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IN THE CITY MAGAZINE
The Canberra Times | In The City Magazine | WINTER
It was Princess Anne in 1970 who officially
opened the City Walk Centre, then called the
Una Porter Centre, for the YWCA.
These days the princess would be
hard pressed to recognise parts of the building
affectionately referred to as the ‘King O’Malley’s
building’. From the outside it looks like little
has changed, but having undergone extensive
renovations since its royal inception, many areas
inside are unrecognisable.
Project manager for the City Walk Centre, Peter
Barclay has worked hard at changing the inside of
the building while keeping its original façade.
“You probably wouldn’t realise from the outside
how it’s transformed,” he said.
One of the major changes was the gutting of the
City Walk Hotel, which was initially built as the
“We went to a lot of trouble of transforming it
over a two-year period from the City Walk Hotel to
absolutely beautiful office space,” Mr Barclay said.
True to its purpose of enhancing the building
green rating, the entire contents of the hotel was
donated to the Salvation Army including 120
beds, 250 woollen blankets, heaters and kitchen
All building contractors and tenants were required
to ensure that everything that possibly could be
recycled was so, instead of being simply dumped.
“As a society, we have to get out of this habit of
knocking everything down after a few years,” Mr
“We need to actually build things, reuse them and
“It’s good business sense.”
Meanwhile, the office space is the envy of the city.
Most of the offices have wall-to-wall windows which
flood the rooms with natural light. Some lucky desk
workers have views over Parliament House.
Mr Barclay and his team of consultants went to
great lengths to make the building as energy efficient
as possible, allowing the Canberra climate to take
care of the majority of the heating and lighting bills.
All windows are tinted, double glazed and can be
opened, allowing the worker to regulate the room
This set up is bucking the trend of simply having
air conditioning or heating running without any
“No turning it on just for the sake of it,” Mr
Because of the natural light coming in the
windows, tenants often don’t have to turn the
The message behind the mode is clear: it is not
necessary to demolish buildings just to rebuild the
same thing with a few added features.
“There is a lot of embedded energy in buildings,”
Mr Barclay said.
“Why knock this down just to rebuild the same
building again? Fundamentally, you’ve got a
structure that could be adapted.”
Many of the tenants have created their own bike
parking on each level. They also walk, ride or catch
a bus in favour of driving.
“I think that it is not as desirable to be seen
driving your car into work,” Mr Barclay said.
In keeping with the green theme and fostering a
sense of community, one of the plans on the radar
is to turn an unused rooftop area into a beautiful
The idea is to use the water coming out of the air
conditioning system to water the courtyard plants.
“We thought it would be a perfect spot for
relaxing, a chillout space where the tenants can
meet,” Mr Barclay said.
The transformation has worked wonders for the
building. It is fully tenanted and Mr Barclay has a
waiting list for those wishing to rent.
Part of the building’s attraction is its variety of
tenants. The centre has the famous King O’Malley’s
pub, a gymnasium, media groups and offices.
Because of the variety of businesses, and
fluctuating opening hours, it is difficult to measure
the green rating of the refurbished building.
“This building almost never sleeps,” Mr Barclay
“It has tenants like King O’Malley’s that are open
100 hours a week. It is not just a 38-hours-a-week
building, it is almost like having two buildings in one.”
King of Green
After two years of renovations
and improvements, the City
Walk Centre is still revealing its
secrets. BY LAURA METHORST
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