The Dickson shops will finally have an alternative supermarket for their growing number of inner north customers with the opening tomorrow of Coles’ new store, part of its long-awaited Dickson Village development.
The two big supermarket players will now compete against each other in a new retail era for the popular group centre.
The new supermarket comes as the Inner North undergoes a population explosion fuelled by multi-unit development, particularly along Northbourne Avenue.
The Dickson Woolies has always been one of the chain’s best-performing stores and Dickson Residents Group chair Jane Goffman says there is more than enough population to support healthy competition between the two supermarkets.
In fact, she says many were disappointed that Aldi did not make it into the new development, which has had a long and chequered history, including an ACAT challenge that threw out the first proposal and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman’s calling in of the revised and more people-friendly design.
Even then, Coles had to find a new development partner in TP Dynamics, further delaying the project.
All up, it has been almost nine years since the first development application was lodged in late 2014.
Ms Goffman said it had been a long struggle to get the kind of development the community deserved and the Residents Group wanted to welcome the new supermarket.
“This is a really big new player. There’s a big, big boy on the block,” she said.
“What we really would like to see Coles do here is be a really good corporate citizen, and I think that they will step up and that will be to the benefit of not just the group centre but also the whole area and the Inner North, and we want to see it thrive.”
Dickson Village comes as the ageing group centre faces a design overhaul, with the City Renewal Authority seeking to give the area a new look and make it more connected so people can move more easily through its various parts.
The Residents Group was discussing this with the CRA and how the upgrade would tie in with the new development.
Ms Goffman said it would be important to respect the character of the Dickson shops that makes them so special.
“We don’t want it to become a sterile mall, and we don’t want it to be overcrowded or cluttered. We want it to continue to actually draw people because it’s a welcoming and friendly space,” she said.
Ms Goffman said the public space achieved around Dickson Village was much better than what the planning authority had originally approved and praised Coles for coming to the party.
“We’d like to see that strengthened,” she said. “I really love what I’m seeing between the library and the new building.”
But the footpath where it passes Woolworths would probably need widening to enhance the east-west connection through the centre.
“The great thing about having gone through this whole experience is what it demonstrated is that the community actually is able to improve the outcomes when it’s listened to,” she said.
In August, Coles posted a $1.1 billion net profit for the 12 months to June 2023, up 4.8 per cent on its 2021-22 profit result, said in a statement that its new-look supermarket will include a range of innovative features, including grab-and-go convenience meals for young professionals and families, a large new deli with a selection of Australian and international cheese, an extensive seafood section, and a fresh pet food scoop-and-weigh station.
There will also be an open-front bakery and a frozen dessert bar, which has proved popular in Sydney and Melbourne stores.
The underground car park will feature Click&Collect bays and free parking with a spend of over $20.
Coles Dickson Store Manager Kathy Topic said 30 of her 120-strong team were from local schools in the area.
“I am looking forward to coming together and welcoming shoppers through our doors,” she said.
The store will also support several local community groups, including Guide Dogs and food rescue organisation SecondBite, which distributes unsold, edible food to Canberra City Care to help those in need.
“We want to show our appreciation to the community by supporting a number of local initiatives to celebrate the new store with the community,” Ms Topic said.
The two-to-seven-storey mixed-use development will also contain 140 residential units and other ground-floor shops.
Chief Minister and Dickson local Andrew Barr will officiate at the 9 am ribbon-cutting ceremony.