1 October 2020

Is Verity Ln Market's just another attempt to shoehorn Canberra into something it isn't?

| Zoya Patel
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Verity Ln Market

Verity Ln Market might be in the ACT, but is it Canberra? Photo: Facebook.

I couldn’t help but scoff when I saw the most recent round of advertising for the Verity Ln Market development in the Old Sydney Building.

Slated to launch very soon, the iconic laneway in the historic building is set to be transformed into a food hall apparently to rival those in “Los Angeles, Manhattan, Copenhagen” and many other international destinations.

In a Facebook ad that appeared in my timeline, the copy boasted that the development would be “Canberra’s most affluent marketplace”.

If I were to be kind, I could interpret this in the more abstract definition of ‘affluence’ (abundance, wealthy in culture and vibrance), but the reality is probably much closer to the literal definition – that this will be another development aimed more at the affluent/wealthy Canberran than the average one.

And once again, we’re being told that the way to enhance Canberra’s vibrancy is to mimic other, bigger cities across the world, rather than reflect the unique and special culture this city holds, that is defined by our difference from larger, unplanned metropolises.

I’ve written before about the Barr Government’s insistence on trying to shoehorn Canberra into some vision of a city that frankly is never going to emerge from our bush capital.

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Trying to develop marketplaces and apartment blocks and plan arts festivals that are replicas of those occurring in New York or London is not only doomed for failure, it’s frustrating evidence of Barr’s lack of belief in Canberra’s value and vibrant culture; a culture that has existed long before his term in government, and is the reason why so many of us ignore the Canberra-bashing from Sydney and Melbourne (cities that both seem closer to what Barr wants to create) and revel in our special city for life.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good food hall, and I think development is crucial to progress for any city. There is no doubt that the Old Sydney and Melbourne buildings are in need of revitalisation, and I think it’s exciting to have a new offering to draw more Canberrans into Civic. I’ll undoubtedly be attending Verity Ln Markets for a taste of the affluence on offer when the times comes. But the tone of the marketing is one that already suggests exclusion rather than access, as though the development isn’t meant so much for Canberrans to enjoy, but as a showpiece to prove to other cities that we’re just as cool as they are.

Rather than claiming to offer “6-8 food vendors who specialise in delivering … food that can’t be found in every shopping mall around the country”, why can’t the market frame its offering as being about showcasing the amazing culinary delights that Canberra has to offer?

We have some truly excellent local businesses that have become nationally renowned for their quirky and special dishes (remember freakshakes, anyone?), and they don’t have to be compared to their New York counterparts to draw a crowd.

And instead of hyping how affluent the market and its customers will be, why not encourage as many Canberrans to attend by creating a welcoming atmosphere rather than one of exclusivity?

The marketing of Verity Ln has the same desperate energy as the language used to spruik the special arts festival that was going to rival South By South West (SXSW) but is yet to actually occur, or the Grand Central Towers apartments in Woden that were going to somehow emulate NYC’s Grand Central Station. The energy is more focused on what Canberra isn’t, than what we are.

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Ha! “Is Verity Ln Market’s just another attempt to shoehorn Canberra into something it isn’t?” What’s that? Boring, unimaginative, one dimensional? Canberra can benefit from someone trying something new and interesting. Give us a break for trying to turn it into some kind of crime to try! Ah Australia and Zoya Patel – you really know how to do the Tall Poppy thing! Bring on Verity Street Market – get out of the way naysayers!

I keep getting concerned that the mishmash of dining precincts popping up across Canberra keep cannibalising other areas of the city to the overall detriment of Canberra dining experience and food based nightlife.

Kingston foreshore has hurt Kingston and Manuka dining which has resulted in less quality and atmosphere across all the three areas.

West Row which was fantastic for a while was hurt by New Acton. Founders lane appears to have proved a dud compared to what the developer originally promoted.

I think the brilliant Lonsdale street has certainly impacted on dining and nightlife in City Walk and the Sydney building.

I’ve seen other cities dilute great dining and nightlife areas by spreading the options too thinly. This has resulted in boring and mediocre options for residents and visitors.

I never understood the unique and special cultural appeal of congregating to sit, eat and socialise in the city’s bin zones. If there was ever an example of locations to be revitalised, they would be the Verity and Odgers laneways.

You missed the point on this one – nothing wrong with bringing a bit of life and vibrancy into the city. it seems like you’re trying to manufacture a controversy where there is none

HiddenDragon7:22 pm 01 Oct 20

“…once again, we’re being told that the way to enhance Canberra’s vibrancy is to mimic other, bigger cities across the world, rather than reflect the unique and special culture this city holds…”

True, but mainly driven by dollars. In a location where land values and rents would be eye-wateringly high, the genuinely artisanal and bohemian etc. (as opposed to the ruthlessly commercial masquerading as something else) can be a risky proposition – unless it is truly outstanding.

The sameness (and the detachment from reality) of the language used to spruik public and private projects around this town is such that it is surely produced by AI (and might as well be if it’s not).

When media become cheerleaders for political parties, it diminishes the value of the narrative. Not just this individual reporter, but the publication overall. There is no pretence here to do anything other than confect political rivalry based on a specious personal subjective bias. Maybe there was a point somewhere, but the tenuous assignment of fault to “the other political party” immediately removed any sense of trust. Not “journalism” certainly. Not a critical analysis. Didn’t learn anything.

RP, some interesting views, but you’ve missed the mark with this one. Firstly, this isn’t a government project. A private developer with strong connections to Australia’s arts community, and a long history of supporting artists has put this together. Canberrans have been asking for the Sydney and Melbourne buildings to be put to better use for decades. Maybe the early marketing hype is off-key, but I’m excited that someone’s decided to do something with the building, and I can’t wait to visit!

If it helps to revitalise another of those dingy laneways then I’m all for it. Scoff if you like but if it ultimately turned into anything vaguely resembling Degraves St in Melbourne that can’t be a bad thing.

A bit of a pointless whinge. Come on RA, you’re better than this.

This just in – Government is not responsible for handling advertising and marketing for private developer. More news at 6.

Yep its a bit strange how this has anything to do with the Government, given its a private development.

Yea many things people are not able to differentiate between what is a government responsibility or proposal and what is private.

Thought think you will find in this case the city renewal authority is working with the private owners to enhance this area. So bit of both.

That said why shouldn’t something like this be marketed. Marketing is the modern world.

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