For people living in Woden, the past few years have seen a disappointing reduction in the number of public recreational spaces outside of commercial businesses. But the promise of the Woden Experiment has renewed optimism that we may see some regeneration of activity around the town square.
Opened on Wednesday 6 March, the Woden Experiment will run for six months. It includes “zones” for different activities, such as work, social, and a community square.
Visiting the revamped town square on Wednesday night, the result gives a great first impression. The street furniture includes chairs and tables with built-in wireless phone chargers. I tried one myself, and got an extra 7 per cent on my battery while having a relaxing ten-minute rest break. There are also sun lounges on patches of grass, and lots of additional shade from new trees.
The blue rope net play areas were already attracting pre-school aged kids, being low to the ground and horizontal. There’s also a nature play area with stone blocks and logs that look likely to inspire some creative play.
Older kids and adults should start packing a ping pong ball and paddle in their backpack to take advantage of the blue metal ping pong table nearby.
I’m not sure what the demountable rooms will be used for – they don’t look suitable for food vendors who may need a sink or grease-trap. But they could be helpful for community groups wanting to book the space to run events in the square. There’s also a small stage area with lights strung overhead that looks like it will be a good spot for buskers, speeches, or community information displays.
Visiting again on the weekend when most of the shops in the mall were closed, the town square was providing a pleasant mix of sunshine and shade for mums with small children, teenagers with skateboards, and older adults reading.
Community groups are already talking about ways they can make use of the space to bring people together. Hopefully, this will result in as many features as possible becoming permanent once the experiment is over. In particular, the potted trees should be planted in the ground and well cared for. The extra shade and wind protection will be appreciated by people spending time in the town square, and will help reduce the heat sink effect in a town centre that had become more of a concrete jungle in recent years.