13 June 2018

Petition launched about lack of action on unfinished Coombs shops

| Ian Bushnell
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The Coombs shops in February 2018. Not much has changed.

A Coombs resident has launched a petition and sent an open letter to politicians and the CEO of the Suburban Land Agency about the lack of progress on the still to be opened Coombs shops, the future of which is clouded by rumours and an expected new development next door in Wright.

The developer Renato Cervo said in February that the centre would be opening ‘very soon’ but resident Alison Hutchison says that despite some further work in late summer the centre looks no closer to opening, with the buildings looking like they need a fit-out for any tenants and no encouraging signs such as “Now Leased” or “Opening Soon” at the site.

“Over 5,800 people now live in Coombs/Wright and yet the designated shopping precinct is not open. Residents are inconvenienced, frustrated and annoyed by the lack of facilities and they want to know why. Many, like myself bought into Coombs some years ago on the understanding that local shops would certainly be available by now,” Ms Hutchison says in her letter.

She says residents’ approaches to Mr Cervo have been met with hostility and derision, and, on occasions, personal abuse.

In February, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said Mr Cervo had two years from the start of building to finish the shopping centre, which gave him until early 2019. The timing of the opening of the building was then “a commercial decision”.

“It is not reasonable to simply say that the developer has until late 2019 to complete the project and therefore residents must watch and wait in silence until then,” Ms Hutchison says.

“We seek help from you, our elected representatives in parliament, to act on our behalf and obtain for us public accountability from the developer, Renato Cervo.”

Ms Hutchison told the RiotACT that she wanted to know why there wasn’t any ongoing accountability for this kind of infrastructure.

“We deserve something in the interim to say what’s going on,” she said.

Comments from people who have signed the petition include:

  • “Part of the reason we chose our property over 2 years ago was on the premise that there would be infrastructure, especially the shops, soon to follow.”
  • “I have lived in Coombs for over two years and think it’s unacceptable that our long promised supermarket lies unfinished and untenanted. We have not been given a completion timeline and there is no communication from the developer.”

Meanwhile, rumours are swirling around the development including that Mr Cervo cannot get any tenants, possibly due to the proposed shops in Wright, or that it was for sale, or even that it would become a community health centre.

Krnc Group’s proposed Koko Molonglo mixed-use development just across the road in Wright plans a larger 1500 square metre supermarket, and other retailers including a ‘hair salon, eateries, bike retailer and bike workshop’. But a development application has not yet been lodged.

The Coombs shops, which was supposed to be the local centre, has a 1000 square metre supermarket site

Further along John Gorton Drive in Denman Prospect, Capital Estate Developments’ proposed shopping centre is expected to be open in September.

The letter calls for a response by the next Mingle Wright/ Coombs Community Information Night in November.

“If the Coombs Community Local Shopping Centre is not open by November 2018, we petition the government to invite the developer, Renato Cervo, or his representative, to attend that meeting and hence be publicly accountable for the status of this critically important infrastructure,” it says.

“In the intervening time, we trust that you, Minister Mick Gentleman and our elected members of parliament, will work pro-actively with the developer to address and resolve the current totally unsatisfactory situation.”

The Minister reiterated the Government’s position that it cannot intervene under the lease conditions but shares the community’s frustration.

“The ACT Government has zoned to allow for a shop, sold the land for a shop, approved the DA for a shop and supports the development of a shop on that site. Certainly, the ACT Government expected the developer would have opened a shop there by now. But the actual opening and operating of a shop there is a commercial concern,” he said.

“There are no other clauses in the lease which require the shops to be operational within a certain time. It is not the ACT Government’s role to speed up a commercial process.”

Mr Gentleman said the Government had been informed the development was very close to completion but that Mr Cervo had yet to submit an application for a Certificate of Occupancy.

“This is required before the building can be used and can usually be provided within two days of an application being received. The lessee is not waiting on the ACT Government in this respect,” he said.

The Minister said it had also been confirmed that a tenant was still being sought for the supermarket.

He said Directorate officials had met with the developer on this issue and kept him up to date.

Civium’s listing, updated last month, also says the shopping centre is ‘very close to completion’, and that the site will feature the supermarket space, a further 200 square metres for a bottle shop, other shops, including some with access to a grease trap, and plenty of parking.

Civium was approached for comment.

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Little Gezzy Bear1:11 am 30 Jan 19

Towards the end of last year there was some work done on the empty shop second from the left at the front, including an air-conditioning unit being installed. But nothing has happened since and the centre has been deserted … until yesterday when work started on the fitout of the shop on the right corner at the front. I noticed four work vans and numerous workers. There is a Leased sign on the window of the right hand corner shop and most of the For Lease signs on the other shops have been removed. It appears an end to this saga could be in sight? Maybe??

Meanwhile, the IGA at Denman Prospect is already open with a Club Lime opening in February and a dentist opening in March.

There will be a gathering of residents at the Coombs shopping centre at midday this Sunday (August 19th) to raise the profile of this issue with the minister and the media.

The more people who attend, the more effective the event will be, so please attend and encourage other residents to attend.

I have been informed that the minister has given his assurance that the developer will not be able to get the site rezoned to housing, which was a major concern of the residents.

Therefore, the gathering has been called off.

Little Gezzy Bear2:39 pm 25 Jul 18

Capital Chemist is now open in the Coombs health and wellbeing centre, joining the Coombs Early Learning child care centre, Club Lime gym and the Molonglo Veterinary Clinic. Why is that the developers of this site have been able to build a modern looking centre and attract long-term tenants, yet the shopping centre one block away looks suitable only for tumble weeds.

Mr Cervo is well know for leaving shop fronts vacant. I believe he had some in belconnen vacant for over ten years. He most likely waiting till he thinks that they are in greatest demand and then he will release them.

The government should do something not only for this location, but for other vacant properties as well. Some sort of legislation that will fine land lords who have vacant properties for to long.

Meanwhile at Cooleman Court you have to circle round the car park during the day looking for a rare free space – as has been the case for at least 6 months now.

Do they not remember the “Cervo Centre’ in Manuka that was built on the Woolworths site, from my memory it was empty for many years for the same reasons, some would say it majorly contributed to Manuka’s downturn some years ago. Expect the same from this developer in Coombs, empty shopfronts and abuse when challenged…

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