As a Northsider, I have typically been very comfortable staying on my side of the lake.
Apart from the occasional trip to Kingston, I tended not to venture too far past the city when looking for somewhere to catch up with friends. And I could always convince a Southsider friend to travel: after all, for a long time, Braddon was the undisputed king of hipster cafes, pop-up food trucks and innovative dining.
There was always something new and interesting happening as the area rapidly evolved from auto shops to nightlife hotspots and settled into its role as the cultural foodie hub of Canberra.
But in the past few weeks and months, I’ve noticed a trend.
More and more often, I’m heading over the bridge or down the parkway to try something new on the Southside. It’s good news for my friends living in Phillip, Garran and Kambah, who are surely tired of finding a spot to park in Braddon while I rolled in gaily on my bicycle.
The epicentre of this ‘Southern swell’ is Woden, which I’d previously only associated with a bus interchange that should be avoided after dark. But there’s a rapid transformation happening in the town centre, and there’s plenty to be excited about.
If you haven’t been to Woden recently, you might not recognise the place with its bougie street art, plant-filled pedestrian walkways and new apartment blocks. Even as a lifelong Canberran, I got a little lost while navigating through the newly built areas. With an influx of new residents has come a wave of businesses looking to offer local options to the young professionals and families who have rapidly filled the (relatively) affordable new homes.
First-time business owners and savvy experienced operators have seen potential in the redeveloped Town Centre.
The Doma Group has created a real destination pub with The Alby that will surely see more Canberrans heading into Woden for their pool competition nights and social duckpin bowling. Other newbies like Bloom Coffee are also hitching their stars to the Woden wagon.
And it’s not just new businesses!
Local favourites that started in Braddon are heading to Woden, too.
Eightysix has opened a Woden location, and popular food truck Short Eats (which until recently could be found on the corner of the Braddon car wash) has found a permanent home just around the corner. Lonsdale St darling Rye has gone even further South with a sister cafe opening in South.Point in Tuggeranong!
Perhaps a side effect of COVID-19 was that while we all spent more time in our own neighbourhoods, we found ourselves wanting to support businesses closer to home. Which is kind of how Canberra was always intended to be. After all, the vision of Walter and Marion Burley Griffin featured interconnected satellite town centres that contained everything the community would need.
And communities need places to meet, and for that matter, to eat! Already a sense of community is building around the new Woden apartments as people gather to watch their team on the big screens downstairs at the Alby, or meet their neighbour’s dogs with a takeaway coffee in hand, or as the group chat decides to meet for brunch in Woden this weekend (and maybe next weekend too).
Obviously, Braddon isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no need to panic: this isn’t an either/or scenario. But as Braddon matures from upstart hipster to well-established destination, the vibe is changing, rents are rising and there are fewer spaces available for people who are just getting started. And maybe Woden is just the place for those young guns to flex their foodie muscles!
I don’t know for sure, but I do know that you might just see me heading Southside a little more often.