31 August 2023

Makeover on way for tired Dickson group centre

| Ian Bushnell
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The Dickson shops were developed in the 1960s and have not kept up with changes around it. Photo: Region.

The ageing Dickson group centre is set for a makeover with the City Renewal Authority seeking a consultant to provide a blueprint for a modern, people-friendly urban hub that maintains its village character.

This follows from the development of a concept design for the Dickson shops and the completion of the Woolley Street upgrades, which created a pedestrian-friendly shared zone and a space for social gatherings and events at the centre of the ‘Eat Street’ precinct.

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The new work will further develop the concept design for the shops and provide a new masterplan for the group centre’s street network to support a staged program of public realm works.

According to the tender document, the CRA says the group centre needs improvement to keep pace with Dickson’s population and development growth, including the new Coles supermarket building and apartment projects.

“Community surveys undertaken by the Authority have identified that the Dickson Shops has a poor public realm experience with ageing infrastructure in poor condition, cluttered spaces prone to flooding and a perceived lack of safety,” it says.

The concept design offers ways to create a safe, welcoming, attractive, and accessible public realm that is well-connected and environmentally and socially sustainable, the tender document says.

It says the car-dominated ageing streetscapes are hostile to pedestrians, make it hard for people to find their way and contribute to a disconnected and fragmented environment.

Street map of Dickson

Where the planned design work for the Dickson revitalisation project will take place. Image: ACT Government.

The proposed upgrades aim to support renewal in the precinct and integrate new and existing developments and links with light rail and the interchange while retaining its multicultural uses, strong sense of identity and community focus.

The goal is for a revitalised group centre that is easy for people to walk through and reach all of its distinctive precincts, boosting business and encouraging more investment.

The consultant will need to consider new pedestrian connections, paving and signage, upgraded pedestrian crossings, street and decorative lighting, street furniture and walking and cycling infrastructure, tree planting and garden beds, public art and play areas, and outdoor dining.

It will also need to identify opportunities for improving sustainability, innovation and climate resilience.

At the same time, the consultant will investigate and design a proposed stormwater drainage network upgrade to prevent flooding in the group centre.

The consultant will also draw on community feedback provided by a concurrent consultation program run by the CRA.

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The work, including a final sketch plan for the shops and streetscape masterplan, is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Construction on the revamp is expected to start in the first quarter of 2025, to be completed by mid-2026.

The tender closes on 21 September.

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Gregg Heldon11:52 am 02 Sep 23

My thoughts exactly. But Mawson isn’t the inner north and that’s all this lot care about.

Megan van der Velde9:53 pm 01 Sep 23

Whatever they do – lord please provide easy plentiful parking that locals can park for free for a few hours while they shop. The parking facilities at this centre has turned me off shopping there now for years.

Thanks to Ian Bushnell, members of the community have some idea what the timetable is, that a Tender was released on 16 August, and that the earliest anyone can hope to see actual improvements has been pushed back to 2025. That’s certainly a surprise to the local residents’ association, who’ve been kept in the dark for over a year already and been promised again and again that they would be privy to the consultant’s concept design sketches early in the piece in order to provide meaningful feedback. Only last week, they were given to understand that upgrade works would start NEXT YEAR and they would finally be shown sketches within the next 2 weeks. No mention of a further Study, further reports, further monies funnelled to big consulting firms. Yesterday they got an email postponing again. Why does the scope of works preclude the 3 footpaths that surround Dickson Library and form an intrinsic part of its setting, or the footpath and public open spaces next to the Inner North Walk-In Centre, the professional medical centre, and along Cowper St? Why is the large green space south of the bus station not part of this maybe you’ll see something one of these days upgrade? Why is heritage given such short shrift in the Tender documents, when the entire design of the shopping centre can be traced back to the detailed 1962 Clarke Gazzard Yeomans report to the NCDC, sitting over in the ACT Heritage Library? They were only the biggest name in modernism, doing some of the most exciting work in the country, so why should anyone care what that might add to understanding and interpreting the place itself? Basic transparency and simple honesty in community engagement should be core values for the ACT so why does it feel like City Renewal has lost its way and lapsed into the old underhanded LDA way of doing things?

Robert Mihalyka7:11 am 01 Sep 23

A cheaper alternative to stop the flooding is to regularly clean the sumps and drains in the shopping centre area. Like most other places in Canberra, maintenance is lacking and being neglected.

Stanleyhistory4:03 pm 31 Aug 23

Indeed, Sinbad, CRAP is right. The CRA has already wasted thousands of dollars on murals around the Dickson shops, when they should be spending money combatting graffiti, which is a growing problem in and around Dickson. No doubt, having endured a couple of years of disruption and inconvenience because of the new Coles development, we’ll have another couple of years of the same while they dig up footpaths. And wasn’t Woolley Street recently done-over anyway? These official facelifts are tiresome: just keep the place looking neat and functional.

Sounds like another outstanding City Renewal Authority Project (CRAP).

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