16 March 2021

Abandon supermarket size limit to kick-start Giralang shops project, says developer

| Ian Bushnell
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Giralang site

The idle construction site in Giralang. Photo: File.

The company hoping to redevelop the Giralang shops wants the ACT Government to lift the planning restriction on the size of the supermarket space to help entice an anchor tenant to the site.

Nikias Diamond director Dimitri Nikias says the company remains committed to the project, despite calling a halt to work last April after failing to secure the supermarket operator that would make it financially viable. He added that the company would prefer to stick with a mixed-use rather than an all-residential development, to keep faith with the community.

But he believes, along with the Giralang Residents Action Group, that the 1000 square metre limit must be increased to 1500 square metres, as was originally approved, so the development can be competitive with the Kaleen shops, which enjoys the higher supermarket floor space.

“This would be a simple and very welcome initiative by the government to greatly improve the prospects of attracting a suitable anchor tenant,” Mr Nikias said.

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He says the limit continues to hinder the company’s prospects of securing a national tenant capable of and willing to compete with the supermarket at Kaleen.

The continuing 15-year saga of the Giralang shops remaining undeveloped prompted a petition to the Legislative Assembly in January sponsored by Labor MLA Suzanne Orr. The issue is now the subject of an inquiry by the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services, chaired by Greens MLA Jo Clay.

Mr Nikias says specialty tenants for the smaller spaces have been lined up, but efforts, including offering financial incentives to attract a suitable supermarket tenant, had not borne fruit.

Without an anchor supermarket tenant, which is essential for the viability of the project, he is unable to say when the development will recommence.

Giralang shops proposal

A render from the DA of the Giralang shops proposal. Image: Supplied.

The project includes a supermarket, other ground-floor retail and 50 apartments, as well as lease changes to allow community uses such as a child care centre, community centre and place of worship.

The shops lay abandoned for many years as a long legal battle ensued, brought on by supermarket owners in surrounding suburbs, including Kaleen.

It went all the way to the High Court and back to other courts before a settlement allowed Nikias Diamond to lodge its DA in April 2018, and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers to approve it.

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The site remains fenced off, and the resident who started the petition, Paul Calvert, says it looks terrible.

“It is just sitting there in the middle of the community being wasted … right in the heart of Giralang in what should be a community space,” he said.

He hopes the inquiry will reinvigorate the process and get to the bottom of the issue, particularly around the size of the supermarket.

Mr Calvert has been told the floor size limit is a result of the court battle, but there was some confusion around that.

“If there is no restriction on size, maybe there are some interested tenants out there,” he said.

“And even if it’s not a major supermarket tenant, maybe there are some other viable economic opportunities for other businesses.”

The committee is taking submissions until 8 April and will hold a public hearing on 15 April.

It will invite the developer to appear.

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If the planning department left businesses to make decisions on feasibility and profitability & not interfere, the residents of Giralang & Coombs would both have supermarkets.
Remember the developer & retailer takes all the financial risks , not the government.

There’s no obligation on the developer to buy the land if they don’t think they can make a profit. If they don’t like the rules, they don’t have to play. In both suburbs, the government should apply the penalties, resume the land and try again.

If the planning department did that then there would be no planning and people would whinge.

And ironically in this case the bigger issue is business interfering in that one local supermarket chain took the developer to court to prevent competition which has resulted in the loss of the supermarket who was interested in the site and years of delays. And even more ironically that same business sold servers of their supermarkets to the main competitor of the interested supermarket one of which is the closest supermarket to Giralang whilst these proceedings were taking place.

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