GUEST COMMENT by PAUL DARVODELKSY
The Melanka development site has apparently been approved as an eight storey development with about 170 units. This has long had a polarising effect on the town. Is this really good thing for the site and town? Is it consistent with development in Alice Springs and other places? Do we need it at all? Who would benefit?
I think that anyone would agree that Alice Springs needs investment and we need development if we are to thrive as a town. There has also been a shortage of affordable housing, primarily since the housing boom which came with the Intervention. Both are important issues which need to be recognised and managed carefully.
So do we need more housing in Alice Springs? There is a clear need for more indigenous housing, however developments like Gap View (40 two bedroom townhouses), the bowling club (about 70 units), Larapinta Drive (25 town houses, all rent guaranteed by the NT Government) and Melanka (pictured below) don’t appear to cater for this need. Alice Springs population peaked at about 28,500 (Alice Springs News Online: Outlook for Alice – a mixed bag) and has since dropped (Australian Census data 2011) to around 25,186.
This would suggest that growth is not a reason for developing new housing at the moment. With around 400 units built and approved to be built, along with the recently built out Mt Johns estate and Kilgariff estate this will put a surplus of properties on the market which is only a benefit if we are expecting significant growth in the near future.
The most obvious effect all this new development will have on the town is on property prices and rents. In a real estate market which is already soft, the flood of new properties will further reduce property prices and rents. This effect is likely to be significant. For anyone who owns investment property in Alice Springs this will mean you can expect lower capital and rental returns until demand increases again at some stage in the future.
There is of course always an upside to this effect. Housing will become more affordable both to buy and rent and this would make it easier for first home owners and attracting people to work in Alice Springs. In addition the businesses involved in selling and building the developments will benefit, provided those contracts for construction are awarded to local businesses. And of course the developers of the projects will make money as witnessed by the fast sale of the Gap View apartments. The economic benefits from the construction however do not reach very far and the profits are not necessarily going to benefit Alice Springs.
Development of Melanka and bringing people closer to the centre of town will bring more life into the centre of town, which is sorely needed. The scale of development, at eight storeys is an outstanding and contentious feature of the proposal. To put this in context it is twice the height of any other building in Alice Springs.
Some of the greatest cities of the world such as Paris, Copenhagen and Rome have almost no development over five storeys high. Provincial towns of 30,000 people or so even more rarely so. Sydney’s pro-development government which forced development on Councils along transport corridors limited apartment blocks to four storeys. Why is this so? Mostly because high rise developments are ugly. But also because of a range of other issues such as shading, consistency with existing development, pressure on existing infrastructure and the like.
A development of eight storeys in Alice Springs is inconsistent with recognised planning policies and norms and inappropriate for Alice Springs. High rise is unnecessary and will stand out as a nationally inconsistent development, completely at odds with the nature of the town. The need for a high rise development is further obviated by council’s study of infill development potential by independent experts (citation needed) which identified there is room for several hundred more units in the CBD without exceeding the existing height of buildings.
There will always be winners and losers. The winners will be the developers, real estate agents and builders. With the surplus of property coming onto the Alice Springs market new home buyers and renters will see prices continue to drop. Existing home owners and landlords will see their properties and rents drop in value. And the town will have, in perpetuity, a monument to a poor decision. Melanka yes. High rise in Alice Springs no. The existing building height development is more than enough.
GUEST COMMENT by PAUL DARVODELKSY