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Kingston Shops and urban decay

old canberran 19 February 2009 27

Recently we discussed watering the grass in Kingston’s Green Square.

Yesterday a medical appointment took us to Canberra and I took the opportunity to fill in some time wandering around Kingston shops in general and the Green Square in particular.

The purpose of this post is to let those who were in favour of watering said grass know that it would be an absolute waste of ,water, time and money. 

Kingston shops are suffering badly from urban decay. They are dying, in other words. and so is what little grass is left. The shopping precinct is dirt, drab and uncared for with many vacant shops and one even hoarded up with timber and chain and padlock. The areas that used to be grassed have no chance have become a rubbish dump for cigarette butts, bottle tops, paper and other bits of rubbish indicating that those who use that area have little or no regard for the environment there. The big tree in the so-called lawn area would also soak up any water intended for the lawn which doesn’t really exist anyway. It’s very sad to see actually as The Green Square used to be an attractive, pleasant place to have a coffee and lunch.

A trip across to Manuka revealed a different situation and a different atmosphere altogether. Reasonably clean and tidy with quite a few people having a mid afternoon snack and a chat. Plenty of active shops without any dead ones. Maybe Kingston comes to life later in the day/night as there certainly were plenty of liquor outlets there. I couldn’t really understand why they were in this condition in view of the large number of flats and units in Kingston. Maybe those people work in the town centres and do their shopping where they work.

I do believe that something needs to be done with the Green Square to brighten it up and make it look a bit tidier. Crushed brick would improve the look of it in place of the bare dirt and ciggy butts.

The term”Urban Decay” was not mine but came from a shop owner with whom I had quite an interesting chat about the state of things. She was equally saddened about the plight of the shopping centre.


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27 Responses to Kingston Shops and urban decay
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toriness 1:09 pm 21 Feb 09

omg burkes08 i was watching that show the other day for the first time. it IS terrible. call me cynical but i doubt very much they would ever do true guerilla, as in unauthorised and undetected, activities! i’d be interested to know whether they’d do any work outside of sydney too.

burkes08 12:22 pm 21 Feb 09

There is that new terrible show on Channel 10 (?) called Guerilla Gardeners. They basically barge in illegally and do up ugly forgotten areas. They were advertising for more ugly spaces.

old canberran 11:43 am 21 Feb 09

Spot on 54-11. Life in the suburbs is a cyclical thing. As the younger residents with kids age the need for primary schools disappears and then the High schools disappear such as in Watson and other older suburbs. The shopping centres also change but that doesn’t mean they should become dowdy and neglected.

54-11 10:25 am 21 Feb 09

OC, you’re dead right about the shift in shopping habits – the impersonal malls have almost completely taken over in terms of general shopping (clothes, groceries) and services such as hairdressing.

That means that suburban centres need to position and market themselves differently to the malls, and differently than in the past. Some have done that successfully, others not.

It may well be that these changes mean that some suburban centres are simply not viable, and some could simply fade away.

The responibilities fall on four sets of shoulders. the govt needs to give each centre a fair go, and with respect to Kingston, Green Sqaure is an obvious although very limited start. The building owners need to get involved; unfortunately very few do. I could’t understand that until I realised that converting shopping centres into high-rise apartments was far more profitable, so I am convinced that many building owners are quite happy to see centres like Kingston fail. Thirdly, the shop owners need to get more involved – just cleaning up around their business would be a start. The cigarette butts around the Green Square show the decay you’re talking about.

Finally, residents have a responsibility as well – support your local shops, keep them viable, keep them clean, discourage grafitti and vandalism (I know, calling the cops is a waste of time), and get involved in your local community. Make it yours, take some responsibility, and stop blaming “them” for not keeping things up to scratch.

old canberran 4:34 pm 20 Feb 09

Some of the comments here tell me there’s been a huge shift in the role of suburban shopping centres over the years. The idea behind suburban shops was a place where the locals in that suburb could buy groceries, medications, packaged liquor, get a haircut, maybe have a meal, go to the garage and fuel the car up. This was before supermarkets and huge servos became the norm What you couldn’t get in the suburban shops you went to the district shops for such as Dickson, Jamieson, Kippax etc.
With the advent of the Town Centre shops the emphasis shifted and the suburban centres became different creatures. This emphasis now seems to aimed at alcohol and food outlets. This seems to be what has happened at Kingston. Gone are the days of young couples with kids living in 3 bedroom brick veneer houses. They are now young singles living in apartments who frequent the night scene for a drink, a feed and some company.
That’s how I see it anyway. I may be wrong. Meanwhile no one gives a s***t about the grass.

peterh 2:30 pm 20 Feb 09

tylersmayhem said :

IMHO this is a problem with most of Canberra’s local shops. Look at Farrer or Page shops as sterling examples.

I still think there is so much potential for local shops in this town. Look how good O’Connor shops are. Look how sprawling Canberra is. It would be great if most local shops were sorted out and rather than having to commute into the city centres for a night out, or simply a cold beer in a good joint – we could head down to our neighbourhood local?

further to that, look at holder or duffy shops. not even a whiff of their former glory.

tylersmayhem 2:04 pm 20 Feb 09

IMHO this is a problem with most of Canberra’s local shops. Look at Farrer or Page shops as sterling examples.

I still think there is so much potential for local shops in this town. Look how good O’Connor shops are. Look how sprawling Canberra is. It would be great if most local shops were sorted out and rather than having to commute into the city centres for a night out, or simply a cold beer in a good joint – we could head down to our neighbourhood local?

Woody Mann-Caruso 1:04 pm 20 Feb 09

Are you taking BB mainstream, emd?

peterh 12:32 pm 20 Feb 09

emd said :

I’ve been actively looking for commercial space recently. The vacant shops I have spotted around Kingston are asking quite reasonable rent, but it does look like a step down from Manuka in the retail shopping experience. Making Green Square a more pleasant place – green grass and shade – would improve the appeal for shoppers.

phillip is also suffering a rental exodus, the salvos have shifted from colbee court, there is now a very large area up for rent, and i have seen another company offering a now closed gallery for sub lease, up near the chocolate olive cafe.

the newer sites, hotel realm, barton in general, civic and manuka are attracting more tenants by refurbishments…

peterh 12:29 pm 20 Feb 09

Clown Killer said :

I have a soft spot for Kingston given that my office is there and I spend a fair bit of my pre-work, lunch and after work socialising time there.

OCs right to point out that the green part of green square is looking pretty shabby. From memory though it always seemed that the landlords were happy to pull up the can-turf once a year and replace it with fresh grass rather than spend money on a gardener to look after it. That cyclic replacement doesn’t seem to have happened for around 18 months to two years.

There are a few vacant shops – the old FOX antiques and the IT place up near Elders RE are two that immediately spring to mind, but I guess I see that as part of urban renewal rather than decay – some businesses relocate or close and others move in to fill their space.

considering that there are new sites springing up all round town that are flashy, modern and have the new building smell (concrete) with lovely gardens, etc, we are seeing a decline in the traditional areas.

emd 10:48 am 20 Feb 09

I’ve been actively looking for commercial space recently. The vacant shops I have spotted around Kingston are asking quite reasonable rent, but it does look like a step down from Manuka in the retail shopping experience. Making Green Square a more pleasant place – green grass and shade – would improve the appeal for shoppers.

Scribble 10:34 am 20 Feb 09

Clown Killer said :

There are a few vacant shops – the old FOX antiques and the IT place up near Elders RE…

IIRC, Essential Ingredient is set to relocate from Giles St to the Fox Antiques building fairly soon.

deezagood 9:42 am 20 Feb 09

iamspam said :

Perhaps this will cheer y’all up.

I do feel cheered up by this! Love Kingston, used to live there, still go there for the occasional dinner. Good news.

trevar 9:25 am 20 Feb 09

What do they mean by ‘physical appeal’, and how is that distinct from aesthetic appeal?

Forget the grass, when we can afford literate government staffers, then we can worry about the grass!

iamspam 8:41 am 20 Feb 09

Perhaps this will cheer y’all up.

2604 11:03 pm 19 Feb 09

Kingston shops are fine. The variety and quality of the restaurants are better than Manuka, and I’d take the pubs in Green Square over Minque any day of the week. The buildings and surrounds are in pretty poor shape, but no more than any other suburban shopping centre in Canberra.

Kingston as a neighbourhood is definitely a bit seedier than Manuka, though. Maybe this springs from a lack of community spirit caused by the largely transient population. Could also be the preponderance of apartment buildings, which generally don’t get looked after by their inhabitants and tend to look a lot more knocked around.

SammyLivesHere 10:49 pm 19 Feb 09

Kingston shops are not alone in being left to get old and daggy before their time. Sometimes the greed of landlords during property booms (as we’ve had) mean high rents and no investment in their upkeep. It is usually then, only in a down-turn when landlords need to attract tenants back that they reinvest their profits into the buildings and surrounds.

The grass at Kingston – who owns it? Corporate Body or ACT Government? If it’s the Government then shame on them for not dealing with this issue proactively, but then once something is built that’s it – there is not future planning and no planning for future upgrades past cutting the grass… so when he grass dies, so does the “meeting place”.

In a high apartment centre, this is the only grass some residents really know. Maybe they could get a sponsor from a local “fake grass companY” to use it as Advertising Space??

futto 10:43 pm 19 Feb 09

bring back the onion belt.

el 9:31 pm 19 Feb 09

Gold.

Woody Mann-Caruso 9:25 pm 19 Feb 09

I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Kingston in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.

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