Melanka: 8 storeys done deal, but still questions

p2166-Melanka-2By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The topic most people at this morning’s Melanka hearing wanted to talk about wasn’t on the agenda of the Development Consent Authority: The eight storeys.

 

Chairman Denis Burke made it clear that issue had already been dealt with, so far as public consultation is concerned, namely by the Planning Commission.

 

He said the commission had recommended the proposed building could go to eight storeys, and the town council was in agreement.

 

The council’s Manager of Developments, Dilip Nellikat, confirmed this to be “generally” the case, with “fruitful” conversation continuing on some issues. Height wasn’t one of them.

 

Nevertheless, some of the 20-odd public “submitters” – mostly opposed to the project – came up with fresh points and drew out some interesting answers.

 

Developer Dean Osborne, on behalf of the Ainsworth Family, of poker machines fame and fortune, which owns the land, fielded questions. He had given a marathon presentation to the council in November last year.

 

He painted an Orwellian picture of the security features.

 

A multitude of CCTV cameras are planned.

 

If you run into a gate with your car you’ll be caught.

 

The caretaker, supplied by the Osbornes on a 20 years plus 20 years basis, will keep an eye on the cafes’ and restaurants’ outdoor furniture at night.

 

The lighting outside one of the Osborne managed complexes in Darwin is three times the normal brightness.

 

It works, he said: There was just one graffiti in eight years, and not a single break-in into any of the 84 apartments.

 

Mr Osborne invited the public present at the meeting to speculate how many of 84 individual houses in Alice Springs would have been hit by burglars in that time.

 

He said there is interest from the – growing – staff of the hospital because “they can get to their cars without being mugged” – that obviously is if they decide to drive the 200-odd meters.

 

Former Independent MLA Loraine Braham worried about traffic densities around the $100m complex that will have 170 dwellings, an 85 room hotel, professional office space, restaurants, cafes – even a 110 place child care centre, requiring a total of around 560 car parks.

 

Mr Osborne assured the meeting that the three entrances – in Stott and Stuart Terraces and Hartley Street – would disperse vehicle movements.

 

A traffic management consultant, also used by the council, had been brought in and found no problems.

 

A land swap would ensure that the ratepayers aren’t short-changed. All the construction work of external car parking would be paid by the developer: “The council wouldn’t be paying for anything,” Mr Osborne said.

 

National Trust member Faye Alexander, after expressing irritation that the eight storeys issue was a no-go area, wanted to know if anything had been changed since the plans had gone on display for public comment.

 

Changes turned into quite an issue at the hearing.

 

Mr Osborne mentioned minor aspects: facilities for aged people and the disabled had been improved; there would be more photo voltaic cells, with tenants having their own patches on the roofs.

 

Randle Walker, company secretary of Centrefarm which has its office in an historic house in adjoining Hartley Street, described the planned structures as a “blight”.

 

He asked what guarantee there would be that the features, now touted by the developers as selling points for the complex, would not fall victim to the red pencil if the dollar numbers didn’t stack up.

 

Mr Burke said changes after approval did indeed happen: “It annoys the hell out of us.”

 

However, surprisingly for an independent chairman, he praised the Osbornes’ record in that respect, as demonstrated by their two major projects in Darwin.

 

And Mr Osborne said if buyers made their “final investment decision” on the presence of such amenities as gardens, pools, individual veggie patches, gymns and mini golf, “when sold on that pretence” then the developers would stick to providing them.

 

Mr Walker, tongue in cheek, asked if the new Melanka had to be eight storeys to be viable, would that not mean that all the existing buildings in the CBD, well short of that height, would have no chance?

 

There was no direct reply to that from Mr Osborne but he suggested that these days, the building game is hampered by rules and regulations, 6400 Australian Standards and growing, for example.

 

The old Melanka had to go because – in part, at least – it would have cost $1.5m to bring the fire protection up to the new requirements.

 

While Ms Alexander drew attention to the 20-odd empty shops in Todd Mall, Mr Osborne repeatedly claimed that “people attract people” and a success of Melanka would rub off on the neighborhood: “It’s a proven formula.”

 

Ms Alexander said the council’s support for the project was in complete conflict with its announced policy of developments needing to complement the environment.

 

Lynne Day questioned the Planning Commission’s motives holding a public hearing three weeks before Christmas, and considering an exceptional development permit when planning guidelines are under review.

 

The said the project would be a good one in a big city, but not here, in an “outback icon. How would it reflect this dessert community?”
The final word went to Greg Neck, of the local trading dynasty and connected to the Quest apartments in South Terrace.

 

The town needs an injection of investment and confidence, he said. It’s been marking time for 10 years. The Mall has just eight car parks.

 

He had been opposed to the eight storeys but has changed his mind. The town needs a stimulant. The building won’t “stick out” quite as much as most people are thinking.

 

 

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25 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Cheryl Gray
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Ridiculous Proposal!
    Guaranteed to be propped up by the government for many years to come.
    Having been born in Alice near on 50 years ago, I have watched the sad decline of this beautiful and once, unique town.
    I believe in part that our failure to attract significant tourist numbers has contributed to this.
    Ask any tourist why they used to come, and invariably it was because they HAD seen “A town like Alice”.
    They expected to see the Rock on the horizon and tumbleweeds drifting down our streets. All of them wanted a piece of the “Outback”. Wanted to feel, what had enamoured Joe to the place.
    We should have embraced this, but instead, those progressives in our midst, who knew better than any of us leftards … shamelessly knocked down our heritage listed buildings (in the dead of night) to put up car parks and flash shopping centres, that looked no different, to anywhere else in the world.
    Now ask them, why they don’t come? And invariably, it is because the place has lost its character and they aren’t safe to walk the streets. Neither are we for that matter: Make our streets safe again, and “they will come”.
    If developers want some idea as to how to capture the soul of this town, maybe they should read some of the comments from the “Growing up in Alice” FB page.
    Thousands of people, forever touched by the spirit of this place … spread out across the planet, who will always call Alice, their Home.
    Build something that can capture that.

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  2. Posted May 24, 2015 at 11:02 am

    The decade during which the high-rise issue for Alice Springs was at its most persistent and contentious was during the 1980s.
    In the very early 1980s there were proposals for a massive five-storey hotel development on the (then) western edge of town, followed by a 10-storey hotel to replace the Stuart Arms, and finally a six-storey office block on the site of what is now the Yeperenye Shopping Centre (this last proposal was ardently pursued by Charlie Perkins as the head of the Aboriginal Development Corporation).
    In the mid 1980s there was a proposal for a five-storey hotel to be constructed in front of the newly-renamed Lasseters Casino. This project was the dream of local developer Bill Ford, who had acquired the casino from the NT Government.
    Finally, the issue of high-rise development raised its head again at the end of 1989. One building was constructed to the height of four storeys, the present Aurora Hotel in Todd Mall opposite the John Flynn Uniting Church. This is the first and only building constructed in Alice Springs above the three-storey height limit. It was opened to great fanfare in April 1990 – and was placed in the hands of receivers exactly four months later. I think this set a record for the time set between the official opening of a major investment project in this town, and its foreclosure.
    All of these distinct episodes of the high-rise debate in Alice Springs occurred within periods of economic decline or recession. (In the case of Bill Ford’s casino project in the mid 1980s, this coincided with the decline of economic activity in the NT following the expiry of the Memorandum of Understanding following NT Self-government in 1978. This is one of the variations I referred to in my previous comment).
    Prior to the 1980s, there was a major high-rise development proposed for Alice Springs, when an 11-storey hotel was announced in December 1973 to be built in Hartley Street on a site opposite where the Jock Nelson building is today.
    This coincided with the recession triggered by the first OPEC oil embargo shock of the 1970s (which led eventually to the Dismissal of the Whitlam Government).
    I think the current controversy over high-rise developments in the Alice continues to fit this pattern. Time will soon tell.

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  3. Fred the Philistine
    Posted May 24, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Don’t worry about the fire brigade. They will get a new truck. At what cost?

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  4. Ian Rennie
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Wow, there is definitely a fear of height in the Alice and going on the dreaded fear of eight stories then should there have ever been anything at all constructed on Anzac Hill?
    And should the communication towers ever have been erected at the Gap?
    There are those who think that Alice Springs should remain like the fictitious town in the movie, you know, don’t blink as you drive past.
    People need to realise that they are living in the computerised present, not the crystal set past.
    Tourists do not come to see a one horse town, they come to visit the centre and for a vast majority Alice Springs is accommodation while they are in the area.

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  5. Posted May 21, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    There is a long history to the debate about high-rise developments in Alice Springs, and it occurred to me some time ago that this is likely to be an aspect unique to the history of our town. I decided to investigate this history and found there is a very distinct pattern to it.
    It appears that Alice Springs is a good barometer of the economic climate of the nation generally, in particular I noted that since 1950 there is a striking correlation between proposals for commercial high-rise developments three storeys and above, and the onset of economic downturns. This pattern has strengthened over time.
    More worrisome is that the bigger the proposed developments, the worse the economic recession that follows. There’s a couple of variations on this pattern but so far I’m unaware of any exceptions to my observations.
    Given both the number and scale of current proposed high-rise developments in Alice Springs, there is plenty here to give pause for thought about what lies ahead for Australia in the very near future.

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  6. Trevor Shiell
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    It seems as though this Government and the developers which support them are hell bent on making Todd Street into a poor replica of Pararmatta Road and the Southern approach to the town into a replica of the Northern Exit from Adelaide – just what the tourists want when they come here.
    It makes them feel at home I guess and preserves the historic nature of the town. They don”t come here to see that do they?
    I deplore the efforts to make this town the same as everywhere else and then wonder why people are leaving in droves, and others don’t come.
    Who in their right mind would travel 1500 Km to see and experience the same as they could see at the end of their street at home? And now the bleating and expressions of greed from the real estate lobby over the poor sales of Kilgarrif are entirely predictable and it was a poorly conceived disaster right from the word go.
    Melanka will be a repeat command performance. It was obvious that the need for more industrial land was pressing and the obvious place for that was Brewer, with the associated housing need, and where the infrastructure was.
    Now we have the ridiculous situation where business people are wanting to put industries on land zoned RL.
    This whole situation could easily have been foreseen and planned for but for the pushing of the vested interests i.e. the real estate lobby.
    This is what is driving Melanka and should be moderated in keeping with the nature of the town if you want to keep people here.
    I found the arrogance of the Chief Minister breathtaking last week when he responded to a town councillor with doubts about Melanka by accusing him of having those thoughts because he belonged to the wrong party.
    Very soon it will be a crime to belong to any party which subscribes to views other than those of Adam Giles.
    I have never belong to a political party and vote solely on issues and the moment there are many of those, which need explanation.
    Like the TIO issue. We are not told about them for political convenience and it is assumed that we will concur with the thoughts of Government without being told what they are.
    The extensive roadworks beyond Santa Teresa is another prime example where millions has been spent without reason, while the Tanami and Plenty go wanting.
    The assumption is that the proposed pipeline will go across the desert and that we will all be in agreement.
    So it has been with Melanka.
    Meanwhile Santos has virtually abandoned the NT and the Tennant Creek people are running back and forth to Mt Isa pushing their case when the decision has already obviously been made but not disclosed.
    Let’s start thinking for ourselves rather than being told what we should be thinking and act accordingly when we vote.
    Government is not a football team to blindly followed irrespective of their behavior, and the vested interests which support them.

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  7. Edan Baxter
    Posted May 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    @ Erwin / others
    It is yet known what percentage of unsold / units post-development will be eligible for 10 year income-support as part of the “Housing for Growth” policy? i.e. 5%, 10% , 20%, 40%?
    Hard to balance up the pros and cons of this project without knowing that figure.

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  8. Brian Smyth
    Posted May 16, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Quote from Gman:
    I can understand some growth to meet demand, but this seems over the top. The people out there who own rental properties can kiss their rent prices good bye as there is going to be a flood of properties soon and renting is going to be cheap as chips!
    Gman, I agree but not just rental properties. All property will go down, no question. The prices are linked to employment, among other things. It happened in Port Headland and Mount Isa. Alice is next.

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  9. Dave
    Posted May 16, 2015 at 7:17 am

    This development can only be good for the town. One eight story building won’t take from the appeal of the town, in my opinion.
    If we the town don’t pull together the eight story building will be the least of your worries. The developers are taking the risk, not you.
    There has been a massive decrease in population, some say by around 20%. Next year’s census will reveal but you can see it in the town. Big retailers and the post office are going gangbusters while the rest is struggling.

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  10. Dr Wrongo
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    One question: How affordable is this affordable accommodation going to be?

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  11. Chansey Paech
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I’m very disappointed that an 8 story building is close to being approved in the CBD.
    I don’t support increasing the building heights to 7 or 8 storeys. Alice Springs is a town of difference, in an enchanting landscape and draws thousands of tourists, artists, retirees and families each year to take in the unique skyline, our desert climate, and our rich palette of colors that are seen from and reflected within our town Centre.
    I believe this proposal has the potential to jeopardise our spectacular views. It would be devastating if these views were obstructed by high rise buildings out of character with our town.
    It’s important we consider the impact that allowing such large buildings in our CBD will have on our community feel, cultural connections and preservation of our “town like Alice” feel.

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  12. Hal Duell
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 9:59 am

    @ Erwin Chlanda
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:22 am
    and
    @Physics Bill
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 4:58 am
    I too have wondered about this. After asking a fireman serving in Alice if they did have such capabilities, his response was that they currently did not, but that an appropriate truck would be relocated from Darwin. He didn’t see any problem.

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  13. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 8:22 am

    @ Physics Bill: This question was asked at the meeting and chairman Burke said the issue had been discussed with the fire service, which had confirmed that it saw no problems.

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  14. Physics Bill
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 4:58 am

    Does the fire service have a ladder truck that can reach 8 stories?

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  15. Peter Bassett
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 12:49 am

    The simple answer and response to your correct observation regarding declining population, increased anti social behaviour, loss of most of the once vibrant retail premises along the full length of Todd Street, GMan, is – as I have already said – because of ignorant leftards such as the Sharp witted nincompoop who has done [nothing] to the Alice Springs economic and/or social amenity development, nor put his money where his over educated big ignorant mouth is.

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  16. Fred the Philistine
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    I think it’s a good thing. It will bring millions to the town. I can’t wait to see it.

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  17. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Ian Sharp, do not insult the intelligence of longtime residents of Alice who still enjoy their coffee or lunch in the Mall.
    A leftward is someone who is so far left-wing in ideology, that they make others believe that the person must be mentally handicapped – read: Retarded, to have such opinions.
    Politics have nothing to do with the like or dislike of the development of Melanka. We are all entitled to our opinion.

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  18. Ian Rennie
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    A very long overdue building that has been held back by the greed of certain sections of the Alice Springs community.
    The new Melanka will be the best thing that has happened to the Alice in a very long time and will provide affordable, secure accommodation. These are two very key words in the Alice.

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  19. Maya
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Leftards? I dont see the connection between the Alice as we liked it and came to live in it and stayed for the last x-ty years … and leftards!
    Plain common sense: eight stories, many apartments and other amenities (which already exists west of town as explained by Ian Sharp) for whom? Where will all these new Centralians come out from, for what sustainable industry?
    Already a few unit complexes are being erected here and there to replace green areas and older buildings, and Kilgariff is moving ahead … Builders may get a buzz at the building stage, and the town economy with it, and after that? Ziltch! Unless we wish to sell our town and soul to the Chinese and open a second casino! I am terribly disappointed.

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  20. Ian Sharp
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Peter Bassett dreams of the Alice of his lost youth it seems. It is worth pointing out that the Todd Street that existed in the 70s, from Melanka up past the old Stuart Arms, Grandad’s Ice cream shop, up to the Shell Todd and Riverside, was “killed” by changing economic forces leading to the westward shift of the CBD: Larger scale retailers seeking space for their barns and car parks, K-Mart, Coles, the relocation of Woolies into the new Yeperenye Complex, and the knocking down of the Stuart Arms and the construction of the Ford Plaza (now Alice Plaza).
    This westward shift has continued into the old railway housing area with the development of Harvey-Norman, Repco, BBQ’s Galore etc.
    The Alice Plaza development has had a particularly strong effect on Todd Street north, a long wall of dead frontage, all businesses now facing inwards to the Plaza.
    I remember Murray Necks used to have active frontage onto Todd Street for a while, long gone now. One saving grace has been the establishment of the cinema complex in the old Woollies building, attracting people and eateries.
    The shift to the west has taken a lot of shopping by locals away from Todd Street (apart from the cyclists and leftards who frequent the coffee shops) which has become more tourist orientated as a result, and therefore subject to the ups and downs of that industry.
    As for the Melanka site, for what its worth I agree with Paul, but then I think back to The year of the Bulldozer as The Advocate styled it, circa 1986?
    We lost Marrons Newsagency and a lot more. So, I suppose this is just one more blight that those of us who remember will have to put up with. I’m not sure though it will be in keeping with the character of the Old Alice.
    However, it seems a done deal in terms of planning approval, but who knows, development plans have fallen over before as economic realities change. As Paul asks, are there enough people wanting to live in the new development to justify the business risk?

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  21. Gman
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I don’t understand. The population in Alice Springs has slowly been decreasing for the last 20 years (or more), and yet there are 400+ new unit / houses going up around the place.
    I can understand some growth to meet demand, but this seems over the top. The people out there who own rental properties can kiss their rent prices good bye as there is going to be a flood of properties soon and renting is going to be cheap as chips!
    Even with a mine potentially opening up nearby, these workers will be fly in fly out.

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  22. Amanda
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:55 am

    @ Paul: I guess you lived here for a whole five minutes like the rest of your anti everything crowd.
    This project is desperately needed, the town is dying a slow death of a thousand cuts which by the way has been the result of the anti development mentality and 10 years of the useless Labor Party.
    Thanks to the Government, DLP and Alice Springs Town Council for their support and leadership on this issue, and of course a big thanks to Dean Osborne for his courage and foresight in what will be an historic step for the town.

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  23. Paul Darvodelsky
    Posted May 14, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Extremely disappointing to hear that an eight storey development has been approved in Alice Springs. Sure it may make for better returns for the developers but it is totally inconsistent with the nature of Alice Springs development and totally unnecessary in our town. Have you ever seen a nice looking block of apartments?
    Why on earth do we need high rise in Alice Springs? There has already been at least one audit of available development space in the town and it has shown that there is more than ample room for infill development without ugly high rise.
    By the way. Does anyone know who is going to live in all these new apartments? I don’t see masses of people flocking to live in Alice Springs at the moment as the government is cutting back on key areas of health, education, environment and other important services for the community.

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  24. Hal Duell
    Posted May 13, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Good! Now we wait to see it built.
    And why it is “surprising” for an independent chairman to praise a developer’s prior good record?
    Surely if the developer had a bad record, that could have fairly been counted against him.

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  25. Peter Bassett
    Posted May 13, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Ain’t jealousy a curse … this construction should have been approved over 30 years ago and Todd Street would still enjoy all its historical facades, beautiful busy pedestrian filled street scape and lovely sun filled alfresco dining – all the way from here up to the old Riverside, as is the case in CBD Perth.
    Get a life, leftards.

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