900), Franklin (6,500), Casey (5,900) and Crace (4,500). In these areas, developers have mainly built houses and low-rise apartment blocks, parks and local shopping centres.

Now, with land at a premium, rental supply at almost zero and more buyers mindful of the environmental and social impacts of cars and commuting, urban sprawl is low on the agenda. As Canberra’s leading high-rise, mixed-use developer, Geocon is responding to the desperate need for affordable homes closer to town centres, workplaces, recreation and public transport.

The latter is essential to a functioning city and an increasing number of buyers – and governments – are attributing actual monetary value to a property’s proximity to bus, light rail, train and ferry networks. Investors opting for a high-rise apartment lifestyle stand to make big capital gains because of these considerations.

Geocon’s focus on high-rise, well-designed, affordable and centrally located residential development is timely. In its Capital cities: past, present and future report (2014), the ABS estimated that 72 per cent of our country’s population will live in capital cities by 2053. Combine this with the high cost of renting in Canberra – and its low vacancy rates – and it’s obvious why Canberra needs more well-located, high-rise mixed-precinct developments.

As well as meeting the needs of the market, additional amenities are helping build local communities. Geocon’s developments include amenities such as public areas that link apartment complexes and surrounding neighbourhoods, such as steps and pathways that lead to local transport services and workplaces, and seating, play areas and community activations, such as public art and food trucks. These complement resident-only private amenities, including sky gardens, infinity pools, lounges and gyms that build communities within the apartment complex itself. In its most recently announced development, High Society, amenities such as a wine cellar and children’s play area raise the bar further.

Geocon is also playing a key role in delivering commercial spaces to the Canberra market and businesses attracted to these bank on the custom provided by good public transport patronage and a plentiful car parking.

In turn, the movement of people around these businesses adds vibrancy to neighbourhoods. In residential developments such as Geocon’s Grand Central Towers in Woden, Republic in Belconnen and Midnight in Braddon, commercial offerings include spaces for shops, offices, restaurants and bars.

As well as Grand Central Towers and Midnight, Geocon’s Metropol and Infinity developments in Gungahlin and the city are eagerly awaiting the arrival of stages one and two of the Canberra Metro light rail service, which will connect Gungahlin and Woden to the city, Dickson, Braddon and to the work and national attraction hubs in Parkes and Barton, providing buyers with a superior level of amenity.

With this in mind, consider the ACT Government’s current call for community feedback on developing the areas around Macarthur Avenue and Dickson adjacent to the Northbourne Avenue light rail stops, and you’ll get an even better sense of how developers (and governments) are making infrastructure a key part of their planning process.

Building and purchasing in mixed-use developments near public transport hubs like light rail just makes sense. As well as connecting people with places, providing access to good public transport eliminates commuting frustrations, reduces petrol and car running costs and increases work-life balance, and makes cities better places to live. It also gives home owners a better return on their investment by improving housing values compared to those in more isolated areas.

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Light rail news 18 April 2018

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