The developer of the Coombs shops has only secured one tenant but this seems enough for Renato Cervo to avoid any legal repercussions despite the centre standing mostly empty since it was completed earlier this year.
Mr Cervo took two years to build the shops, which have been the subject of a community petition to Planning and Land Management Minister Mick Gentleman, and has been issued a Certificate of Occupancy and Use (COU) that allows, but does not require, the building to be occupied.
According to Access Canberra with which the issue currently rests, the crown lease for the block does not require the whole building to be used and the small supermarket currently operating from the site is enough to satisfy the lease requirements.
Mr Cervo continues to advertise for tenants, with Civium looking after the centre’s marketing and posting eight tenancies on its website, ranging in size from 89 to the 1000 square metres designated for a supermarket.
Much to Coombs residents’ relief, the small Indian grocery and convenience store Ajijo, is filling the gap in the market by providing staples that the community would have to get from the new IGA at nearby Denman Prospect or further afield at Cooleman Court, as well as takeaway meals.
Fast-growing Coombs now has 6000 residents who have become increasingly concerned at the lack of infrastructure in the suburb, particularly the way Mr Cervo has dragged his feet on the shopping centre.
With a development application lodged for the Koko development only 100 metres away in Wright, which includes a 1500 square metre supermarket site, there are fears Mr Cervo may not be able to attract an anchor supermarket tenant and the centre will become a white elephant.
The community is also frustrated that the Government’s hands appear tied on the issue, with Mr Gentleman saying previously that the matter was a commercial one for Mr Cervo.
Alison Hutchison, who led the petition, said April 2019 was the due date for Mr Cervo to ‘deliver’ his shopping centre.
“So, I guess he has met his contractual obligation and this is as good as it gets,” she said.
“The community is resigned to the fact that it is an intractable, unsatisfactory situation unlikely to be resolved. An ugly white-elephant rather than “local amenities ..a stone’s throw from home” as per Suburban Land Agency advertising.”
A spokesperson for Mr Gentleman said the Government was monitoring the situation and would like to see the centre operating fully.
“We understand the importance of shops to the local community to provide a hub for the local community along with important services and opportunities for small businesses. The Denman Prospect IGA is currently providing some of these services for the region,” the spokesperson said.
“The Government would like to see the Coombs shops become a bustling and vibrant hub for the local community, noting that the lease is currently being used in accordance with its purpose clause.
“The owner is making reasonable efforts to secure full occupancy at the site and we will continue to engage with this process.”