Meet the woman who is going to spruce up the CBD

Ian Bushnell 25 February 2019 23

New City Place Manager Lavanna Neal in Civic. Photo: Supplied.

Civic and Braddon may come alive for specific events but day to day there is so much more that could be done to make it a brighter and livelier place to be, according to the woman charged with leading the makeover of Canberra’s central business district.

The ACT’s new City Place Manager, Lavanna Neal from creative consultancy Dionysus, will be working with the City Renewal Authority and city businesses to bring together an entertainment program for the CBD to attract more people to the area, as well as leading a new maintenance team to help make Civic and Braddon cleaner and greener.

Ms Neal, who came to Canberra in 2012 as general manager of the Palace Electric Cinema at New Acton, was also place manager at the ANU’s pop-up village.

She sees her business and people management background as lending a different bent to place-making.

“I probably understand first hand some of the concerns that the business owners and managers might have, and combining that with the people that I work with at Dionysus and putting all that together with the people at the CRA, makes it a more holistic way of looking at things,” she said.

Without identifying certain areas, Ms Neal said sprucing up the CBD would make it a warmer and happier environment for businesses, visitors and the growing number of people who live there.

She said the improvements had already started with picnic tables and umbrellas in Garema Place, and work to make Canberra’s potential-laden laneways more usable.

A big fan of Melbourne’s laneway culture, simple measures such as bin enclosures were opening those spaces up so more could happen there.

There were also plenty of walls that could do with colourful murals and areas in need of public art. “Some have some fabulous artwork but a bit more of that would add a nice bit of vibrancy and pop to those laneways that mean we do want to have more festivals in them,” she said.

More greenery would provide relief from the built environment and shade to entice people to stop, rest and play.

“Placemaking is about creating places that people want to spend time in and it’s about those layers, having great green spaces, colour, big trees, small trees, bushes, places for people to sit that aren’t just hard surfaces, and nice amounts of shade. People don’t like things that are too boring and flat,” she said.

More entertainment could be as simple as bringing games into the city or staging a lunch-time dance party. Already there was a chessboard painted on Garema Place – it just needed pieces.

Braddon, which has had a spotlight shone on it recently with the CRA’s Braddon Place Plan, was already a happening area but needed more pleasant public places for people to relax in.

“I think there is colour and atmosphere in Braddon, it’s kind of what makes it a fun and interesting place to be but there’s always room to add more, more public art, floral arrangements, more places for people to sit and enjoy takeaway or sit and have a chat with friends,” she said.

“At the moment there’s just one bench. More public places for people to spend time is really important and will help bring more of that colour and life and beauty that makes Braddon so much fun.”

Ms Neal plans to spend a lot of time walking and talking to business owners and the public, not sitting behind a desk or telling people what they should have or do. She also doesn’t have a bucket load of money to hand out.

She sees herself more an enabler, working with business and finding out what they might need to help them.

“If there are things they just need a bit more advice on, they’re really keen to do some outdoor trading but they just don’t really know how to make that work with the other businesses in the area, I want to talk to [those] people and find out what they want to do and try to help them do that – to really be able to say ‘yes’ where previously some of the business owners may have been told ‘no’ it’s too hard,” she said.

What changes would you like to see in Civic and Braddon?

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23 Responses to Meet the woman who is going to spruce up the CBD
Craig Greening Craig Greening 12:11 am 01 Mar 19

excellent news Lavanna

Maya123 Maya123 1:44 pm 26 Feb 19

It won’t be in the Mall’s interest to have Civic recover. The Mall killed it. If it recovers, the Mall might have less trade.

As someone who rarely visits the boring Mall, I hope this can succeed.

Ursula Gamal Ursula Gamal 10:14 pm 25 Feb 19

Really truly hope she can pull it off. The CBD needs life trendy interesting things to do. For all generations. Safe and inviting. At night it is a ghost town full of weird people.

Marcia Denman Marcia Denman 9:56 pm 25 Feb 19

We all wish you well, and all will hopefully be able to appreciate and enjoy the final product

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 9:18 pm 25 Feb 19

Shut down Braddon?

Craig Clulow Craig Clulow 8:53 pm 25 Feb 19

We are all friends Marg Christensen

Shane L.J. Ryan Shane L.J. Ryan 8:18 pm 25 Feb 19

Please bring back the flower pots on the light poles! (Not just at Floriade time.) :)

Matt Boyd Matt Boyd 7:58 pm 25 Feb 19

I agree civic needs more attention, but why not any other major shopping centre. Why not the whole of Canberra???

We are that Australian Capital Territory. The place looks terrible compared to even a small town outside of the ACT. 🤷‍♂️

    Matt Boyd Matt Boyd 9:15 pm 25 Feb 19

    Brydie Kelly yes, but what about Weston, Belconnen, and all the smaller shopping centres.

    Matt Boyd Matt Boyd 9:15 pm 25 Feb 19

    Btw. You’ll get your light rail eventually 😂😂😂😘

Mike Clayton Mike Clayton 7:44 pm 25 Feb 19

Then get rid of those bloody foreigners that stop you every 5 steps to sell something

Penelope Rose Penelope Rose 7:35 pm 25 Feb 19

High pressure hosing weekly, grass areas, garden beds, no charity people bothering the public, more police presence so the public feel safe, tables/chairs, 2 hours free parking, better lighting on footpaths.

Last year Garema place had for a short time lots of tables and chairs and it attracted so many people at lunch times. As soon as it was removed the people didn't come back. It just proves with more seating outside, people will enjoy the outdoors more.

Grant Tobias Grant Tobias 7:13 pm 25 Feb 19

Noooo! Grunge is good. Look at Fitzroy Melbourne, Newtown and Marrickville in Sydney - history and grunge go hand in hand with a thriving arts scene and appreciated culture. Gungahlin/sterile clean outer burbs are uninspiring and dull.

Hamish Lardi Hamish Lardi 7:11 pm 25 Feb 19

Turn city walk into a share way, remove the big screen in Garema place, declutter the awkward street furniture

    Hamish Lardi Hamish Lardi 7:47 pm 25 Feb 19

    Kurt Neist I heard it worked for a week. The act government have done study after study to remove it. Though haven’t committed yet

Michael Babb Michael Babb 7:09 pm 25 Feb 19

Get rid of the homeless meth heads and charity muggers. BOOM, civic instantly transformed

russianafroman russianafroman 6:55 pm 25 Feb 19

Bold plans, let’s see how it turns out by Spring.

Marg Christensen Marg Christensen 6:52 pm 25 Feb 19

High pressure hosing throughput Civic @ 4am every morning (particularly nr the clubs and interchange) will go a long way to sprucing it up

Donna Burns Donna Burns 6:37 pm 25 Feb 19

Certainly needs help. Looking forward to seeing changes.

Vicki Wallace Vicki Wallace 6:14 pm 25 Feb 19

It simply needs to be cleaned up and maintained as the capital city centre should be. All the surrounding country towns have beautiful clean, tidy town centres and Civic looks like it is post apocalypse. and please dont design any more weird metal things (a trivet?) like Tuggeranong Town Centre got lumped with.

Tim Cole Tim Cole 6:09 pm 25 Feb 19

Bulldoze Canberra Centre and return to street level shopping?

    Annie Rietdyk Annie Rietdyk 6:29 pm 25 Feb 19

    Tim Cole no

    Annie Rietdyk Annie Rietdyk 6:31 pm 25 Feb 19

    I hope other people will have the opportunity for input. Who dances in the streets st lunch time? Its not hard, look at other great cities like Tokyo for inspiration. Canberra city desperately needs a ton of work not only for us who live here but for the visitors we want to attract.

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