Zapari is shining a bright light on Woden
It was 2016 and the market was at the bottom of the cycle. No one believed in Woden at the time. It was a deteriorating Town Centre that already had its glory years. Despite this, I saw potential with what could be done in this great location and I acquired the building.

By Nick Skepev

Since then, there is no doubt Woden has come a long way. Its central location, appealing surrounds and growing population were the impetus for its reactivation. New major infrastructure and amenity development – of which Zapari has been integral – have pushed the tired town centre to new heights, literally.

Change can be slow at the beginning. A vision takes time to craft and legislative amendments need months, if not years, to be embedded. Since Zapari’s Grand Central Towers sprung to life, the pace of change around the Woden Town Centre has been astounding. When we married Woden’s central location in Canberra with accessible pricing, 300 dwellings were turned over in just three months. The people had voiced their support. And we had set a new benchmark in urban and building design in the district.

A renewed vision

Woden was sadly Canberra’s forgotten town centre for decades. Tired, vacated office buildings. A lifeless void at night-time. A carpark haven. A transit zone.

When I first started consulting with the Woden community and the ACT Government in 2016, my vision was to bring vibrancy, activity, colour and some much-needed ‘bustle’ to the worn-out area. For that, I knew we needed people to want to call Woden home. Moreover, the opportunity to enhance the lifestyle in the town centre would serve to relieve pressures in surrounding suburbs, and arguably, other town centres and the CBD.

Thankfully, many in the community were on the same page. Government continues to invest in Woden, making the area hugely attractive for buyers and developers alike. Canberra’s resilient property market has also stimulated interstate and international investment.

The wheels of change are now turning with pace and professionalism, and I feel grateful to be able to witness the realisation of my vision.

The Woden for tomorrow

Zapari has been a pioneering force behind Woden’s positive growth. Our vision has enabled a community of singles, families and empty-nesters to find a place that offers the quality and prestige never before seen in Woden.

Together with the infrastructure and amenities now on offer in Woden, it holds its own as a desirable, sought-after place to live. The lifestyle offerings are as you would expect of a central and progressive area of Canberra: cafes, gyms, childcare centres, pubs and variety of retail offerings.

Westfield’s $21 million upgrade to the dining precinct on Bradley Street, the Southern Cross Club’s $20 million Stellar building on Yamba Drive, and the government’s commitment to revival have attracted a variety of demographics. Grand Central Towers injected some much-needed value and prestige.

The highly anticipated Stage 2 of Light Rail will give Woden the edge, essentially making it a sub-city of the Canberra CBD. Residents will have access to all the experiences on offer in Woden, while a short vehicle commute will have them on Lake Burley Griffin’s shores or enjoying the city’s abundant offerings.

Meeting the people’s needs

The ACT Government’s Planning Strategy indicates the Woden Valley will account for 8.35% of the ACT population by 2041. Currently, 10.43% of people employed in the ACT reside in the district. With Canberra’s overall population predicted to grow to 589,000 by 2041, the time for managing this growth is now.

I believe our projects such as Grand Central Towers (with its 430 apartments) and Zapari’s prestigious upcoming apartment offering – The Shard – will continue to meet the population density requirements.

The Shard, our $170 million mixed-use development, will be situated on the three blocks opposite Westfield. We feel a responsibility with such a nostalgic piece of real estate to plan the project in the larger context of Woden. We have listened to the people, via the National Capital Design Review Panel and the Woden Valley Community Council, and reduced our apartment offering from 600 to 281 units. This will allow for larger apartment sizes and balconies in accordance with local feedback.

In the midst of a high-rise boom, it’s increasingly important – especially in the Woden Town Centre – to respond to the community’s feedback and ensure the architecture is both functional and attractive for the population. For this, Cox Architecture has designed a balanced interior, with stunning cascading glass to chase the views and capture the natural light. The Shard will introduce apartment living a notch above anything else in Woden – in terms of space, price, high-end architecture and amenity.

Now Woden is demanding the attention it deserves. Zapari’s investment is taking the town centre even further into the spotlight.