The long-awaited Giralang shops development has hit another hurdle, with the developer saying that the failure to secure a supermarket as the anchor tenant has made the project unviable.
Nikias Diamond director Dimitri Nikias told Region Media that the company had not been able to secure a supermarket for the $19 million mixed-use development and, as a result, it would now have to explore other options for the site, which remains fenced off with the project on hold.
”That said, we have not given up hope of finding a suitable supermarket tenant and will continue to pursue this as part of our ongoing considerations for the site,” he said.
“If there is one thing that has come out of this COVID-19 virus it is that supermarkets are very much an essential service to a community. Hopefully, this will trigger an interest in Giralang.”
In a letter to be sent to the Giralang, Kaleen and Evatt communities, Mr Nikias wrote that since the development application was approved in August 2018 after Planning Minister Mick Gentleman used his call-in powers, the developer had conducted an exhaustive campaign to find the ‘anchor’ supermarket tenant essential to make the development viable and provide long-term certainty for the community.
Both large and small operators were approached but smaller chains and independents had showed little interest given challenges in the retail sector, he said.
“We held promising negotiations with one of the national supermarket operators, offering them attractive rents, fit out contributions and incentive periods; but unfortunately, notwithstanding we chased them as hard as we could, they would not enter into an agreement for a lease. This was a big blow to both us and the local community,” Mr Nikias said.
”The development as it stands without the anchor supermarket tenant is not a feasible option to pursue at this time, to our great disappointment. We will be exploring other options for the site and we will notify the community once we have more clarity on its future use.”
Mr Nikias said the developer would be respectful and mindful of the needs of the community when considering alternative arrangements for the site.
“We will, of course, engage with the community again on any future proposals, and we will continue to pursue a national supermarket operator as the current circumstances have demonstrated to them how vital they are to the local community,” he said.
”We understand that many people will feel disappointed. We thank the Giralang Residents’ Action Group, local businesses, school community leaders and AMC Architecture for their efforts in not only engaging in the consultation for the development but also for their constant support in trying to secure the supermarket operator.”
The proposal included a 1000 square metre supermarket, other ground floor retail and 50 apartments, as well as seeking lease changes to allow community uses such as a child care centre, community centre and place of worship.
The shops lay abandoned for many years as a long legal battle ensued, going all the way to the High Court before Nikias Diamond lodged its DA in April 2018.
But it struggled to find tenants and even its sales forecast for the apartment side of the project was down, according to an update from May 2019.
Then there had been high hopes for a medical practice, chemist, restaurant, café/coffee shop and gym to be signed up, but the supermarket remained elusive.
Belconnen Community Council chair Glen Hyde said the situation was heartbreaking but not unexpected.
Mr Hyde said the owner and developer may now decide to turn the site over completely to residential use.
He said competition from nearby Kaleen may have deterred supermarket operators such as Coles or Woolworths but he did not believe the 1000 square metre size was the problem.
”If you look at some of the other anchor tenants in some of the other shopping centres, it wouldn’t be the smallest by a long way,” Mr Hyde said.
“It’s about the appetite for the community to shop locally and it worries me that it’s not quite there.”
He said it was a question of how badly the community wanted it and what they were prepared to do to help the owner and the developer secure a tenant.
“It breaks your heart when you see a facility like that that does have so much potential fall over again,” Mr Hyde said.
”It may just be the influence of COVID-19 because I can’t imagine that Coles or Woolies would have just given up the ghost based on size alone.”
But the Giralang Residents Action Group said size did matter and the government had let the community down again.
”The arbitrary limit applied to Giralang to limit supermarket size has been a major factor in this failure,” it said.
”We are extremely disappointed that at a time when supporting each other and communities is more important than ever, the Giralang and wider community have been let down once again.
”It is a pity the ACT Government has never been able to help the community renew our shopping centre. The arbitrary limit applied to Giralang to limit supermarket size has been a major factor in this failure.”