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Canberra’s Boutique Real Estate and Property Management

Canberra – Donut capital of Australia

By John Hargreaves 12 January 2015 28

donuts-enlarge(fgauf3)

I’m no town planner; never claimed to be. However, I have lived in Canberra for 47 years and I’ve seen the city grow from a large country town into a cosmopolitan city.

There is much to love about Canberra, especially my part of heaven: Tuggeranong. But I’ve extolled its beauties and benefits and its drawbacks for decades. I now turn my attention to the City itself.

Old fogies like me came to town when you could drive down Garema Place by coming in through Alinga Street or Ainslie Avenue. I parked my car in a dirt carpark on Akuna Street when I worked in David Jones back in ’68.

When the powers that were decided to close that area of the city to turn it into a pedestrian plaza, there was much trepidation from the business sector. It seems their fears were justified.

The town squares were Garema Place and Civic Square. These squares are comparable in size to those in other capital cities, such as Queen Street Mall, Bourke Street Mall, Rundle Mall, and Martin Place.

The thing that they have in common is that they are reasonable small and bound at least on two sides by vehicular thoroughfares. This ensures access to the business within and drive by traffic for the business on the periphery.

What’s happened here is that we have a very large pedestrian plaza which is sparsely populated by pedestrians unless there is a major event happening. The businesses, if surviving, are either doing it hard or being swallowed up. In short, there is not much to see, do or shop for in that pedestrian area of Petrie Plaza, City Walk and Garema Place. It is a desert.

It was thought that this area would be attractive to developers to build high rise, high star-rated hotels or permanent apartments. Didn’t happen.

What did happen was the periphery of the pedestrian plaza went off like a rocket. Look at the Canberra Centre, look at the Nishi Complex and the apartments surrounding it. Look at the developments on the edge of the University, look at the intentions of the City to the Lake project, look at a resurgent Braddon.

We have created a donut. It is alive and vibrant around the edges and dead in the middle.
I’ve heard some people say that we should turn City Walk back into street for cars. It would allow street fronts for developers to be tempted to return to invest in living space right in the middle of our heart.

I’m not proposing anything really, but just sayin’ progress? Dunno. Donut? Thinks so.


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Canberra – Donut capital of Australia
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pink little birdie 9:52 am 19 Jan 15

dungfungus said :

agent_clone said :

I can tell you one definite difference between City Walk and either Rundle Mall or Pitt Street Mall, that is the fact that there are shopping malls on both sides of the street. I doubt allowing cars to drive there would make any difference to the number of pedestrians in City Walk (however having the Tram go down the middle of it might, and it would provide a nice stopping location to go to the mall).

While I’m not as familiar with Pitt Street, I do know that on the Town Hall end of it there is the mall with the food court down the bottom, and Myer, then there is a mall right on other side of the street. From memory there are more malls off the street down the street as well.

Similiarily for Rundle Mall, on the King William Street side there is a mall with Myer and a Food court, there there are other malls with food courts all down the street. There are Arcades (essentially an indoor strip mall). Woothworths, and now Coles are further down the road, David Jones even further. Essentially there is a reason to be walking up and down the street.

For Civic if the new section of the Canberra Centre had been built on the other side of City Walk then there would probably be plenty of people walking along and shopping there. However as it stands there are height restrictions for the area, facades to be preserved, a lack of accessibility for goods loading, no real reason to walk down City Walk, all of which contribute it to not being viable (rents whatever they are probably don’t help either).

City Walk adjacent to the Canberra Centre has become a thoroughfare – it is no longer a destination and it will never be one again which is sad.
Remember the Boulevard shops?

Convince a large “destination” shops to go there. The apple shop or samsung shop, that Japanese clothing shop that just came to Australia, GAP. Etc.
Any of those shops that people specifically go to civic for are good (me it’s mostly the comic book store and games capital).
a large shop of that nature will have people walking to it and so increase it.
I still think it needs a playground

dungfungus 8:53 am 19 Jan 15

agent_clone said :

I can tell you one definite difference between City Walk and either Rundle Mall or Pitt Street Mall, that is the fact that there are shopping malls on both sides of the street. I doubt allowing cars to drive there would make any difference to the number of pedestrians in City Walk (however having the Tram go down the middle of it might, and it would provide a nice stopping location to go to the mall).

While I’m not as familiar with Pitt Street, I do know that on the Town Hall end of it there is the mall with the food court down the bottom, and Myer, then there is a mall right on other side of the street. From memory there are more malls off the street down the street as well.

Similiarily for Rundle Mall, on the King William Street side there is a mall with Myer and a Food court, there there are other malls with food courts all down the street. There are Arcades (essentially an indoor strip mall). Woothworths, and now Coles are further down the road, David Jones even further. Essentially there is a reason to be walking up and down the street.

For Civic if the new section of the Canberra Centre had been built on the other side of City Walk then there would probably be plenty of people walking along and shopping there. However as it stands there are height restrictions for the area, facades to be preserved, a lack of accessibility for goods loading, no real reason to walk down City Walk, all of which contribute it to not being viable (rents whatever they are probably don’t help either).

City Walk adjacent to the Canberra Centre has become a thoroughfare – it is no longer a destination and it will never be one again which is sad.
Remember the Boulevard shops?

agent_clone 8:57 pm 17 Jan 15

I can tell you one definite difference between City Walk and either Rundle Mall or Pitt Street Mall, that is the fact that there are shopping malls on both sides of the street. I doubt allowing cars to drive there would make any difference to the number of pedestrians in City Walk (however having the Tram go down the middle of it might, and it would provide a nice stopping location to go to the mall).

While I’m not as familiar with Pitt Street, I do know that on the Town Hall end of it there is the mall with the food court down the bottom, and Myer, then there is a mall right on other side of the street. From memory there are more malls off the street down the street as well.

Similiarily for Rundle Mall, on the King William Street side there is a mall with Myer and a Food court, there there are other malls with food courts all down the street. There are Arcades (essentially an indoor strip mall). Woothworths, and now Coles are further down the road, David Jones even further. Essentially there is a reason to be walking up and down the street.

For Civic if the new section of the Canberra Centre had been built on the other side of City Walk then there would probably be plenty of people walking along and shopping there. However as it stands there are height restrictions for the area, facades to be preserved, a lack of accessibility for goods loading, no real reason to walk down City Walk, all of which contribute it to not being viable (rents whatever they are probably don’t help either).

BenMac 5:14 pm 16 Jan 15

I blame the Canberra Centre and all malls in general.

The same thing is happening in Belconnen. A giant mall, which draws people in and takes away from the street life.

The only time there are people around is when the pubes come out for a coffee/lunch.

That’s why I prefer Gungahlin. Shops and cafes situated along a main street with only small centres (Woolworths/Big W/Coles). Much more street life. Even if Hibberson Street is made into a pedestrian mall with only light rail traffic, the area will still have more life than civic.

Milly_88 10:47 am 16 Jan 15

I’ve heard rumours that Garema Place is so devoid of retailers because the company that owns the Canberra Centre purchased most real estate in the area and jacked up the rent so no small business can afford to stay there. Are there any Garema Place retailers (current or former) who could shed light on this?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the master plan was to push all of the retailers out so that they can expand the Canberra Centre even further. I know Garema Place doesn’t have much life at the moment, but it’s a heck of a lot better than replacing it with more soulless malls.

dungfungus 9:53 am 16 Jan 15

Ben_Dover said :

dungfungus said :

The only thing I can add is that the bad planning has allowed too many night clubs in too small an area which ensures the area will never be successful retail again as people other than drunks rarely go there for any reason.

That has to be the most laughable thing I have read here. Canberra at night is dead. Canberra has no “nightlife” whatsoever. If you take a place like Newtown in Sydney, now that has nightlife.

Saying Canberra has “too many night clubs in too small an area” is like saying the moon has too much oxygen.

I suppose I didn’t think that out very well.
I can now see the benefit for the TAMS workers that have to clean up the vomit and urine the next day in that they don’t have to walk too far to the next job.

Ben_Dover 7:55 am 16 Jan 15

dungfungus said :

The only thing I can add is that the bad planning has allowed too many night clubs in too small an area which ensures the area will never be successful retail again as people other than drunks rarely go there for any reason.

That has to be the most laughable thing I have read here. Canberra at night is dead. Canberra has no “nightlife” whatsoever. If you take a place like Newtown in Sydney, now that has nightlife.

Saying Canberra has “too many night clubs in too small an area” is like saying the moon has too much oxygen.

dungfungus 10:37 pm 15 Jan 15

dkNigs said :

Maybe people don’t shop in city walk because of all the empty shops? Maybe all those shops are empty because the greedy landlords wont drop their rent, wont offer short starter leases, and would rather just sit on prime property, running it into the ground, until they can redevelop it or sell it to the Canberra Centre?

Just look at all the new businesses that had a chance to start up, thrive, and become profitable with the popup spaces in Braddon! What’s wrong with allowing that kind of thing in shops that have been vacant for 5+ years in city walk?

Weatherman said :

I think the pedestrian malls in Canberra are too wide for the population it serves. It looks sparse. Queen Street Mall in Brisbane is often full of shoppers, however, there are prominent shop fronts and events there. Even Liverpool pedestrian mall in Sydney is more happening than Petrie Plaza and Garema Place.

Up until the 1990s, the Canberra city had the perfect balance of strip shopping, arcades and pedestrian malls. Maya 123 in post #4 sums it up perfectly.
The only thing I can add is that the bad planning has allowed too many night clubs in too small an area which ensures the area will never be successful retail again as people other than drunks rarely go there for any reason.

dkNigs 7:51 pm 15 Jan 15

Maybe people don’t shop in city walk because of all the empty shops? Maybe all those shops are empty because the greedy landlords wont drop their rent, wont offer short starter leases, and would rather just sit on prime property, running it into the ground, until they can redevelop it or sell it to the Canberra Centre?

Just look at all the new businesses that had a chance to start up, thrive, and become profitable with the popup spaces in Braddon! What’s wrong with allowing that kind of thing in shops that have been vacant for 5+ years in city walk?

Jon 2:29 pm 15 Jan 15

I think part of the problem has been the dominance of the Canberra Centre more than anything. While the North Quarter has expanded the available shopping, it’s still the same stores controlled by the same real estate owner.

Look at Woden Plaza and how a lot of their retailers are struggling to stay afloat. When major retailers leave the complex, the smaller retailers aren’t compensated, but slugged with a rent increase so that the landlord doesn’t lose overall revenue. Cafe Gaudi, for example, was one of the biggest food tenants in the centre, but it was unable to cope with the constant rent increases and therefore had to surrender its lease. So not only do they lose out, their customers do too.

What makes the “edges of the donut” vibrant (IMO) is that they are less about major chains and more about small business and a more inclusive community. At least that’s my thoughts anyway.

dungfungus 4:43 pm 13 Jan 15

Meanwhile, the vibrant city inspired pop-up village is pulling in the crowds.

tim_c 1:46 pm 13 Jan 15

I know, let’s learn nothing and repeat the same mistake on Bunda Street!

Weatherman 11:45 am 13 Jan 15

One of the issues that doesn’t help with attracting patrons to Civic for use as a viable public space is the inaction by governments to extend the heavy rail line into the centre of Canberra.

Maya123 9:32 am 13 Jan 15

Weatherman said :

I think the pedestrian malls in Canberra are too wide for the population it serves. It looks sparse. Queen Street Mall in Brisbane is often full of shoppers, however, there are prominent shop fronts and events there. Even Liverpool pedestrian mall in Sydney is more happening than Petrie Plaza and Garema Place.

“there are prominent shop fronts”

Most of them are in the mall, that is the problem.

watto23 9:28 am 13 Jan 15

HiddenDragon said :

watto23 said :

pink little birdie said :

Stick a playground in there a cafe with seating near by.
A free decently fun playground for kids. Yes there is the merry go round but it costs money.
If you think about the shops there that are successful in Garema place it’s the really specific ones… Games capital, impact comics, redpath, bookmart. Not really shops that have direct competion in the area

The shops is the key. The issue is retail property owners couldn’t give two hoots about who operates from where as long as they pay rent. Get some more interesting stores in Garema place and city walk and more people would visit. Oh and ban the chuggers please!

The level of rents demanded (for what is on offer in terms of passing trade and the quality and attractiveness of the premises) is likely the problem – as it is throughout much of Canberra. For most of its existence, this town has been run by people who show little, if any, real understanding of small business and who just mouth, from time to time, the usual hollow and impractical platitudes which are in favour with those who are firmly, and comfortably, attached to the public teat. We could do so much better, but that would involve upsetting the status quo – and that is not going to happen – so let’s just be grateful for the interesting, worthwhile small business operators we still have (while we still have them).

I agree as a regular visitor to the game shop, bookshop and comic shop there, plus there are the shoes and music shops that other would frequent. I also miss having a good camera store in Canberra, although teds isn’t far away at Baileys (the canberra centre Ted’s is a joke), its a shame we lost the 2 other camera stores we had in Civic.

In fact I saw an article the other day to refute claims that the weekend loading on staff wages had less of an impact on retail, and rent was in fact the largest cost. You only have to look at the kinds of business opening in old suburban corner shops (with lower rent) to realise this. Local shops are less about groceries now and more about small businesses like restaurants and speciality shopping.

Weatherman 6:11 am 13 Jan 15

I think the pedestrian malls in Canberra are too wide for the population it serves. It looks sparse. Queen Street Mall in Brisbane is often full of shoppers, however, there are prominent shop fronts and events there. Even Liverpool pedestrian mall in Sydney is more happening than Petrie Plaza and Garema Place.

HiddenDragon 6:53 pm 12 Jan 15

watto23 said :

pink little birdie said :

Stick a playground in there a cafe with seating near by.
A free decently fun playground for kids. Yes there is the merry go round but it costs money.
If you think about the shops there that are successful in Garema place it’s the really specific ones… Games capital, impact comics, redpath, bookmart. Not really shops that have direct competion in the area

The shops is the key. The issue is retail property owners couldn’t give two hoots about who operates from where as long as they pay rent. Get some more interesting stores in Garema place and city walk and more people would visit. Oh and ban the chuggers please!

The level of rents demanded (for what is on offer in terms of passing trade and the quality and attractiveness of the premises) is likely the problem – as it is throughout much of Canberra. For most of its existence, this town has been run by people who show little, if any, real understanding of small business and who just mouth, from time to time, the usual hollow and impractical platitudes which are in favour with those who are firmly, and comfortably, attached to the public teat. We could do so much better, but that would involve upsetting the status quo – and that is not going to happen – so let’s just be grateful for the interesting, worthwhile small business operators we still have (while we still have them).

watto23 4:36 pm 12 Jan 15

pink little birdie said :

Stick a playground in there a cafe with seating near by.
A free decently fun playground for kids. Yes there is the merry go round but it costs money.
If you think about the shops there that are successful in Garema place it’s the really specific ones… Games capital, impact comics, redpath, bookmart. Not really shops that have direct competion in the area

The shops is the key. The issue is retail property owners couldn’t give two hoots about who operates from where as long as they pay rent. Get some more interesting stores in Garema place and city walk and more people would visit. Oh and ban the chuggers please!

pink little birdie 3:32 pm 12 Jan 15

Stick a playground in there a cafe with seating near by.
A free decently fun playground for kids. Yes there is the merry go round but it costs money.
If you think about the shops there that are successful in Garema place it’s the really specific ones… Games capital, impact comics, redpath, bookmart. Not really shops that have direct competion in the area

dungfungus 3:32 pm 12 Jan 15

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

I am with you on this one John (hope this doesn’t put the mokkas on you).
Canberra City is for the young and wealthy only these days.
You may call it “vibrant” – I call it “vibrational” (as in noisy).
Are there any restaurants in Canberra where one can have a conversation across the table with out shouting and competing with the other noises like music, ring-tones and foul mouthed young people?

And how will opening up the streets to parking and noisy traffic change any of this to make it quieter?

I don’t normally eat my dinner sitting on the middle of a road.

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