Bowden residents irate over lack of essential services

With the closest pharmacy or GP a 20-minute walk away, concerned Bowden residents have penned an open letter to the suburb’s planners about a lack of basic services in the area.

Dec 20, 2023, updated Jan 30, 2024
Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Nearly a decade after residents of a redeveloped Bowden first planted roots, some are concerned that US property developer Sentinel’s proposed build-to-rent project in the inner-northern suburb does not comply with Renewal SA’s guidelines for the mixed-use community, saying they need more essential services rather than gyms and bars.

Written in November and signed by 55 residents, the letter claims that “the promise of walkability and reduced car reliance that Bowden has been sold on might not become a reality” if the Sentinel project as planned goes ahead, citing that it lacks “the expected level of retail and commercial space needed to deliver the mixed-use and main-street promises”.

To be situated on a prime block of land adjacent to the popular Plant 4 retail destination – formerly the Clipsal factory – Sentinel’s development will be SA’s first institutional build-to-rent community.

Announced in March this year, the project will include 250 rental apartments at the 4000-square-metre site on Third Street, Bowden.

The apartment community will be managed by New York-based Sentinel’s Kinleaf property management brand on completion, and the developer said it would target carbon-neutral certification.

Sentinel said the “first-of-its-kind project in Adelaide” would also give residents a “range of thoughtfully curated lifestyle amenities, experienced on-site management and maintenance teams, and integrated retail offerings”.

The site for Sentinel’s proposed Bowden build-to-rent development. Photo: Sentinel.

But current residents are disappointed with the plans, citing Renewal SA’s Developer’s Handbook and Urban Design Guidelines in their open letter in an attempt to ensure the project “will realise the promise of retail/commercial that meet the needs of locals”.

“The Bowden Development is at a tipping point,” reads the letter.

“Homes have been bought, businesses have been invested in, community developed, and infrastructure built on the promise of delivering a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighbourhood with reduced reliance on cars, and resident needs being met within walking distance.

“Sadly, it looks like the promise of walkability and reduced car reliance that Bowden has been sold on might not become a reality.”

Residents claim the upcoming Sentinel build did not comply with “key aspects of the established guidelines in regards to mixed-use”.

“The latest example of concern is the proposed Sentinel development, a welcome 250 home build-to-rent, but which appears (as evidenced in their publicity and upon our inquiry) to lack the expected level of retail and commercial space needed to deliver the mixed-used and main-street promises,” residents said.

“There are a growing number of residents that are feeling let down and frustrated by the failure of Renewal SA to deliver on the promises that they bought into.

“For some, the failure to deliver is a frustration, annoyance, and the inability to give up a car (or second car) if they’d like to. For others who do not or cannot drive, the cost can also be their independence.”

InDaily has approached Sentinel for comment on the makeup of the proposed retail offering at the development, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Currently a car park, this lot in Bowden is set to be SA’s first built-to-rent development. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily.

The residents have called on Renewal SA and Premier Peter Malinauskas to “ensure that developments on Third Street and in the ‘core retail and mixed-use’ area will realise the promise of retail and commercial that meet the needs of locals”.

They point to the repurposing of Plant 3 and Plant 4 as “highly successful” examples of what the area – defined by Renewal SA guidelines as a ‘retail/mixed-use core’ – should look like. Per the guidelines, the retail/mixed-use zone takes up an area bordered by Park Terrace, Fourth St, Second St, and Drayston St.

The guidelines also label the area where Sentinel’s proposed development will be as “the heart of Bowden”, with a “high concentration of retail, commercial and community activity close to public transport to activate the public domain and take advantage of convenient access”.

Residents are asking Renewal SA and the government to ensure the vacant lot is activated in “ways that serve the local residents” and to “ensure decision making about future builds have consideration for the daily needs of Bowden residents; GP, pharmacy, post office, fruit and veg, butcher, bank, newsagent, pathology, dentist etc.”.

Speaking to InDaily, Bowden residents Amy Johansen and Nathan Adams said after sending their open letter to Renewal SA and the state government they had a meeting with relevant parties.

Both Renewal SA chief executive Chris Menz and housing minister Nick Champion sent letters responding to the complaints, with the former acknowledging “that long-term projects such as Bowden often see residents moving in without immediate access to a fully developed suite of retail and service offerings”.

“Most retail and commercial investors require a worker and resident population to establish before they are willing to commit the funds required to open a new business,” Menz said.

“As you identify, the final delivery of Third Street and the balance of the core retail and mixed-use surrounding Bowden Park, Gibson and Second streets is still to be fully realised.

“The Bowden team is collaborating with a range of developers on proposals for new commercial spaces, restaurants, bars, and specific retail options within this area.”

Menz said the initial plan for Bowden was to have “a total active shop frontage of 220 linear metres to support the community”.

“To date, the completed retail has already exceeded these targets by 5 per cent,” Menz said.

“We forecast that once complete, the Clipsal section of Bowden alone will exceed original targets by more than 35 per cent.”

But Johansen, one of the Bowden precinct re-development’s first residents, said that most of the retail footprint was made up of bars, restaurants and gyms.

“We just want Renewal SA to take a proactive stance in helping get those necessities in the area and essentials that were either implied or in some cases outright promised to residents upon purchasing their apartments,” Johansen told InDaily.

Adams added that many residents of Bowden were elderly or disabled, and moved to Bowden for an accessible, walkable neighbourhood. The closest pharmacy – Hindmarsh Pharmacy – is a 20-minute walk from Plant 4.

“When they were promising that it would be a walkable community and we don’t need to use our cars as much, the implication was that we could walk down the street to the pharmacy to get things we need, or to see a doctor, or to get fruit and veg,” he said.

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“Because they haven’t delivered on that, the residents still have to get in their car and drive to the Brickworks or Welland or North Adelaide.”

Both Renewal SA and Champion’s letters to the residents said the Bowden Developer Handbook Urban Design Guidelines were “not intended to be highly prescriptive down to an individual site level”.

“Instead, they set out objectives for the project as a whole and best practice design standards, the interpretation of which is overseen by the independent Bowden Design Review Panel,” Menz said.

“The guidelines provide flexibility to respond to specific opportunities and recognise the potential for innovation and alternative design responses, including innovative forms of housing such as the Sentinel development proposed on Third Street.”

In a statement to InDaily, a Renewal SA spokesperson said members of the body’s executive and the Bowden Project Team met with the community group to clarify that “the Bowden project vision and original project objectives are being fulfilled, and in many cases exceeded”.

“The meeting was productive, and the residents seemed generally satisfied with the outcome and the next steps agreed,” the spokesperson said.

“Since that face-to-face meeting, Renewal SA has provided further information to the group, summarising some of the initiatives being undertaken to plan for, and attract, additional essential service provision and retail offerings into Bowden as part of the project’s completion.

“It has also committed to subsequent follow-up meetings to continue to work collaboratively with the community members on this matter.”

Champion also told InDaily that he was working with the community group to “work towards addressing their concerns”.

“The Renewal SA chief executive has engaged with members of the community multiple times to collaborate on ways to improve on Bowden’s offerings,” he said.

“I also have a meeting scheduled this week.

“We will continue these discussions to deliver on our promise to make Bowden a liveable and functional precinct that meets residents’ needs.”

West End brewery housing

The former West End brewery site has been cleared and there are plans for 1000 homes. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Renewal SA’s second chance at West End Brewery site

Yesterday, the state government announced it was searching for a lead urban design consultant for the state’s next master-planned community at the former site of the West End Brewery.

An open market tender process is being undertaken to secure a principal partner to develop the state’s vision for the vacant site that was acquired by the government for $61.5 million in September.

Outcomes being sought from a principal partner include “world-class built form incorporating essential worker apartments, Build-to-Rent housing, and privately owned medium-to-high density dwellings to cater for a diverse community”.

Plans for a neighbourhood featuring commercial, hospitality and retail are also being sought, as is a “celebration of the site’s unique heritage and riverbank location and delivery of social infrastructure and public amenities”.

“It is critical that we expedite the delivery of additional housing options along this well-serviced corridor, so we are acting quickly to get these early planning elements in place to hit the ground running,” Champion said.

“Proactively going out to market the same week we settle on the land not only assists with an early start to construction but also facilitates early consultations with stakeholders and the community, setting the tone for the entire project.

“The brewery was a city icon for 135 years, so we want this to become a legacy piece; a benchmark for innovative, sustainable urban development and a celebration of the site’s unique culture and historical significance.”

Renewal SA executive property and projects director Todd Perry said the site was “an unparalleled opportunity”.

“It is a project of immense significance so we are seeking an urban design partner with global thinking and best-in-class capabilities to deliver a vision and a master plan that will benefit generations of South Australians,” Perry said.

“We look forward to partnering and collaborating with an industry leader who shares our commitment to delivering a world-class urban precinct that sets a new standard for inner metropolitan living.”

But Johansen said she was concerned that what happened to Bowden could happen at the West End site.

“In the nine years they’ve been here they’ve got a whole lot of experience from residents who have been here up to almost ten years, but they haven’t made an effort to come and ask residents what’s working, what’s not working, what do we need, what can we be doing differently,” she said.

“If they can’t even do this one properly – which was supposed to be the example – then how can they deliver on West End?” added Adams.

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