16 February 2024

Locals petition again to solve the 'derelict' Richardson Shops

| James Coleman
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Graffitied wall

Richardson Shops have been boarded up since 2022. Photo: Joy Burch.

Richardson Shops have again come under fire for sitting empty, covered in graffiti and derelict.

The IGA supermarket moved out of the small shopping precinct at Block 4 Section 454 of Clift Crescent in 2019, followed by the last tenant – a hairdressing salon – in 2022.

According to residents, the site has been falling into a state of disrepair ever since, with no action taken by either the owner or the government to arrest this. After years of waiting, they’ve had enough.

“It has been damaged extensively – all the windows are boarded up and covered in graffiti,” Caitlin Tough said.

“I know how important it is for residents to have access to services and to have local facilities maintained and kept clean. The owners of Richardson shops seem to have failed the local community on both of those things.”

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Ms Tough has launched an online petition to the ACT Government, sponsored by Labor MLA and speaker Joy Burch.

Among the petitioners’ demands are a “full update from the owner on any future plans for the site” and “advice of what alternate use of the land and site can be considered”.

“Being right next to the park, many families find the space unwelcoming,” Ms Tough said.

“As a working mum, I know how vital our community parks are as a low-cost and close-to-home family activity.”

It’s not the first time the issue has been raised through a petition.

Kathy Ditz, who ran the local hairdresser for more than a decade, joined forces with Canberra Liberals MLA Nicole Lawder to launch a similar petition in 2022.

“Every time I drive past it, it really grinds my gears,” Ms Ditz told Region at the time.

“It looks terrible and it’s really disgusting. It’s like a slap in the face saying this is as good as it’s going to get for you guys in Richardson.”

Caitlan Tough standing in front of griffiti-covered wall

Caitlan Tough is the face behind this year’s petition. Photo: Joy Burch.

The petition had accrued 513 signatures by the time it closed, and the government agreed to contact the leaseholder to “remind them of their obligations to maintain the leasehold, including keeping it in a clean state”.

For now, the owners of Richardson Shops, Michalis Investments, told Region, “We don’t want it sitting there empty as it’s giving us no return and negative rent”, but they accused the government of knocking back attempts to get a childcare centre, mechanics workshop, and service centre/shop in.

“All we are doing is cleaning up, replacing broken glass, cleaning graffiti, and removing people’s rubbish from the back,” Kostas Michalis said.

In an update, Mr Michalis said they are “currently negotiating with prospective tenants for the site and are excited with the possibilities”.

The government said there is little it can do.

“As Richardson Shops are privately owned, including the car parking area, there are limits to what the ACT Government can do to revitalise them,” the response from Chief Minister Andrew Barr read.

The biggest weapon in the arsenal, he explained, are ACT property taxes.

“If a property sits vacant, general rates are still payable for the property even if these services are not being used … There are existing economic incentives for ensuring properties are made available to the leasing market where possible.”

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Since then, the government has also finalised “strategies” for each of Canberra’s districts, including Tuggeranong. This identifies Richardson among “possible local and group centres for investigating appropriate planning and non-planning initiatives to support their ongoing viability and role as a community meeting place”.

ACT Legislative Assembly Speaker and Labor member Joy Burch is sponsoring the new petition, believing there is an “opportunity now” to do more by reconsidering conditions placed on crown leases and associated purpose clauses.

“While it may not be possible for existing leases, future leases granted for local shopping centres could have stricter terms to prevent shop owners from leaving their shops empty for long periods or becoming derelict,” she said.

“I note that the minister is reviewing planning controls around shopping centres to see what opportunities there may be for more housing, which may act as an incentive for investment and renewal at existing shopping.”

Giralang shops render

Could Richardson Shops look more like this? Image: Nikias Diamond.

The controls she’s referring to were floated by new planning minister Chris Steel, who outlined hopes to combine apartments with local shopping complexes, as is happening at the Giralang Shops in Belconnen. Dickson Village is another recent example, with Coles and other smaller shops underneath five levels of 140 residential apartments.

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The act Government should acquire the land and build public housing on it

Capital Retro10:33 am 20 Feb 24

You are joking. It already looks bad enough.

Yet another example where the ACT Govt and the owners of a commercial property have reached an impasse.

As much as it is sad that Canberra has to put up with derelict buildings which are a blight on the landscape, it is also a sad reflection on the Govt and the owners that they can’t grow up and do something about the impasse.

It is interesting that they claim that all proposals have been knocked back when the shops are not even listed for rent on their website http://www.michalisinvestments.com.au/

A former supermarket and an adjacent pizza takeaway lay vacant and boarded up on Livingstone street in Kambah for what seemed like decades. It became a church for a little while but then reverted to dereliction. Thankfully it has now been replaced with a row of townhouses!

Michael Lindfield1:19 pm 20 Feb 24

The building had asbestos. Why it was demolished.

Interesting! I didn’t know that.

GrumpyGrandpa10:07 am 19 Feb 24

As Richardson Shops are privately owned, there are limits to what the ACT Government can do,” said Andrew Barr.

Well, except reject businesses that could operate there and charge rates on the unused shops.

It does make me wonder if the end game has always been to redevelop the site and build apartments there. The government is certainly hinting towards that.

Pretty sure it will be for the owners of the site. Just a different way of landbanking

Elle Cehcker7:41 am 19 Feb 24

Sorry to break it to you, its in the south. Labor doesn’t care one but about the south if Canberra.

Capital Retro10:34 am 20 Feb 24

It’s our own Gaza Strip.

Why were those businesses knocked back by the government?
I’d like to see a fresh food market, bulk plastic free food, markets where locals can sell their home made goods – a shop ready for the future.
And activities for the youth so they won’t feel the need to vandalise it – art activities – a graffiti wall for one.
Somewhere to learn and play music – with a musical instrument library.

Capital Retro3:56 pm 19 Feb 24

It’s in Richardson, not Nimbin. Get real.

When the shops were open they were always getting windows broken, I assume that is why they left.

Wouldn’t the owners be in breach of lease conditions?

“As Richardson Shops are privately owned, there are limits to what the ACT Government can do,” said Andrew Barr.
That hasn’t previously stopped him pouring millions of dollars into other inner north shopping precincts.
Funny how it’s a different story when people want something in the Chief Minister’s electorate.
Ainslie stonewall toilet block was put out for design and engaged a leading Australian architect and proudly paid by ACT Government. Richardson Shops surrounds would be lucky to get the grass mown twice a year.

Joanna Wells4:26 pm 18 Feb 24

I think a block of apartments would be a great idea. I would love one.

ChrisinTurner2:09 pm 18 Feb 24

Allowing people to live above the/their shops was the solution for many generations. Why don’t we allow it in Canberra?

Capital Retro10:47 pm 18 Feb 24

Because they would get extension cords from the residential supply upstairs to run the business downstairs. The difference between residential and commercial energy costs is substantial.

Medium density housing with coffee shop. Missing middle housing.

Capital Retro8:57 am 18 Feb 24

Giant wind turbine?

Joanna Wells4:24 pm 18 Feb 24

Build apartments. I would love one.

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