12 December 2016

Civic an urgent urban planning problem

| Paul Costigan
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Several decades ago, the centre of Canberra provided a very different shopping experience. Civic was a series of pedestrian plazas with a small complex named The Monaro Mall. In 1989 this mall was enlarged to become the first Canberra Centre. There were howls of protest at the time about how the government’s deal to sell off land would result in a commercial venture that would block Ainslie Avenue.

In the end the property lobby won the day and the government sold the car park and part of the street (now there’s an idea – sell off more streets!). The Centre went ahead and the major axis from the London Circuit up Ainslie Avenue was no longer. Canberra had a box mall plonked right into the city’s commercial and social heart.

Years later, the ACT Government sold off the car parks to the west to allow the Canberra Centre to expand further (some things never change). Residents protested that Civic was designed to be a set of open plazas and that having an even larger big box mall would destroy the ambience of Civic, being a popular place to wander about and to shop for nearly everything including hardware. Again, the property lobby won the day (things really never change).

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Small businesses also protested, as they were worried that the large mall would maul the surrounding shops. They were right. The open plazas have never been the same. Over the last decade there have been many closures and many lingering ‘For lease’ signs. Unfortunately, Garema Place descended into the centre for crime in Canberra.

Today the main pedestrian areas of City Walk, Garema Place and Petrie Place have loads of good things as a result of public spending on public art, landscape design, furniture and trees. That arm of the government is to be congratulated.

However, even allowing for the cold weather during these last weeks, the open areas are seriously devoid of people and activity. The whole place feels shabby. Even the officially sanctioned graffiti and painted artworks add to the desolation as they compound the unfriendly nature now prevalent around Civic.

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Back in the early 1970’s a new Big Idea confronted the government bureaucrats. Until then, cafés in Canberra (and indeed in most places in Australia), did not have outside tables. The bureaucrats were worried that if people were seated outside then flies could get into the food and pedestrians would be at risk if tables and chairs cluttered the sidewalks.

Gus Petersilka was from Vienna and could not understand why tables were not allowed outside. Rather than heeding the restrictions of the planning bureaucrats, he pursued his Big Idea and placed tables outside his café, Gus’s Café. The bureaucracy responded by raiding the place in the early hours and taking away all the furniture. It made for great headlines and the public responded in support of Gus. After more unbelievable episodes like that and more raids and lots of public protests about the stupidity of the planners, the politicians agreed to the radical step of having outside tables.

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Next time you walk around Civic, think about the battle that Gus won and what Civic would look like if the planning bureaucrats had been allowed to maintain their precious planning legislation. There’s a plaque near Gus’s Café to honour him but it does not mention the early morning raids and the attitude of the planning bureaucrats to change (heard that before?).

In the end it was the growth in cafes, complete with outside tables (thanks to Gus) that brought life back into some areas of these plazas. However the people still flock into the big box and the outside precincts continue to struggle.

In recent years we have seen several special events staged in Civic in the hope of getting people back into the area. The trouble being that while these have been successful as social events, they have done little to encourage the daily shoppers away from the mall.

The government continues to do the right thing to make the open areas attractive but this has had very limited impact. Our politicians’ big problem is that the buildings themselves are overdue for refurbishment but that these are owned by finance companies that are not rushing to upgrade.

Civic has become an urgent urban planning problem for the ACT Government. The planning bureaucrats have seriously struggled to work out how to begin to address the problems their predecessors and the property industry have passed down to them. The best they have done is to fly in a continuous stream of international and interstate experts in the hope that someone will eventually drop that Big Idea.

This article is the first in a three-part series exploring Civic’s past, present and future.

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sepi said :

I actually really like Gungahlin shops, where you can go inside, but also can walk along the outside and cross the road to other shops. I don’t want to be stuck inside all the time.

I agree there isn’t much to them but it was the one thing the planners got more right than wrong.

And surprise surprise it is sunny! At least on the south side.

P.S. Why not convert ALL the open space in the City into Car Parks, it is obviously what people “need” and enjoy.

I actually really like Gungahlin shops, where you can go inside, but also can walk along the outside and cross the road to other shops. I don’t want to be stuck inside all the time.

Bennop said :

Hang on, thats cr*p. Do people not remember skate in the city?

…and the camel rides! 😀

Maya123 said :

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. Yes there were more shops but if you stop and think many of these ships were small independents that the country over have closed due to people’s preference for brand stores. Yes maybe we could blame the malls but then again the businesses themselves are to blame for not providing what the consumer wants b

Then of course in civic we have seen Youngs get taken over by Grace Bros and eventually close their stores, Woolworths Vareity closed nationwide so leaves very little ‘big stores’ to fill the space.

Then of course we have Snowtown distorting the office rental market by building outside the territory plan which I turn has stopped the growth of Civic and whilst parts are seeing residential it is all mostly on the ANU side of Northborne or in Braddon. So again not much to bring people into City Walk.

I lived in Civic for a time in the 1970s, and from my experience actually living there, rather than visiting, it had more life when the Mall was only the Monaro Mall. The big mall has killed it. I only visit the Mall when I ‘must’. It does not encourage me to hang around and browse. Get what I want and and get out.

Agreed.

However, it has always been a grey ghostland when the winter comes. There is not that much that can be done about that apparently.

Hang on, thats cr*p. Do people not remember skate in the city?

I work Mon-Fri in Civic and dislike it immensely. Garema Place and City Walk is devoid of any draw cards and full of vagrants and chuggers. The stench of the laneways off Bunda St and around the Sydney and Melbourne buildings is enough to make anyone not want to visit. There is no charm in the smell of over-flowing dumpsters, vomit and urine. The Canberra Centre has no shops of interest, just clothes shops upon clothes shops. Myers and David Jones are struggling dinosaurs of days long gone.

What the Civic needs is a draw card, markets may be the answer, maybe a better mix of shopping. Quick fix is likely destination restaurants, but at the moment the thought of going back in the city after hours,for me is not on.

Its simply a grey depressing dump.

cea075 said :

I just love that the Canberra Centre is owned by the Queensland Investments Corporation. Just seems rather hilarious to me.

Well it isn’t overly amusing until you add that QIC is wholly owned by the Queensland Government. The QIC also own many of the buildings opposite the Canberra Centre. The QLD Government probably owns over a quarter of the Canberra CBD.

sepi said :

and now they are trying to kill of dickson with a giant Mall as well.

nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

My thoughts exactly!

rubaiyat said :

dungfungus said :

It’s the Canberra Cringe – we have to mimic Europe and if that means going broke like Europe has, so be it.

Or mimic America down to the street beggars. In San Francisco they sleep on your doorstep.

The only reason America isn’t officially broke yet is if China, England or any of the other nations holding U.S. debt call it in, that’ll make the Great Depression look like a Sunday Picnic.

It is also why America is frantically blowing trillions of dollars on badly managed wars to maintain the oil interests, because petrodollars are now a substantial part of America’s economy, and printing them and manufacturing weapons are the last viable industries left to The States.

Europe has more sophisticated street beggars who can abuse you in several different languages if you refuse to give them money.
Don’t kid yourself that Europe doesn’t have a major problem with homeless people either. There are camps (mainly the Roma) on the outskirts (where the tourists don’t go) of all major citys in Europe.

sepi said :

and now they are trying to kill of dickson with a giant Mall as well.

nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Does that take the prize as the worst design in a City built as the Museum to Bad Design?

A gigantic wall on the NORTHSIDE of the Dickson shops, casting an enormous shadow over everything else particularly in winter when we should be enjoying the sun.

I have repeatedly pointed out just how this is the set piece stupidity all over Canberra, and many people have said, “Oh no that was ‘Then'”.

Well here we are: “Then” all over again. Again.

Just came back from the “Café Lifestyle” (in reality Deep Fried Potato Cake Lifestyle) of Googong, after having done Molonglo yesterday. You either have to laugh or cry.

2015 and we are still creating badly built, designed and oriented MacMansions on tiny remote suburbia, an expensive and pointless drive from anywhere. And to accommodate the real estate speculation yet another dual carriageway built at taxpayers’ expense, subsidising all the bad ideas.

Spoke to one of the builders, who was fully cognisant of what is going on, but has to comply with all the restrictions placed on the micro-blocks, particularly the killer double garage built facing the street and eating up most the good orientation and face of the houses. Double garages that cost more to build than the cars they supposedly protect, cars that are “essential” because they are the end of a chain of bad decisions by government, planners, developers, builders and the starry eyed consumers for whom this is their first major house purchase and to which they will be fettered with a 30 year mortgage.

and now they are trying to kill of dickson with a giant Mall as well.

nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

rommeldog56 said :

I wouldn’t worry about a lack of people in Civic outside the Canberra Centre though. As I understand it Civic can be expected to “grow up” – along with the rest of Canberra – when the light rail fixes everything.

Have all the roads and car parks fixed everything yet?

We have this mess now, with billions upon billions spent on “beautifying” Canberra with hundreds of square kilometres of bitumen and concrete (55% of Canberra is devoted to cars and roads).

dungfungus said :

It’s the Canberra Cringe – we have to mimic Europe and if that means going broke like Europe has, so be it.

Or mimic America down to the street beggars. In San Francisco they sleep on your doorstep.

The only reason America isn’t officially broke yet is if China, England or any of the other nations holding U.S. debt call it in, that’ll make the Great Depression look like a Sunday Picnic.

It is also why America is frantically blowing trillions of dollars on badly managed wars to maintain the oil interests, because petrodollars are now a substantial part of America’s economy, and printing them and manufacturing weapons are the last viable industries left to The States.

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. Yes there were more shops but if you stop and think many of these ships were small independents that the country over have closed due to people’s preference for brand stores. Yes maybe we could blame the malls but then again the businesses themselves are to blame for not providing what the consumer wants b

Then of course in civic we have seen Youngs get taken over by Grace Bros and eventually close their stores, Woolworths Vareity closed nationwide so leaves very little ‘big stores’ to fill the space.

Then of course we have Snowtown distorting the office rental market by building outside the territory plan which I turn has stopped the growth of Civic and whilst parts are seeing residential it is all mostly on the ANU side of Northborne or in Braddon. So again not much to bring people into City Walk.

I lived in Civic for a time in the 1970s, and from my experience actually living there, rather than visiting, it had more life when the Mall was only the Monaro Mall. The big mall has killed it. I only visit the Mall when I ‘must’. It does not encourage me to hang around and browse. Get what I want and and get out.

rosscoact said :

For those with very short memories here is what happened to create this situation.

After a decade of virtually no commercial development anywhere in Canberra (caused by Howard’s razor gang), virtually every shop and office in Civic and Fyshwick was full and it was a total sellers market. High prices for crappy stock, you had to take what you could get.

However, land was released when things started to look good, demand for commercial space was so high that ACTPLA wasn’t allowed to stand in the way of development and Snow Town was stealing tenants left right and centre.

QIC won the auction for the Civic shopping and office site and like other developers built a lot of floor space. The new developments were more attractive and not much more in rent than the crappy older spaces. To encourage businesses to go to the new shop areas QIC also bought up many older freestanding shops in the mall and allowed them to stay vacant.

It was a successful ploy and their centre remains full. Too bad for the look of the mall as people got new habits and shifted to the other side of Bunda street. Nothing complex about it, just commercial interests overcoming bureaucratic ineptitude. Happens every day in every city in the world.

“After a decade of virtually no commercial development anywhere in Canberra (caused by Howard’s razor gang), virtually every shop and office in Civic and Fyshwick was full……”
I must have been on holidays during that ten years.
When was the start and when was the finish, exactly?

For those with very short memories here is what happened to create this situation.

After a decade of virtually no commercial development anywhere in Canberra (caused by Howard’s razor gang), virtually every shop and office in Civic and Fyshwick was full and it was a total sellers market. High prices for crappy stock, you had to take what you could get.

However, land was released when things started to look good, demand for commercial space was so high that ACTPLA wasn’t allowed to stand in the way of development and Snow Town was stealing tenants left right and centre.

QIC won the auction for the Civic shopping and office site and like other developers built a lot of floor space. The new developments were more attractive and not much more in rent than the crappy older spaces. To encourage businesses to go to the new shop areas QIC also bought up many older freestanding shops in the mall and allowed them to stay vacant.

It was a successful ploy and their centre remains full. Too bad for the look of the mall as people got new habits and shifted to the other side of Bunda street. Nothing complex about it, just commercial interests overcoming bureaucratic ineptitude. Happens every day in every city in the world.

JesterNoir said :

Just putting it out there..
Why do we need crowds? Have we all been brainwashed by Sydney and Melbourne into thinking that we have to have lots of people jammed into one space in order to be a city?

Canberra has a vibrant life, with plenty of opportunities for entertainment. Why do we have to be crowded?

It’s the Canberra Cringe – we have to mimic Europe and if that means going broke like Europe has, so be it.

damien haas said :

I was in Civic on a Sunday at midday a few weeks ago. There was not a solitary person visible to me in any direction from the empty space in front of the merry go round. Very troubling. it was a sunny day, so weather wasn’t to blame.

If people visit a shopping venue it is to shop or because a destination store has drawn them. Canberra Centre has assiduously attracted those destination stores.

Parking and a controlled environment all day every day assist, but people will still walk a few hundred metres to visit something they want to visit or if they need to.

Looking at the volume of closed shop spaces in the heart of Civic, it is clear that there is a market failure. The landlords must be keeping the lease rates artificially high or those spaces would be let to small business people with an idea, a speculative business venture or a pop-up style space filler.

That is the policy space the government can work in. One off festivals don’t help traders all year round.

I don’t go into Civic for shopping and eateries purely because parking is just too expensive so I spend my $ in the satellite CBDs shopping centres and increasingly, at my local shops.

I wouldn’t worry about a lack of people in Civic outside the Canberra Centre though. As I understand it Civic can be expected to “grow up” – along with the rest of Canberra – when the light rail fixes everything.

Just putting it out there..
Why do we need crowds? Have we all been brainwashed by Sydney and Melbourne into thinking that we have to have lots of people jammed into one space in order to be a city?

Canberra has a vibrant life, with plenty of opportunities for entertainment. Why do we have to be crowded?

From what I’ve heard, one of the problems in Civic is that there is a mishmash of titles and owners, which is making it hard for consolidation of the retail offering to occur.

Possibly the lack of foot traffic elsewhere across Canberra makes it hard for the small businesses to consider moving out of Civic, which in turn keeps the rents higher than they would otherwise be. If the landlords are getting decent returns, regardless of who’s paying the rent, then they would not be keen to sell up.

I think there’s other stuff going on too – the Canberra Centre is a generation ahead of the rest of Civic, which is why it works well for the majority of customers. Regardless of whether individuals like it as itself, it is generally perceived as safe (i.e few chuggers or beggars), clean, bright, and of a consistently comfortable temperature.

By the same token, I think that people’s shopping habits have shifted dramatically since the smaller buildings in Civic had their heyday. The convenience of shopping in one place spread from just food shopping in supermarkets to department stores for clothing and food courts for casual eating.

Much of this shift is underpinned by the fact that shopping has shifted psychologically from a necessity and a chore to often being a leisure activity (what this says for our values is not something I’ll get into here). As a result, part of the shopping scene these days is to be entertained, and to be seen by one’s peers. In turn, many of us like to go to certain places because they match our ideal self-images; we go where our surroundings match the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Also, now that online shopping is popular, and the fact that many things can now be home-delivered means that there are many reasons not to physically go shopping. In turn, we tend to spend a lot more these days on experiences than on goods. Goods are much cheaper relative to our income than they used to be decades ago, and as a result, many of us regularly have to turf stuff out of our houses (and ironically, we often replace it with new stuff).

What this means for our small retailers is that if they’re selling physical goods, they really have to be something rare or unusual that we can’t get elsewhere, such as in the other town centres. Otherwise, frankly, what’s the point of difference?

A good example of this is a small shoe store in one of the arcades. I’ve walked past it many times, but never gone in because (a) I don’t need shoes often, but more importantly it has nothing compelling about it. There are displays everywhere for different brands, most of which I’ve never heard of. I have no idea if the store has a social media presence, and I’ve never seen it have a volunteer or media presence elsewhere.

I’m not having a go at this store per se, except to say that to me, it is representative of a bygone era and not relevant to me at all. For all I know, their products, prices and service may well be excellent – but I don’t perceive it that way. And this (in a nutshell) is why I think so many of the small stores in Civic are moribund.

I was in Civic on a Sunday at midday a few weeks ago. There was not a solitary person visible to me in any direction from the empty space in front of the merry go round. Very troubling. it was a sunny day, so weather wasn’t to blame.

If people visit a shopping venue it is to shop or because a destination store has drawn them. Canberra Centre has assiduously attracted those destination stores.

Parking and a controlled environment all day every day assist, but people will still walk a few hundred metres to visit something they want to visit or if they need to.

Looking at the volume of closed shop spaces in the heart of Civic, it is clear that there is a market failure. The landlords must be keeping the lease rates artificially high or those spaces would be let to small business people with an idea, a speculative business venture or a pop-up style space filler.

That is the policy space the government can work in. One off festivals don’t help traders all year round.

ChrisinTurner said :

I think Civic has more than these problems because the number of boarded up shops in The Mall is growing steadily.

The festivals in Civic attract heaps of people so lets have a market every weekend in the same space.

Hear, Hear!

Mar-Kets, MARkets, MARKETS!!!

Arthur Davies said :

For outdoor dining, thank the CSIRO as well as Gus. When I first came to Canberra, barbecues & picnics were a rarity, let alone outdoor cafes, there were too many flies. Dung beetles solved all that, so tell the govt to fund the CSIRO better.

I almost never go to Civic anymore, parking is scarce & expensive, bus stop too far away. I go to smaller shopping centres now where I can get there easier. I understand that visitor numbers to Civic have been declining for years as access has become more difficult.

Arthur

It is not all about parking. If it is, the problem is NOT the parking.

The city is really lively now Thursday, Friday and Saturday, particularly at night. Enormous numbers of people are enjoying the restaurants and interesting places around Braddon and Civic.

Hopscotch in Lonsdale Street is amazing after work. The cafés and breweries during the day, and into the night, and compared with only a few years ago there are so many hot venues.

I have the feeling that perhaps quite a few people on this forum are not just out of touch with Canberra today, but Life as we live it generally.

ChrisinTurner2:55 pm 07 May 15

I think Civic has more than these problems because the number of boarded up shops in The Mall is growing steadily.

The festivals in Civic attract heaps of people so lets have a market every weekend in the same space.

bryansworld said :

rubaiyat said :

bryansworld said :

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. .

Twenty years ago there were signifcantly more people walking around Garema Place/Petrie Plaza at peak shopping times, for example lunctimes, Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

There was no choice! Plain and simple. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Funny thing is, it didn’t feel desperate at the time. It was actually quite pleasant. There was room to stop and have a chat in the sun to the people you knew that you encountered. How very quaint! Thank god we are now all mall-shopping droids…I feel so much better now. Not.

It all comes down to what you enjoy and interests you. I am not originally from Canberra and have travelled and lived in many places. Canberra is not one of the first cities I think of for either sociability or things to enjoy. Most of the time I have lived here, it was cliquey, white bread and parochial. I was struck by how few people would look you in the eye and say hello in passing in the street, which was usually devoid of life anyway.

…except that it is radically changing in just the last two years. Just as I am thinking of getting out of the place it has taken on a sudden burst of life and vitality. Who would have thought?

Should be even livelier in the next few years.

I look forward to the leading intellectuals on this forum, filling up their cars with fossil fuels and launching Kamikaze attacks on the Light Rail in a last ditch attempt to maintain Natural Order in the A.C.T. 😀

Arthur Davies2:47 pm 07 May 15

For outdoor dining, thank the CSIRO as well as Gus. When I first came to Canberra, barbecues & picnics were a rarity, let alone outdoor cafes, there were too many flies. Dung beetles solved all that, so tell the govt to fund the CSIRO better.

I almost never go to Civic anymore, parking is scarce & expensive, bus stop too far away. I go to smaller shopping centres now where I can get there easier. I understand that visitor numbers to Civic have been declining for years as access has become more difficult.

Arthur

For all issues there is a demand side and a supply side.

What is there in Civic in demand by people that make them go there? Possibly we could have put Braddon into Civic and created an arty/foodie hub although presumably rents etc prevented this. In any case, that is no longer feasible on a large scale, but some interesting little shops might help out. The impact comics/games capital/fast food/redpaths area is much busier, for example, than over near the DJs entrance, because there are places you specifically go to rather than wander past. A market is a good idea, except when it rains…But I’m not sure what else.

The other is supply ie supply more people. Either through additional office buildings (unlikely) or additional residential buildings. Civic has hardly any residences; surely we could add a story or two to most buildings (if not 10) and bring people into town. Although that reduces the need for buildings along Northbourne and the tramway… and I can see some other practical problems such as access and parking.

But you have to attract people somehow.

rubaiyat said :

bryansworld said :

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. .

Twenty years ago there were signifcantly more people walking around Garema Place/Petrie Plaza at peak shopping times, for example lunctimes, Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

There was no choice! Plain and simple. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Funny thing is, it didn’t feel desperate at the time. It was actually quite pleasant. There was room to stop and have a chat in the sun to the people you knew that you encountered. How very quaint! Thank god we are now all mall-shopping droids…I feel so much better now. Not.

bryansworld said :

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. .

Twenty years ago there were signifcantly more people walking around Garema Place/Petrie Plaza at peak shopping times, for example lunctimes, Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

There was no choice! Plain and simple. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Tymefor said :

Woden,Tuggers and maybe belco would be more deserving as they lack those 2 benefits atm and are unlikely to receive much more in the next 10-15 years.

Woden is in trouble, even Belconnen is looking better.

Never go to Tuggeranong, a total waste of taxpayers money. It should be knocked down, particularly the Mount Wanniassa end, I go there even less. Turn it into a used car lot and/or extension to Mugga Way Tip. 😉

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. .

Twenty years ago there were signifcantly more people walking around Garema Place/Petrie Plaza at peak shopping times, for example lunctimes, Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

switch said :

tooltime said :

A Market? Yes!!!

Look at the example of Melbournes & Adelaides fresh food markets. It’s a great place to stroll around, families, office workers and hipsters all after farm fresh produce. What a great idea! They bring life to a place

Humans love markets. Its how we’ve shopped for centuries – the shopping mall is really only a couple of generations old, and they rob the urban area of life…shame really

I think the Bus Depot market more than adequately fulfils Canberra’s requirements for overpriced tat. Do we need another?

The Bus Market is only weekends, remote, relatively small scale and the wrong kind. I am thinking of a much more food oriented market with a roughly equal mix of fresh food, street food and crafts with some curation to keep out the junk stalls, but only the very worst.

More on the model of the Albert Cuypmarkt in Amsterdam or the kind of local markets found all over Europe, even in the streets of San Francisco. Wollongong’s Friday Crown Street Market is not bad. Good fruit and veg, top bread, pastries and cakes, coffee, street food and only a bit of New Age stuff.

The Pop-Ups in Lonsdale Street are having to shuffle around, so they could find temporary homes in the unlet shops in the City.

The World’s Slowest and Worst Sited Pop-Up down by the lake is becoming a standing joke. Civic has been transformed by the multi-cultural festival and other events, so not a total novelty.

Couldn’t hurt to give it a wack, heaven knows it might be like Gus’s and turn out not to actually kill us as promised by the bureaucrats and nay sayers that seem to be our only non-endangered species in Canberra. Might distract them off the Tram for a few minutes.

I would have thought that most of you, having grown up in a planned city, understand the ridiculousness of local government trying to force culture and vibrancy into an area. They just aren’t very good at it.

There is usually a pretty direct correlation between population in a given area and Culture/Vibrancy. Increasing the population coming from many sources but mainly an increase in jobs/industry, accommodation/residency and mostly access for “inner” areas.

Although this ends up being a which comes first the chicken or the egg argument. Government is ALOT better at providing support to cultural development from that end. And keeping itself out of cultural innovation.

Isn’t that what the approval and building of all those apartments in braddon has done. Think about what the effect of the light rail will be on the city. Increasing access to that area massively. With Gungahlin at the other end and 10 years, the majority of the 20-35yo innovators will have direct access to the city. And I wont have to share the road with them heheh.

Garema’s time will come again

If we are going to support subsidising cultural growth. Civic would be a bit unfair as it already has a lot of corporate investment (QIC) and private innovation (braddon) with 1km. Woden,Tuggers and maybe belco would be more deserving as they lack those 2 benefits atm and are unlikely to receive much more in the next 10-15 years.

JC said :

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. Yes there were more shops but if you stop and think many of these ships were small independents that the country over have closed due to people’s preference for brand stores. Yes maybe we could blame the malls but then again the businesses themselves are to blame for not providing what the consumer wants b

Then of course in civic we have seen Youngs get taken over by Grace Bros and eventually close their stores, Woolworths Vareity closed nationwide so leaves very little ‘big stores’ to fill the space.

Then of course we have Snowtown distorting the office rental market by building outside the territory plan which I turn has stopped the growth of Civic and whilst parts are seeing residential it is all mostly on the ANU side of Northborne or in Braddon. So again not much to bring people into City Walk.

Agreed. Snowton is not helping. This is a big issue which everyone is trying to avoid.

I am surprised to see that some think the desolate nature of the city centre is a) something recent and b) the result of the mall. Having lived in this town since the late 70’s I personally don’t recall it ever being that vibrant. Yes there were more shops but if you stop and think many of these ships were small independents that the country over have closed due to people’s preference for brand stores. Yes maybe we could blame the malls but then again the businesses themselves are to blame for not providing what the consumer wants b

Then of course in civic we have seen Youngs get taken over by Grace Bros and eventually close their stores, Woolworths Vareity closed nationwide so leaves very little ‘big stores’ to fill the space.

Then of course we have Snowtown distorting the office rental market by building outside the territory plan which I turn has stopped the growth of Civic and whilst parts are seeing residential it is all mostly on the ANU side of Northborne or in Braddon. So again not much to bring people into City Walk.

tooltime said :

A Market? Yes!!!

Look at the example of Melbournes & Adelaides fresh food markets. It’s a great place to stroll around, families, office workers and hipsters all after farm fresh produce. What a great idea! They bring life to a place

Humans love markets. Its how we’ve shopped for centuries – the shopping mall is really only a couple of generations old, and they rob the urban area of life…shame really

I think the Bus Depot market more than adequately fulfils Canberra’s requirements for overpriced tat. Do we need another?

A Market? Yes!!!

Look at the example of Melbournes & Adelaides fresh food markets. It’s a great place to stroll around, families, office workers and hipsters all after farm fresh produce. What a great idea! They bring life to a place

Humans love markets. Its how we’ve shopped for centuries – the shopping mall is really only a couple of generations old, and they rob the urban area of life…shame really

So ar the commentary makes out Civic is a desolate urban wasteland with dishevelled wandering druggies ready to take a bite from your wallet. Sounds like a scene from the Walking Dead.

wildturkeycanoe6:41 am 07 May 15

Knowing the real estate market, the vacancies in Gareema Place would be extremely expensive for any little start-up business trying to sell local wares. There has to be a need for their product and customers around to buy it. Perhaps the carpark is too far away to attract anyone to the center?
With the age of the buildings, it is possible that there are too many hurdles involved in getting proper fitouts done to modernize shops due to heritage issues. Perhaps asbestos removal is too expensive to overcome for a proper rehash of a store.I remember talking to somebody about the fire protection systems in one of the bars in downtown Civic and how it was difficult to change thew ugly, visible mess due to the regulations governing what can and can’t be done to the building due to its age. Look at what is happening to the Sydney Building after the fire, taking forever to repair. I have worked on two six story apartment blocks that were started before and completed prior to the repairs to this ancient relic. Any previous or current business owners from the area care to share their experience in the city center?

This might seem counterintuitive in the first instance, however please mull it over: perhaps it is time to restore some of the old streets. The pedestrian malls no longer serve the purpose they were designed for. Perhaps it is time to reinstate roads back through the heart of the city, encouraging short term parking, incentivising cafés, restaurants and other business to return. Visit any of the most popular strips in any of Australia’s other CBD’s to see such roads thriving. I am not suggesting losing the magic of the malls – picture the best of both worlds. It is not so difficult to visualise Civic coming back to life, maybe like never before.

How hard can it be to locate the Sun we normally find in the open northern skies that we enjoy here in Canberra.

There is a reason we get so little rain in the A.C.T. and any window facing north is drenched in light and warmth.

We must have some very pasty faced and disoriented planners and landscape architects, who never actually venture out into the real Canberra outside their offices.

Just run a mental checklist of any open spaces or suburban shops in Canberra for any that actually embrace our climate and winter sunshine. Good luck finding any buildings that do.

Heavs said :

Why not jam some grassed areas into City Walk rather than paving everywhere. Or a linear park. At the moment it’s basically a road without vehicle access.

There was grass at the southern end, it got trampled back into dirt, or maybe the grass also wanted nothing to do with the mostly bleak cold shadow, any more than the people scurrying through it, all wanting to be anywhere else but.

HiddenDragon6:49 pm 06 May 15

There certainly is a lot of wasted potential in that area. Redevelopment (hopefully not of the high-rise variety), with a mixture of commercial and residential will presumably be the eventual outcome. In the meantime, recognition of the new reality for Canberra might see at least some rents adjusted to a level which will attract adventurous entrepreneurial types. The Government could do its bit by acting to reduce the level of anti-social and nuisance behaviour.

Why not jam some grassed areas into City Walk rather than paving everywhere. Or a linear park. At the moment it’s basically a road without vehicle access.

rubaiyat said :

City Walk, Garema Place and Petrie Place need to be retained, perhaps even declared a National Trust monument.

We need to be reminded of just what the dead hand of the NCP Planners and a total lack of imagination can do to cities.

Architecture students and Town Planning students from all over Australia need to walk through the cold, windswept, badly oriented design that totally ignored sunshine and any effort at northern orientation. The Canberra Plan writ small. Repeated in every local shopping centre throughout the ACT to this day.

They can cast their eyes down on the dreary paving, and around at the tank barrier landscaping, located solely by “plunking” the method by which people who don’t know what they are doing arrange things on a plan.

The more keen eyed can observe the way shopfronts and entries are laid out to hide, not reveal or entice, to create dead spots, not life. The dull bland use of materials and cheap as chips aesthetics. The use of potentially interesting courtyards as car and dumpster parking. The aesthetic-free zone. The battle zone where Gus could fight the good fight because the had nothing to lose.

Everything that made the 50’s and 60’s the reason why you stayed indoors and watched black and white television instead, because it was so much MORE life like and colourful.

Don’t touch it! We need to keep it just the way it is, as a warning: “Those who don’t learn from history…”

So I gather you love the place!?

There is one immediate, low cost and game changing move that can bring Civic back to life, which will be greated with open arms by nearly everybody, EXCEPT those wanting to keep the status quo.

Open up City Walk and Petrie Place to a regular market.

We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

Canberra now has good food and local produce, and could have far more.

There is a proven interest in food, street life and enjoyment of what open city hearts can offer.

Hustle and Scout and The Forage were wildly successful out at Fairbairn and have lost that home. Time to bring them back into the heart of the city.

Permanently.

Holden Caulfield2:28 pm 06 May 15

Market forces have dictated that people want to shop in the mall (ie. that’s where the decent shops are).

Let’s face it, in winter the Canberra Centre is more appealing than walking from the cold into the next overheated shop time after time.

At the same time, the paved sections of the city are pretty dismal and lifeless and this is one of Canberra’s least appealing aspects.

I agree also that the spaces of Petrie Plaza, Garema Place etc are often filled with people who further make the spaces undesirable, whether that’s chuggers, people begging or whatever.

It’s easy enough to isolate the problems, it’s much harder to come up with workable solutions. Especially when you have the QIC knocking your door down to give you more money so it can expand the Canberra Centre.

And we’re back where we started!

Felix the Cat2:10 pm 06 May 15

I find shopping malls to be more convenient to shop at. They generally have a good range of shops all in the one airconditioned undercover area that is away from the freezing winter wind or summer heat. And as wildturkeycanoe mentioned no chuggers or drunks/druggos.

Though saying that I very rarely go to Canberra Centre even though I work in Civic, preferring other shopping malls such as Belconnen.

rubaiyat said :

City Walk, Garema Place and Petrie Place need to be retained, perhaps even declared a National Trust monument.

We need to be reminded of just what the dead hand of the NCP Planners and a total lack of imagination can do to cities.

Architecture students and Town Planning students from all over Australia need to walk through the cold, windswept, badly oriented design that totally ignored sunshine and any effort at northern orientation. The Canberra Plan writ small. Repeated in every local shopping centre throughout the ACT to this day.

They can cast their eyes down on the dreary paving, and around at the tank barrier landscaping, located solely by “plunking” the method by which people who don’t know what they are doing arrange things on a plan.

The more keen eyed can observe the way shopfronts and entries are laid out to hide, not reveal or entice, to create dead spots, not life. The dull bland use of materials and cheap as chips aesthetics. The use of potentially interesting courtyards as car and dumpster parking. The aesthetic-free zone. The battle zone where Gus could fight the good fight because the had nothing to lose.

Everything that made the 50’s and 60’s the reason why you stayed indoors and watched black and white television instead, because it was so much MORE life like and colourful.

Don’t touch it! We need to keep it just the way it is, as a warning: “Those who don’t learn from history…”

Beautifully written, and partially correct. However, there were more people walking around these areas twenty years ago, when the shopping mall was significantly smaller. The lifelessness cannot be blamed completely on those 60s NACADACA people!

“Civic has become an urgent urban planning problem for the ACT Government”
No more than anywhere else in Canberra and is it any wonder when our leaders have a “pop-up” mindset?

City Walk, Garema Place and Petrie Place need to be retained, perhaps even declared a National Trust monument.

We need to be reminded of just what the dead hand of the NCP Planners and a total lack of imagination can do to cities.

Architecture students and Town Planning students from all over Australia need to walk through the cold, windswept, badly oriented design that totally ignored sunshine and any effort at northern orientation. The Canberra Plan writ small. Repeated in every local shopping centre throughout the ACT to this day.

They can cast their eyes down on the dreary paving, and around at the tank barrier landscaping, located solely by “plunking” the method by which people who don’t know what they are doing arrange things on a plan.

The more keen eyed can observe the way shopfronts and entries are laid out to hide, not reveal or entice, to create dead spots, not life. The dull bland use of materials and cheap as chips aesthetics. The use of potentially interesting courtyards as car and dumpster parking. The aesthetic-free zone. The battle zone where Gus could fight the good fight because the had nothing to lose.

Everything that made the 50’s and 60’s the reason why you stayed indoors and watched black and white television instead, because it was so much MORE life like and colourful.

Don’t touch it! We need to keep it just the way it is, as a warning: “Those who don’t learn from history…”

arescarti42 said :

I’m confused, what exactly is the problem here?

The mall is full of people because people want to shop there and businesses want to locate there.

Sure, Garema place is less busy, but it’s not exactly some desolate mad max wasteland, and it still functions fine as a public space for events like the multi-cultural festival.

The problem is the lifeless heart of the city. Centrepoint is the centre point of Civic – but look at all the vacant shops and struggling businesses there.

I was once in Garema and was asked by tourists “We’re from Melbourne and we’re looking for the city!?”. They roared with laughter when I said this is it!

arescarti42 said :

I’m confused, what exactly is the problem here?

The mall is full of people because people want to shop there and businesses want to locate there.

Sure, Garema place is less busy, but it’s not exactly some desolate mad max wasteland, and it still functions fine as a public space for events like the multi-cultural festival.

I go into the Mall because the shops I frequent are located there. I don’t go there to hang out. I would rather be out in the sunshine, under the trees! If the QIC gets its way, Civic will get closer and closer to a desolate mad max wasteland! Their interests are not to have a pleasant CBD. Their interests are those of their shareholders. Profit, and nothing else. Hence the role of government, in theory at least.

wildturkeycanoe11:43 am 06 May 15

It’d be a more appealing place to walk through if you weren’t approached at every corner by somebody begging for donations to some cause or being affronted by drunks and/or people with seriously bad drug-related psychotic issues yelling abuse at their “friends”. Then there’s the chance of being involved in a bag snatch or just being abused because you haven’t got “Two bucks for bus fare”.
I have a real fear for my own or my children’s safety when walking in Civic, day or night. Until they clean the vermin out, it will never be an attractive place to go.

I’m confused, what exactly is the problem here?

The mall is full of people because people want to shop there and businesses want to locate there.

Sure, Garema place is less busy, but it’s not exactly some desolate mad max wasteland, and it still functions fine as a public space for events like the multi-cultural festival.

It’s a bit sad that the CBD of the Nation”s Capital is dominated by an ever-expanding shopping mall. Couldn’t a bit of effort be made with the Canberra Centre’s leases to curb their tendency to design much of the outside of the development to be unwelcoming – that is designed to funnel people into the mall? There shoudl at least be shopfronts all around the oustide, like the cafe part of Bunda Street. Much of Bunda Street bordering the Canberra Centre is characterised by blank shopping mall walls. Isn’t this the role of Government, to encourage development, but in a way that enhances the amenity of the city?

I keep a pretty keen eye on Civic, what’s opening, what’s closing, what’s for lease, where the people are and aren’t. Although it doesn’t take much to realise the above: Garema is a graveyard and all the people are “pulled” to the bright lights of the mall. I do a lap of City Walk every day – but inevitably end up inside the mall, for no particular reason, other than that’s where everyone is!

I thought the idea of reopening City Walk to vehicle traffic wasn’t a bad one – may as well, nobody else is using it! There’s also a massive amount of foot traffic coming up from the Casino end of Civic, although it seems most of the businesses down there are also being bypassed. How many times has the old Barbar restaurant (adjacent to the old Electric Shadows) closed and opened and closed again? I still think it’s a pretty good site – sit out there under the trees, a nice space to meet for drinks outside in warmer months – yet people walk by because there’s no action there…

An alternative, which would never fly economically, would be to level the Centrepoint building and turn the middle of Civic into a park. At least then it would be an attractive and convenient place for people to go out and eat their lunch etc.

Of course, compounding all this is the “Braddon effect”, creating even more pull in that direction.

I just love that the Canberra Centre is owned by the Queensland Investments Corporation. Just seems rather hilarious to me.

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