15 February 2018

Giralang Shops development needs to include community views

| Suzanne Orr MLA
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Giralang shops. Photo: File photo.

Photo: File photo.

Even if you don’t know all the finer details of the Giralang shops development, most people at least know the ongoing challenge of building a Shops in Giralang has been long and fraught.

An abridged version of the story goes something like this; in the late 1990s, the owner and developer of the Giralang Shops put forward a proposal to redevelop the site.

The owner and developer proposed housing for the site, however, the community wanted to maintain a local shopping centre. As a result of the proposal, the community rallied, and off the back of that community groundswell, an amended proposal with a 1,500 square metre supermarket was put forward. This time, the surrounding supermarkets objected to the scale of the proposed supermarket and the objections went on for many years. After much contention the then Planning Minister called in the development application and approved it. The surrounding supermarkets who objected to the proposed Woolworths took legal action to set aside the Planning Minister’s approval.

After many more years, the owner and developer of the shops’ site settled the case out of court. Conditions attached to the settlement required the size of the supermarket to be no more than 1,000 square metres. The proposed building at the centre of the disputed development application would have to be redesigned and a new development application would need to be filed. On 5 December 2017, the owner and developer held a community meeting. At this meeting, he put forward his vision for the site.

I grew up in Giralang and lived there for over 30 years. My parents’ bought their first home in the new suburb in 1975. We all joke the only way Mum will ever leave the place is in a coffin.

My Aunt lives in a neighbouring cul de sac, my brother is raising his family in another part of Giralang, and friends I went to school with are now raising their own families in the suburb that we grew up in. We are all, what a local would term, ‘Giralanger’.

Giralang – in my humble but completely biased opinion – is a special place.

It’s a radburn suburb which means you can walk from one end of it to another without ever having to cross a road. It’s got a lot of open spaces and numerous playgrounds. The primary school is not only an architectural gem (being a Taglietti building), but it’s also a large focus of community activity. A community that is strong and welcoming.

Once upon a time, we also had a local shops.

I remember as a kid riding to the shops on the weekends with my siblings and neighbours. Calling in at friends places along the way and stopping at each of the three parks to play. We were allowed to ride by ourselves because there were no roads to cross and Mum and Dad knew the neighbours (all of Giralang really) would keep an eye on us. Once at the shops, we would get a treat from the supermarket, rent a video from the video store (it was that long ago) or pick up some takeaway at the fish and chips store or Vietnamese restaurant.

The shops were more than just a place to grab milk or that one ingredient you’ve run out of while cooking dinner – they were a hive of local activity.

A place you could bump into neighbours and have a chat. Put up signs for lost pets, items for sale or rooms for rent. The shop owners sponsored local sports and community groups. It’s for these reasons the community fought so hard for Shops to be the focus of the redevelopment.

At the community meeting in December, the owner and developer put forward his vision with a proposal for a five-story mixed-use development.

From the feedback I’ve received since the first meeting in December, residents of Giralang are open to a mixed-use development. They do however want to ensure the development enhances the suburb and provides the community with a genuine hub.

On Monday 19 February, a second community meeting will be held by the developer starting at 6 pm at the Giralang Primary School hall.

At this meeting, the developer will show how his vision has developed following the feedback from the first meeting.

I hope the feedback provided by the community is genuinely responded to. After all, if we all work together to find the solution that works for everyone then we might finally be able to get a Shops back at the heart of our community.

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Its understandable Suzanne that you dont want to give a more in depth review of what has occurred as it reflects so poorly on the ACT Labor Government and the developer.

The shops were allowed to run down at the same time rents were raised. Whilst the ACT Labor government renewed other local centres, Giralang was left to rot.

Successive local politicians took no effective actions to remedy the situation despite contact from local residents. At the same time as the shops were left derelict many other community facilities were left without basic maintenance or removed.

The first two DAs by the developer included no shops and layouts that could easily be converted from the small sized shops into further units.

The developer/ lessee was given another peppercorn lease after not achieving an outcome within 10 years after the shops closed. The previous lease only covered a portion of the land but the new one has been extended to cover the whole block. The developer/ lessee has been found to be in breach of their current lease conditions and yet the ACT Labor government has taken no action to enforce the lease conditions with regard to the time in which a development is mandated to be delivered. Suzanne, you have publicly stated this.

The offices of Andrew Barr, Mick Gentleman and Suzanne Orr have not responded to many forms of communication from Giralang residents.

Suzanne you obviously want to do your best but glossing over the problems is ignoring the neglect metered out by the ACT Labor government which you are part of. There is nothing more certain than the long suffering residents and rate payers of Giralang will get shafted… again.

I look forward to the next community meeting, let’s hope it’s not a trainwreck like the last one.

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