DOMA’s transformation of two imposing office towers in Canberra does more than breathe new life into old buildings. The development also supports new businesses and reinvigorates an entire town centre.
The Alexander and Albemarle Buildings are undergoing a rebirth. Built in 1968 to service the federal government, the Alexander and Albemarle buildings have been part of the Woden landscape for more than five decades.
DOMA secured the land after the buildings were vacated by their public service tenants in 2011. By this time, the company already had a significant footprint in the Woden area, with the development of the Sirius Building and Aviation House, and was looking to expand its commercial portfolio.
But stymied by a weak market for offices in Woden, high demolition costs and changes to legislation – particularly the lease variation charge – DOMA’s team rethought its investment and turned their minds to a mixed-use development.
After several false starts, DOMA enlisted Cox Architecture and builders from Bloc to bring the project to life, with completion on track by early 2020.
DOMA’s vision for the 186 warehouse and loft-style apartments, renamed A&A, also includes diverse non-residential uses activating the ground plane.
Gavin Edgar, DOMA’s general manager of development, says the project’s unique design created an opportunity for large public spaces to occupy the area between the buildings. The towers’ smaller annexes, for example, have been repurposed for a new retail and commercial thoroughfare set around a central and activated mews.
“This has enabled a high level of retail and commercial activation which will draw people through the site and provide residents with an open outlook,” Edgar explains.
The development has already attracted diverse businesses from cafés, a commercial gym to a gastro pub and brewery.
Edgar says some of the retail and strata office spaces boast concrete ceilings soaring as high as five metres, “with a genuine industrial warehouse aesthetic providing a unique opportunity for Canberra”.
The apartments, meanwhile, all enjoy 3.4 metre ceiling heights and “celebrate their raw, industrial overtones, with exposed concrete soffits, brickwork and other textural features,” Edgar says.
Balconies and façade treatments will render the buildings unrecognisable from their current state, Edgar adds.
The A&A project is the latest to enhance the appeal of Woden, following Westfield’s recent $21 million redevelopment. Plans for the second stage of the Canberra light rail, which will terminate in Woden, are also underway.
There are obvious environmental benefits to be realised by not demolishing the existing towers, but there are also significant cost benefits Edgar explains, adding that this will be reflected in the accessible price point.
“The ethos surrounding the development is one of reusing and repurposing the Woden landmarks.”