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Woollahra Municipal Council



A go-to destination

Woollahra Municipal Council, located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, is a local government area known for its natural beauty, as well as its distinctive and diverse residential, heritage and commercial areas. It comprises beautiful headlands and parklands, stunning beaches, and a variety of residential precincts – including the unique and historically-significant Paddington Heritage Conservation Area, as well as the council seat and business centre of Double Bay.

In November of 2011, Woollahra Council entered into a joint venture with Woolworths to deliver Kiaora Lands – a $110 million redevelopment that is set to revitalise Double Bay. The massive project includes a new Woolworths supermarket, a range of retail, commercial and speciality stores, a new three storey state-of-the-art public library, and a car park that will provide 442 car spaces.

Kiaora Lands is expected to generate an extra $100 million in revenue for the local economy every year, and up to 300 new jobs. The development is also expected to be the centrepiece of a dynamic and vibrant commercial hub, which will make Double Bay a “go-to destination” for residents, shoppers and tourists.

Allan Coker is the Director of Planning & Development at Woollahra Council. He’s been working with Woollahra Council since 1999, and has been involved with Kiaora Lands since its inception. He describes the project as one of the most exciting he’s ever seen during his career in local government.

“There are not many local government councils around the state that have completed such an ambitious project,” he says.

Kiora Lands’ origins start with Woollahra Council owning a large parcel of land, including two car parks and the roads between the car parks. Woolworths, meanwhile, was operating a supermarket on New South Head Road, and had purchased adjoining residential properties with the intent to expand. Both parties recognised a unique opportunity to pool their land and come up with a master plan that achieved a better result than if either of them had done it alone.

“We were aware of Woolworths’ vision that had to create a new first-class 21st century supermarket and enhance their business opportunities in Double Bay,” Allan recalls. “And our economic modelling had indicated to us that Double Bay was not well served by the available local day-to-day shopping, and that a new supermarket would add greatly to the economic vitality of Double Bay.”

“It was a unique situation where the objectives of both parties were very compatible,” he says.

Council’s objectives, Allan explains, were to improve the quality of the built environment, improve the public domain, improve pedestrian connections, and improve the value of the Council’s asset – all whilst providing a boost to economic development in the area.

“This is a project that has achieved all of those objectives,” Allan says. “So it was almost a no-brainer.”

Achieving all outcomes

With Kiaora Lands, Woollahra Council didn’t just want to achieve commercial outcomes – they also wanted to achieve very high quality planning and urban design outcomes. To make this happen, Council worked collaboratively with the architects, going over a number of different design options before settling on one that all parties were happy to execute. Council also employed independent expert designers to assist with the process and peer review the work that was taking place – including Keith Cottier, a principal at Allen Jack + Cottier Architects.

“All throughout the project, we tried to bring in some of the best quality people,” Allan says. “Council’s core responsibility is not land development, so we wanted to bring in people who were experienced and could provide advice.”

“Significant assistance was provided to the Council by various experts throughout the process,” he says. “Even at the end, the leasing of the end result is being managed by an expert team with a very strong track record.”

Throughout the design process, Woollahra Council also solicited the opinion of the local community. After lodging the development application (DA), they undertook roughly three months of community consultation.

“When there is change, particularly in a city centre close to residential properties, there will always be concern about the impacts of that change,” Allan says. “We were not immune from that process. There were very active resident groups who raised concerns to the Council, and we had to work through their issues and demonstrate what the real and actual impacts of the development would be.”

To do that, Council participated in a number of ‘resident workshops,’ where they and Woolworths walked members of the community through their plans and listened to their thoughts. Council made some amendments to the scheme. Now that the project is “all but complete,” Allan says there has been a “very positive response from the community.”

“In fact, I think many people were surprised by the quality and success of the project,” he says. “There were some skeptics who thought it would take away their views or that it would lead to unacceptable traffic congestion in the local area – and none of those concerns have eventuated.”

A new social hub

Stage 1 of the Kiaora Lands joint venture was completed in June, 2014. Following that was the opening of the new flagship Woolworths Supermarket, along with Dan Murphy’s, Little Jean Bistro, and an About Life Natural Marketplace.

Stage 2 of the development is close to being fully operational. It includes the new three storey public library, a retail arcade of approximately 20 specialty shops, two levels of commercial office space, and a landscaped public plaza. Fronting the plaza is the ‘Mistelle’ wine bar, Bake Bar Organic Artisan bakery/café, and Zen modern Chinese restaurant.

“Visitors can come in and shop in arguably the best shopping precinct in Australia,” Allan says. “There’s a variety of different uses and activities that are appealing to people. It doesn’t just meet the demands of local residents, but it also provides a degree of delight when you visit. It makes going to the supermarket not so much of a chore. It has the capacity to be a very positive experience.”

“Look at mothers, for example,” he adds. “During the day, they can drop off their kids at child care, they can have a coffee, they can do their shopping, they can go to the library – the list goes on.”

That new Double Bay Library is one of the jewels in the crown of Kiaora Lands. Set to officially open in the near future, the innovative, state-of-the-art facility encompasses 2,300 square metres and is predicted to become a key community focal point as well Woollahra Council’s flagship within the Double Bay Shopping Precinct.

The Library has been cleverly designed over three levels using a flexible floor plan that incorporates the use of zones for different activities and programs, and will accommodate changing future needs. Each of the three levels will “reflect a different identity, ambiance and functionality.”

Level 1 is the main entrance to the Library, and will be the “welcoming, vibrant and interactive zone.” It will also include the quick browsing collection for the most popular Library titles, and also spaces for children, including wet areas for doing crafts. Level 1 will also feature an event space – which includes a multi-function room that can be divided into two spaces, each with access to a kitchenette.

Level 2, meanwhile, will have a youth space, a public access computer hub and IT training room with the latest digital technologies, and the majority of the Adult Library collection. It will incorporate reading nooks and a range of different seating options.

Level 3, lastly, will be the “quieter, more contemplative space,” allowing for research and study. It will include two small meetings rooms for up to eight people, study nooks and a large quiet study room for over 30 people. It will also include the Local History collection, and the Library staff workroom.

As a whole, the new Library will be fully accessible with a large lift, as well as close access to car parking and transport. Due to its positioning within the centre of the Double Bay Shopping Precinct, Council predicts the library will attract a wide range of customers – even many new to libraries – as well as provide “a haven for busy shoppers, students, and the general public.”

“It won’t just be a place to read books,” Allan says. “We see it as a major drawcard for residents and visitors. We see it as a place where there will be a lot of community activities, a lot of cultural activities, and a place for businesses to meet – it will be a new social hub for Double Bay.”

A long life

Moving forward, Allan and the Woollahra Municipal Council expect Kiaora Lands to have “a long life.”

“We don’t see this as being a short term project,” Allan says. “This is a project that will serve Double Bay and the residents of Woollahra for many years to come.”

In addition to its other many benefits, Kiaora Lands will also give Woollahra Council ownership of a significant, long term revenue generating asset. This will have significant benefits for residents, and allow Council to invest more money in infrastructure and services that are in line with the Double Bay Place Plan, as well as the overall Community Strategic Plan.

“Those plans are very much about enhancing the existing qualities of our locality,” Allan says. “It’s all about looking after a place that’s already beautiful and making it even more beautiful in the future.”

“Woollahra will be a great place to live, work, and visit, where places and spaces are safe, clean, and well maintained,” he says, reciting Council’s vision statement. “Our community will offer a unique mix of urban villages, with a good range of shops, services and facilities. We will make the most of the natural beauty, leafy streetscapes, open spaces, views, and proximity to the water and the city.”

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