West End’s Community Garden at risk

ISABELLA CHENG

West End’s Jane Street Community Garden could be competing for sunlight thanks to proposed 12-storey apartment building development that is likely to cast a long shadow over Davies Park and the community garden.

Scott Spillias Jane Street Community Garden

Jane Street Community Garden co-coordinator Scott Spillias is worried for the future of West End’s community garden. Photo: Isabella Cheng

A development application has been lodged for the site at 105 to 117 Jane Street, which sits directly opposite Davies Park and north of the Jane Street Community Garden.

The proposed new development by Aria Property Group claims to be “green” and consists of two 12-storey apartment towers, two ground level podiums for retail, 145 apartments, a recreational rooftop, and 210 parking spaces for building residents and visitors.

The property group is proposing to build the development across four existing properties, but members of some local community organisations are concerned the development will heavily impact the Jane Street Community Garden.

The key concern that community members have about the development revolves around the height of the apartment blocks, which may affect both the Jane Street Community Garden and Davies Park by blocking out the sunlight.

Green’s Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri, said he was not opposed to the development, because from an architectural background the design was better than other high-rise blocks, but said he was worried that the height of the blocks meant they would overshadow the community garden.

“My core concerns are the building will cast a long shadows on the park and particularly on Jane Street Community Garden,

“It’s [the site] being treated as a code assessable development, which means there is no public notification, and council will make a decision quickly unless there is a strong feedback from the community,” Cr Sri said.

One of Jane Street Community Garden’s coordinators, Scott Spillias, said he was also concerned about the height of the proposed development, which would be positioned directly north of the community garden.

Mr Spillias said the position and height of the towers would cast a shadow over the garden, depriving it of sunlight.

“Because it [the proposed development] is directly north of us, it’s going to block the majority of the sun during mid-day, especially in winter, so it’s going to have a big impact on most of the plants down here, which would make it hard to garden,” he said.

Mr Spillias said the problem wasn’t just about how the community garden was affected by the development, but was about the role the garden plays; it serves the area by connecting local businesses and communities.

“We’re trying to preserve the community garden that serves the whole community in a number of ways,” he said.

The Jane Street Community Garden is housed on land owned by Brisbane City Council and is run as a non-profit organisation made up of dedicated community volunteers.

Jane Street Community Garden

The Jane Street Community Garden’s produce is shared with the public. Photo: Isabella Cheng

One of the garden’s major supporters is Micah Projects, an organisation committed to social justice and well-fare for children, and adults’ rights to housing, health care, safety and education.

Other supporters include Davies Park Markets, Green Grocer, and Brisbane City Council, which offer grants that support different projects at the gardens.

The gardens are divided into communal growing areas, demonstration sites and individually rented plots.

They grow close to 200 different varieties of edible plants, including salad greens, vegetables, herbs, fruit and butterfly and insect attracting plants.

Members of the public are invited to harvest the fruit and vegetables grown in the community garden for free.

Volunteers also host sustainable workshops at the garden and provide a composting service that is used by both members of the public and local cafes.

Garden volunteers currently collect food waste from a number of local businesses, including Expresso Garage, Plenty, Veneziano Coffee Roasters, Mango Tree Café and Cheeky Bean.

Mr Spillias said he was concerned about the impact the new development would have, and said the people of West End were fed up with all the development that was happening in the area.

“So, West End and Brisbane in general need to make those choices to who they’re actually serving by creating a [12-story] building like that, [it] is making the wrong choice.”

The development application for 105 to 117 Jane Street outlined the proposed “high quality living” that would be provided by the apartment buildings, which it claimed would “create an escape for residents”.

Aria Property Group’s architectural team Rothelowman said in the development application “the site’s immediate frontage facing Davies Park provided opportunity to explore the integration of vertical landscaping within the façade”.

Proposed Aria development Jane St

The proposed development by Aria Property Group has West End residents feeling left out of the decision making process. Photo: Rothelowman

The proposed vertical greenery is shown in the drawings done of the proposed tower façades.

The development application also said the design hoped to “bring residents closer to the environment”, and proposed a “generous” rooftop spaces with communal spaces, “generous pools”, barbecue areas and a children’s playground.

Aria Property Group was not available for comment.

Local resident and architect Toby Robinson said he found the Jane Street proposal very concerning.

“This development demonstrates yet another example of why the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan is not providing appropriate outcomes for our community,” Mr Robinson said.

“What we need now is better infrastructure, more open space and safer access along Montague Road,” he said.

“Not more apartments.”

Mr Robinson said Brisbane City Council’s South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan does not specify a height limit for new developments in meters, only in storeys.

The plan, which was adopted on 15 April 15, 2011, specifies that the Buchanan and Davies Park Precinct “continues to be a vibrant mixed use area, with residential uses predominantly focused towards the River and Bank Street in buildings up to 12 storeys in height”.

Mr Robinson said Aria’s proposal appeared to meet the plan’s 12-storey height limit, but in reality was closer in height to some 15 and 16 storey towers due to the internal levels of the podium, parking grounds and rooftop.

West End Community Association president Dr Erin Evans said the green apartment concept was a great idea in theory, but said the drawback was that it only benefitted residents of the development rather than the community as a whole.

Jonathan Sri and community members

Concerned community members meet with Greens Councillor Jonathan Sri (far left) to discuss the impact of the proposed development. Photo: Jonathan Sri

“I think it is great that the developers are taking the initiative to be more sustainable, but I don’t think the whole community can use the rooftop,” Dr Evans said.

“The green asset is great, but one of the issues in particular is the 12 storeys,” she said.

“Some of those storeys within the development are well above the normal height.”

Dr Evans said there was a difference between private and publicly owned spaces, which could get lost in the presentation.

“The inclusion of public green space helps to ensure liveability and well-being,” Dr Evans said.

She said while she was happy to see Aria trying to increase green space at their developments, it was not a free ticket to offset the assets of the community.

“Davis Park is a major sporting hub and the community gardens allow for all sorts of social interactions,” she said.

Councillor for The Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri said many concerned residents believed the towers would block out the sun on the northern side of Davies Park, which could be extremely detrimental to the community gardens.

He said he hoped for a compromise that would lower the height of the building and reduce the impact on the gardens.

“My personal view is that for the site at 107 to 117 Jane Street, a height of six to eight storeys would be more appropriate, particularly when you consider that this end of Jane Street can’t handle much more traffic,” Cr Sri said.

Dr Evans said she believed the council, which owns Davies Park and the land where the Jane Street Community Gardens are housed, should fight for their assets.

“We have [recently] seen on Victoria Street [in West End], the council has pushed for more development information and we would like the council to fight for their assets,” she said.

The Brisbane City Council was not available for comment.

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