Banish the cars and bring on the Manuka mall

Ian Bushnell 4 November 2021 35
Woman crossing road

Franklin Street transformed. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The developers of the new hotel in Manuka say they want to bring a little bit of Paris to the once high-end shopping and restaurant precinct. So it was good to see a government trial of an outdoor hospitality area in Franklin Street to not only give local cafes a boost but gauge the potential for replacing cars with people as part of the long-awaited Manuka Renaissance.

Unfortunately, the all-too-familiar resistance to change reared its head with some traders complaining that they had lost customers by chasing the cars out of one side of the street and that it looked ‘terrible’.

You interfere with parking in Canberra at your peril, especially outside shops.

Yet surely Franklin Street is made for people and the above picture is hardly desolation row.


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It’s amazing what a bit of artificial turf, some street furniture and pot plants can do.

But why stop there?

Bring on the Franklin Street pedestrian mall, complete with sunshades, more trees, pop-up bars and food stands, alfresco dining and outdoor entertainment.

Exchange the car park crawl with people spilling out of the shops into safe and protected spaces to enjoy a coffee, drink or meal. Or just somewhere to sit and read a book.

I never understood the attraction of footpath dining next to parked cars anyway.

And it won’t hurt people to use the car parks at either end of the precinct and in the other streets and walk a little.

If Manuka business people and the local community want Manuka to thrive and be a destination again, they must be open to change and new ideas.

They cannot continue to be enslaved by the idea that they will only have customers if they can park directly outside.

The goal must be to bring people back to Manuka and give them something to keep them coming back.


READ MORE: Manuka hotel project on the brink over Canberra Avenue entrance condition


When the hotel and cinema complex is eventually complete, it will change the dynamic of the precinct and demand a response from businesses and the landscape around it.

Keeping Franklin Street as it is, more reminiscent of a country town main street than a supposedly sophisticated thoroughfare, would be regressive and a missed opportunity.

A Franklin Street mall or even shared space would complement that changing dynamic generated by the hotel development and the new residential apartments being built nearby, whose residents will look to Manuka as their main shopping and recreation area.

What government can do is work with traders to come up with designs for a space that will be distinctive and welcoming and supports them into the future, infrastructure including any compensatory boost to parking, and promotion – something that one trader said was missing from the trial.

It’s been a tough couple of years for business, especially in hospitality, so anything that might help should be welcome.

Whatever the lessons are from this trial, it is hoped that the central idea is kept on the table.


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35 Responses to Banish the cars and bring on the Manuka mall
Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 9:20 am 08 Nov 21

And the view of diners will still be that ugly monstrosity of a hotel. 😩

May Agnew May Agnew 12:26 am 07 Nov 21

What rubbish - there is already nowhere to park - ask the Chief Minister and his followers how far they have to walk - no matter where and how quickly they need to be able to reach their destination - ? I will probably get blocked now - but the powers that be - simply do NOT give a dam about the AVERAGE Canberra residents who are struggling to get by as it is - Canberra ALREADY only caters for the wealthy and is a DISGRACE as most of the rest of Australia - think -that all we residents are rich and say -quote- SO THIS IS WHERE ALL OUR MONEY GOES - not so - not so - Most of Canberra residents have paid their taxes in full over the many years till they are ready to DROP - because their taxes have been taken out BEFORE they even get their pay - whilst at the same time - THE WEALTHY have devious ways of avoiding paying taxes - and- so much of the wealth goes overseas also - A NATIONAL DISGRACE !!

James Roper James Roper 6:58 pm 06 Nov 21

I pretty much avoid Franklin St by car because... well why would you drive down it? It has very few carparks compared to other streets, and traffic is terrible because it's start stop waiting for people to parallel park. Closing it off from cars makes perfect sense. We need more of this around Canberra.

Steve N Carol Trute Steve N Carol Trute 11:36 am 06 Nov 21

Good idea - there’s no use having nice outdoor eating spaces with constant car fumes 🤷‍♀️

Joel Symmans Joel Symmans 11:07 am 06 Nov 21

Parking is often the issue. We often try to find a spot and then give up and drive to Kingston, Deakin or the City. Creating a mall won't solve this problem of Manuka dying a slow death. Most people still need to drive to Manuka, park, and then use the mall.

Mary Giacca Mary Giacca 10:26 am 06 Nov 21

Great idea should have been done years ago

Lachlan Maclean Lachlan Maclean 9:28 am 06 Nov 21

How can the posers show off their Ferraris?

Nada Stanković Nada Stanković 8:50 am 06 Nov 21

It looks great!

Dan Curran Dan Curran 7:40 am 06 Nov 21

Once there is enough parking available they need to do the same thing in Dickson

Sandra Neilson Sandra Neilson 6:30 am 06 Nov 21

Fabulous idea - alfresco dining and markets would be a great vibe

Gill King Gill King 12:32 am 06 Nov 21

Some advertising would have helped - I only found out via an article about a couple of non-hospitality, continuing-through-lockdown traders who complained. Since then I would have been down there nearly every day but it’s been raining - can’t wait to try it out!

Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 11:56 pm 05 Nov 21

Sydney did a trial in the CBD a while back and it seemed to work quite well. I say bring it on

    Nick Anderson Nick Anderson 12:00 am 06 Nov 21

    It’s uncommon to see NSW lead the way but i welcome it. And while we’re at it, we could follow NSW’s example and adopt digital drivers licences too.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/nsw-s-outdoor-dining-reforms-to-become-permanent-20210607-p57yoh.html

Feli Cia Feli Cia 9:27 pm 05 Nov 21

Great, even less parking in Manuka 🤣🤣

Jp Romano Jp Romano 6:12 pm 05 Nov 21

Should continue this permanently.

Jp Romano Jp Romano 6:12 pm 05 Nov 21

Great idea.

Brisal Brisal 5:37 pm 05 Nov 21

Remove parking spaces? OMG the world as we know it is over!

Predictable responses. Here’s some counter-responses:
1. How often when driving to Manuka has anyone ever actually managed to *get* a parking space in that street? The vast majority of the time you’re going to end up in the parking bays either end of the precinct, so nothing has changed there.
2. “People won’t come if they can’t park outside!” See point 1.
3. “Won’t anyone think of the disabled people!”. Valid, but how on earth do they manage to do things like make their way around the Canberra Centre, or navigate the bus mall? Or get from their car when the spaces are all taken (see point 1). Place some disabled spots either side of the street, and some in the back laneways. A drop-off spot in the street itself that is accessible by permit holders (so taxis, delivery vehicles etc can still get in). Problem solved.

Any number of European cities manage just fine with their large pedestrianised areas. The world didn’t fall in for them. I’m sure we can manage one lousy short stretch of street without bringing on the apocalypse.

Look how much more pleasant the space between Patissez and 1or2 is, without cars constantly buzzing by. Now picture all of that stretch of Franklin St like that. Bit of an improvement, right?

Anthony Briscoe Anthony Briscoe 5:00 pm 05 Nov 21

Stupid idea in Canberra’s climate. Who is responsible for maintaining hygiene in these uncertain times

    Jesse Mahoney Jesse Mahoney 11:35 am 06 Nov 21

    Anthony Briscoe if we can do it Washington dc and nyc, where there's actual snow, you can do it in Canberra...

Jess Aan Jess Aan 4:26 pm 05 Nov 21

Great idea

Hillbilly Hillbilly 4:00 pm 05 Nov 21

Surely those traders’ concerns are valid – after all they are the ones with the real skin in the game. It’s nice to have ‘pop-up bars and food stands, alfresco dining..’ but who is actually going to invest and put it all on the line so you can drop by once in a while? The developers are the ones selling it as ‘a little piece of Paris’ and then running off but the traders are the ones who have to make it work.

Richard Allen Richard Allen 3:46 pm 05 Nov 21

A great idea should been done years ago

Now do kingston mall(green square)

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