Plans revealed for long-awaited development at old Downer school

A long-awaited residential project slated for the old Downer Primary School site is a step closer to fruition with a development application lodged with the ACT government.

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The application outlines plans for 37 townhouses and 123 apartments in the first two stages of development and 120 independent living units further down the track.

The 32,000-square-metre site has been underused since 1988, when the primary school first closed.

The school was rented out as office space after its closure and it was demolished in 2014.

The Downer community hopes that the development will help revitalise the local shops, which will reopen in coming months.

CHC chief executive Kim Sinclair said the organisation has been working on plans with the community since 2011.

“We’ve come up with a plan that produces a really strong outcome for us as a community housing provider, the Downer residents and the wider Canberra community,” Ms Sinclair said.

In addition to supplying one, two and three-bedroom apartments, as well as two and three-bedroom townhouses, the product mix provides options for members of the community often overlooked by the housing market, such as those living with a disability.

“We’re looking to supply 10 specialist disability apartments to meet a need that we’ve identified,” Ms Sinclair said.

The independent living units will also address an under-represented sector.

“We’ve got an ageing population and we think it’s timely that we address that more specifically,” Ms Sinclair said.

“We’ll be doing that a little bit differently, not only providing those for sale to the market, but we’re planning on retaining a small number of those so we can actually have them for rent.”

Downer Community Association’s Miles Boak said CHC has been open with the community and listened to feedback.

“CHC have kept us in the loop of all the design principles and concepts,” Mr Boak said.

“With a development of this scale not everyone is going to be happy, but the company has done their best to engage and keep the community informed.”

Mr Boak said residents were eager to see the Downer shops thrive and most accepted that the residential development would contribute to the success of a revitalised centre.

“Most people see that the shops and the school [site] go together and this will add to a viable Downer shops development.”

He said the independent living component was also a positive for the suburb.

Lockbridge consultant development manager Kieran Fordham said community feedback has informed the design.

“The community brought [to the project] a need for strong pedestrian links from Bradfield Street to the Downer shops, for the site to include multiple access points to reduce congestion and to provide a strong link between the village and the development,” Mr Fordham said.

Open spaces within the site and heritage-listed trees will also be retained.

Ms Sinclair said sales would help fund the non-profit organisation’s affordable housing initiatives.

“For all our developments everything comes back into the business to grow our affordable housing portfolio,” Ms Sinclair said.

“We redirect that back into some of our other projects that we’ve got going on around the city.”