Corona Towers

Commr says support a ‘political response’ to Covid-19

PERTH’S commissioners have invoked the Covid-19 crisis to support an apartment complex at Elizabeth Quay that’s 26 storeys above guidelines and critics say threatens to clog the precinct with cars.

Brookfield had two projects at the quay before the council’s March 31 meeting; a 56-level apartment tower and a 21- storey office block. Staff had recommended commissioners reject the apartment tower as not glamorous enough to justify the extra 26 storeys being sought by the developer and because of the reliance on private car ownership.

Back in the early 2010s former WA planning minister John Day said apartments would be limited to 0.7 car bays per residence to avoid turning the quay into a parking lot, but Brookfield is seeking more than double that; it wants 453 car bays for the 237 units.

Despite the staff recommendation, chair commissioner Andrew Hammond put up an alternative supporting the project and cited the economic crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic for his decision.

“The current economic development imperatives as a result of the emerging Covid crisis makes support of projects like this essential,” Commr Hammond said.

He reassured staff he wasn’t trying to undermine their professional expertise, but “it is a political response to the Covid crisis”.

The two buildings were designed by New York architects Rex Architecture, and the council’s support is tied to more negotiations with the developer, with commissioner Len Kosova hoping that could result in an “exemplary” design. 

Elizabeth Quay has nine main lots surrounding the inlet and Brookfield’s two sites sit on the centrepiece lots 5 and 6, behind the ringed “Spanda” sculpture. 

Former Perth councillor Reece Harley told the Voice nearby Lawson Apartment residents contacted him with concerns about all those car bays.

“Elizabeth Quay was promised as a project that would reconnect our city to its river,” he says. 

“The last thing we need now is a competition between architects to see how many thousands of car bays can be crammed onto the old Esplanade Reserve.”

The final decision on the apartments will be made by the DevelopmentWA planning superpower created by the Labor government through the merger of LandCorp and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority.

Mr Harley said big developments take a while to get started and questioned Covid-19 being invoked. 

The long lead time with developments of this size mean that a construction start during the Covid-19 crisis is unlikely. 

“While admirable that the city is encouraging the development to proceed in the interests of economic stimulus, it should be remembered that we will all be dealing with the outcomes of these planning decisions for 40 or 50 years, not just the next few months. Cramming thousands of Cars into the Quay isn‚t a smart use of our precious riverfront.”

Brookfield’s plans state the extra carbays are justified because these are large apartments intended to bring more families and downsizers into the city, so they’re more likely to need more cars. It also predicts a low number of peak-hour trips since not all those residents will be 9-5 workers commuting.

Brookfield had a previous approval for the same two lots that didn’t go ahead. It had a widely-praised Blade Runner-esque “cantilever” element in the middle that won it the “exemplary design” label allowing the extra storeys.

by DAVID BELL

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