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Downer in Decay

By Geoff_from_Lushpup_Images - 6 May 2013 20

I took a ride up to Downer Shops on the weekend … and took some photos … the shop side is truly derelict.

Downer in decay

One of my first group houses in the early 90’s was a weatherboard affair in Durack Street (which incidentally was the coldest house I’ve ever lived in) and Downer Shops was my local. The centre was in decline even back then. There was a dark supermarket (literally dark and dingy and not of the supernatural bent … well, not that I ever saw…) a Chinese Restaurant which was passable and an Italian which was dire. There were some others too but I’m unable to recall them. Do you remember them?

Downer in Decay - noticeboard

There were people around. Over at the Community rooms on the other side of a little park (with attendant rock sculpture) in the middle of the complex a groups was packing up after a meeting. The community rooms are by contrast clean and swept … and the end of the building features a mural by Byrd. There was a little post-it note stuck onto some fresh graffiti staking a claim on what’s otherwise a remarkably graffiti-free building. The carpark was more or less subscribed and the two sporting fields were both full of soccer and families enjoying the late afternoon autumn sunshine.

Downer in Decay - post-it note

Downer in Decay - bicentennial logo

The shop side is just sliding into decay and I loved the irony of the boarded up security company shopfront.

Downer in Decay - abandoned security

The community noticeboard lies vacant and the hand-carved bicentennial logo (someone took ages making that … with it’s little Tasmania) still stands proudly beneath a dead clock. So, while there were folks about … the centre felt truly abandoned. I understand that new development is slated for the area … maybe that’ll start this dead heart?

Does anyone else remember what shops were there? I can only remember the supermarket and the eateries.

What’s Your opinion?


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20 Responses to
Downer in Decay
HiddenDragon 2:05 pm 07 May 13

Very sad, but perhaps they should just get on with the inevitable residential redevelopment – with a community facility as part of that, or in close proximity; looks to me like a good location for a child care centre.

Geoff_from_Lushpup_I 12:48 pm 07 May 13

Hey! Quite a response … thank you for filling in some of the missing gaps … I had totally forgotten about the servo and there was a chemist and a PO too… likely all quite nice in it’s heyday. It does have the sense of being kept in a kind of stasis until the surrounding property improves or is developed.

A weekend coffee/kids hot chocoalate spot could do a reasonable trade there from the soccer crowd alone … there were lterally hundreds of people about down on the adjacent ovals…

rosscoact 2:05 pm 06 May 13

pepmeup said :

I’m pretty sure blakett homes owns the site, back in 2008 I tried to lease a shop here, and was offered the entire centre for $2000 a month. We decided again it as we were told it may be redeveloped any time. We should have jumped at it. We now pay $10,000 a month for a smaller area. So many local shops turn our this way, once the primary school goes its the beginning of the end

sold to the current owners last year

pepmeup 1:45 pm 06 May 13

I’m pretty sure blakett homes owns the site, back in 2008 I tried to lease a shop here, and was offered the entire centre for $2000 a month. We decided again it as we were told it may be redeveloped any time. We should have jumped at it. We now pay $10,000 a month for a smaller area. So many local shops turn our this way, once the primary school goes its the beginning of the end

switch 1:07 pm 06 May 13

Total Downer.

Deref 12:16 pm 06 May 13

poptop said :

In places like Newcastle, there has been support to revitalise the commercial centres by providing free accommodation to artist, cultural and other groups. The groups use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped; the idea being that once you give people a reason to come to a place they will want a cup of coffee and maybe pick up a loaf of bread before heading home; it creates a toehold for commercial renewal, reducing vandalism and the stench of urban blight. The model has been so successful it has been exported to places like Parramatte and Copenhagen.

I believe it was tried in Queanbeyan recently, but I don’t think it was successful.

Holden Caulfield 12:10 pm 06 May 13

basketcase said :

When I got to Downer in 74, the shops were in full swing.

Wasn’t everything!

Canberracanuck 12:06 pm 06 May 13

….and that surely is where the role of local government is supposed to provide balance, by upholding zoning laws which protect local areas from becoming suburban wastelands and stopping our corporate masters from having their way every time they think we need another giant shopping complex.

basketcase 11:27 am 06 May 13

When I got to Downer in 74, the shops were in full swing.

The first shop was a chemist, it went when I think they rationalized the number of chemist shops.

The shop at the southern end changed hands many a time, there was even a doctors surgery there.

My wife informs me there was fruit shop, and I know for sure there was a chinese take away.

The petrol station (Frencham St and Frencham Pl) shut down say mid eighties. That was the start of the end.

A Post Office operated at the other side, it too was killed off in the great rationalization of Post Offices.

Next came the primary school closure, kids went to the renamed Majura primary in Watson. That was the final nail in the coffin.

There is a time capsule buried (circa 1987) on the community hall side. They opened it up a couple of years ago, but don’t know if they re-interred it.

Live in Latham now, the shops closed here, they were thriving also, but now is residential. The Latham servo is a bit of a mystery, last time I went there, it was still standing and used as a Post Office. No doubt the owners are just waiting for the moment to sell.

The only thing constant is change!

Mothy 11:16 am 06 May 13

Actually there is an amended DA out on the Downer shops at present. Coffee shops should do well with the Soccer crowd.

I remember that Indian restaurant well. Great lunch boxes.

New Yeah 11:15 am 06 May 13

Great photos. I hope they keep the Bicentenary logo in the re-vamp.

rosscoact 11:03 am 06 May 13

A DA is in for the revitalisation of the Downer shops DA 201222663 and the plans can be viewed on the ACTPLA website.

The shops wont be pulled down, rather they are to remain in the existing building fabric and will reopen as small service businesses such as coffee shop, restaurant, bakery and I expect a corner store.

The biggest problem is the public spaces are really rundown and whether the government custodians will have the budget and the willingness to lift these spaces up to an equivalent level.

johnboy 10:50 am 06 May 13

It all falls down when the owners want the center to fail so they can build apartments instead

poptop 10:30 am 06 May 13

In places like Newcastle, there has been support to revitalise the commercial centres by providing free accommodation to artist, cultural and other groups. The groups use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped; the idea being that once you give people a reason to come to a place they will want a cup of coffee and maybe pick up a loaf of bread before heading home; it creates a toehold for commercial renewal, reducing vandalism and the stench of urban blight. The model has been so successful it has been exported to places like Parramatte and Copenhagen.

While probably all at commercial rates, the arrival of Reptiles Inc at the little shops in Mannaheim St in Kambah has breathed new life into a previously precarious small shopping centre. We know organisations like Make Hack Void are looking for space (and hackers love coffee and take away).

Seems silly that no-one is prepared to even trial a similar sort of solution on these derelict spaces in Canberra.

jimbocool 10:25 am 06 May 13

Lordy! Downer shops have declined. Way back in the late 90s I lived in Watson and cycled past the Downer shops on the way to and from work. The supermarket was dingy and dark then, but did have food on the shelves, drinks in the fridges and ice cream – so a good stop on the way home on a hot summer’s evening.

There was a takeaway for a while which then became the (dire) Italian restaurant. Then there was this weird kind of French bistro – I went there once and the lady was very startled to have a customer, but the food was surprisingly good. That disappeared and was replaced by the “India Hut” which was a marvellously comical place. The owner had lost his original restaurant, the “India House” in a divorce settlement and was starting out from scratch. One time I was there the dishwasher had broken down and the owner’s two under 10yos were washing the dishes by hand in tubs in the hall next to the toilets – the dessert plates arrived with suds on them! Food was great, but yeah, the general Downer decline seemed to infect it and it disappeared after a while too.

I moved out of the area in 2001 so don’t know what happened after that.

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