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Voter action needed following Dickson shops debacle

By Paul Costigan 13 May 2015 32

dickson-shops3

There have been recent reports that the controversial Dickson supermarket proposal continues to be debated behind closed doors within the government planning bureaucracy.

Residents have devoted hours (days!) attempting to convince this government that residents are not opposed to changes within the shopping centre. It is just that this particular proposal is so wrong for Dickson. People are annoyed by the way this government is not transparently dealing with the concerns being raised. The most obvious issues are:

  • As a signature building for the precinct, residents were looking for something aesthetically pleasing; however the current proposal delivers a monster bland box.
  • This building will not address fundamental environmental issues (yes that includes climate change).
  • The building will dominate the precinct and result in the closure of many small businesses – as the Canberra Centre did to the former Civic businesses.

Over and above these concerns, there are other matters that continue to upset residents.

I was reminded today of the early conversations residents had on the subject of whether Dickson should have a second supermarket. There was support for such a concept and discussions on what sorts of delicatessens and/or supermarkets would be appropriate and  provide competition to the present Big Box retailer.

What has upset people is that if the present inappropriate proposal goes ahead there will be even more Big Box retailers and many small shops will close. The government has been playing with the truth and is using spin to usher in this unsuitable multiple Big Box supermarket proposal. As the government delivered in Civic with the expanded Canberra Centre, there will be many ‘for lease’ signs around the Dickson shops.

Another annoyance is the manner in which development decisions continue to be made. Residents were involved in numerous consultations about the whole Dickson commercial precinct in the hope of seeing positive changes. Rather than something visionary, we now have a  ‘master plan’ that is more of a wish list and is not tied to any planning legislation. Developers can ignore the master plan.

As a result of dubious consultation processes, the supermarket proposal that came forward bears no relation to the aspirations of the residents. It would be easy to blame the developer (and why not) but the reality is that they do what they do because this government’s planning regime allows them to do so.

This government’s consultations on urban matters are regarded as games of smoke and mirrors that result in questionable justifications for the sale of the land. The deal for the Dickson supermarket has been done, the money is in the bank and the residents can only tinker with some of the finer details. Residents fully suspect that the final proposal will be way outside the residents’ requests and aspirations. Sadly it has always been thus in recent decades in Canberra.

Finally residents believe they elect local politicians to deliver good government (such optimism). But it seems that when it comes to planning and development decisions the politicians hide behind the scurrilous excuse that they have to leave such decisions to their professional planning bureaucrats.

So the issues are:

  • Despite having a policy of increasing supermarket competition, this government failed to deliver alternatives to the Big Box retailers.
  • The government planning processes are not resident friendly and are not transparent.
  • The politicians continue to hide behind the discredited notion of the independence of their planning authority instead of listening to residents.

The forthcoming decisions on the Dickson shops will be an indicator of the commitment of local politicians to the voters, the residents. It has been suggested that if the current Dickson supermarket proposal goes ahead, that residents should use the next ACT election to send a message to the Chief Minister who is also the Minister for Urban Development.

Of course, we will have to wait and see what happens in Dickson (and elsewhere in Canberra such as Yarralumla).  So watch this space!

What’s Your opinion?


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32 Responses to
Voter action needed following Dickson shops debacle
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rubaiyat 10:11 am 19 May 15

blatherer said :

If the government we’re truly brave they would require a space on the ground level to bring the Farmers Markets at EPIC to the ‘inner city’, (as well as a competitor to Woolworths).
Imagine something like a ‘Queen Victoria Markets’ in the new vibrant bustling hub of green, hipster Dickson….
By nature, this would result in significant changes to the building design, an open facade around the ground floor for one.

I still find it cruelly ironic that I live right near a 10 storey building (that the Western edge of that lot was actually zoned RZ4) but they are limiting Northbourne and Dickson to 6 or 7 storeys…go figure..how does Belconnen get 20+ storeys but that is anathema to other areas?

I’ll second that.

There is a whole lot of difference in feel and energy between just another blank faced closed box development with the same old same old inside, and the vibrant color and quality of a real market.

Dickson could be the food destination at the end of an axis that runs from the City up through the growth along Lonsdale Street. Connect the two with Light rail and you have the start of a workable inner city network.

blatherer 10:48 pm 18 May 15

If the government we’re truly brave they would require a space on the ground level to bring the Farmers Markets at EPIC to the ‘inner city’, (as well as a competitor to Woolworths).
Imagine something like a ‘Queen Victoria Markets’ in the new vibrant bustling hub of green, hipster Dickson….
By nature, this would result in significant changes to the building design, an open facade around the ground floor for one.

I still find it cruelly ironic that I live right near a 10 storey building (that the Western edge of that lot was actually zoned RZ4) but they are limiting Northbourne and Dickson to 6 or 7 storeys…go figure..how does Belconnen get 20+ storeys but that is anathema to other areas?

JC 4:29 pm 18 May 15

random said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

As for aesthetics, has anyone come up with an alternative? Anyone care to show us what they would like it to look like? Buildings are buildings, they are usually box shaped, not triangular or circular, with windows to allow light in.

As a Dickson resident in favour of the development I’m wondering what the alternative is too. I certainly prefer it to some of the “architecturally designed” Frank Gehry knockoffs going up in Braddon. Presumably the real complaint is that it’s six storeys, but that’s what it’s zoned for and in line with the vision for higher density along the Civic-Gungahlin corridor. It won’t even dominate the centre because at this rate Malabar on Cape St. will be finished first.

It looked to me like they’ve really tried to make the best of an awkward site. I particularly hate the above comparison to what the Canberra Centre did to Civic: if I recall correctly most (all?) of the store frontage other than the supermarkets faces outwards, so we should see new restaurants/cafes/etc. contributing to the life of the centre rather than leeching people away from it. The new part of the Canberra Centre facing Bunda St. is an example of how successful this approach can be.

There have been complaints about things like the loading docks facing Antill St., but that’s the price of having a nicer frontage on the other sides. Better facing Antill St. than the library, right? It’s hard to discuss details now that the plans don’t seem to be online anymore, though.

Parking will be painful while it’s being built but better once it’s complete. Frankly it can’t come soon enough.

Finally someone with common sense and an open view on the world.

random 11:25 am 18 May 15

wildturkeycanoe said :

As for aesthetics, has anyone come up with an alternative? Anyone care to show us what they would like it to look like? Buildings are buildings, they are usually box shaped, not triangular or circular, with windows to allow light in.

As a Dickson resident in favour of the development I’m wondering what the alternative is too. I certainly prefer it to some of the “architecturally designed” Frank Gehry knockoffs going up in Braddon. Presumably the real complaint is that it’s six storeys, but that’s what it’s zoned for and in line with the vision for higher density along the Civic-Gungahlin corridor. It won’t even dominate the centre because at this rate Malabar on Cape St. will be finished first.

It looked to me like they’ve really tried to make the best of an awkward site. I particularly hate the above comparison to what the Canberra Centre did to Civic: if I recall correctly most (all?) of the store frontage other than the supermarkets faces outwards, so we should see new restaurants/cafes/etc. contributing to the life of the centre rather than leeching people away from it. The new part of the Canberra Centre facing Bunda St. is an example of how successful this approach can be.

There have been complaints about things like the loading docks facing Antill St., but that’s the price of having a nicer frontage on the other sides. Better facing Antill St. than the library, right? It’s hard to discuss details now that the plans don’t seem to be online anymore, though.

Parking will be painful while it’s being built but better once it’s complete. Frankly it can’t come soon enough.

wildturkeycanoe 9:53 am 18 May 15

astrojax said :

Masquara said :

Any squeeze on parking in Dickson and everyone will shop at Ainslie.

um, you tried parking at ainslie during the many peak times across a week now? imagine if this had a significant load relocated from dickson added to it!

I agree, Ainslie is shocking for parking or even getting in and out of at most times. They don’t have what everybody needs though so most will continue to fight for parking at the new Dickson shops. Supermarkets need car parks or they lose business. I have turned away from malls when they are filled to capacity and cars are queued at the boom gate, choosing instead to drop into a suburban center on the way home to save fifteen minutes of trying to find a spot and also not having to walk so far. They are putting in 700 parking spaces aren’t they, so eventually it won’t be a big deal? Short term, those who need to drive there for shopping will probably go somewhere else, those nearby will still walk or catch the bus.
On another point, if we are encouraged to use public transport for things such as shopping, how does one take home a trolley load of groceries on a bus or tram? Eventually, the use of a car will be necessary to cater for all the bags you need to move. Trolleys can’t be put onto buses or trams as they are to be left in the shopping precinct. Imagine making several trips to and from the shops with a couple of bags at a time. Cars are a necessary evil for anyone with a large family, unless somebody comes up with a solution. Don’t bother mentioning things like home delivered groceries as they will not go to the fresh food markets, compare one supermarket to the next for the best specials and duck in to the specialty store for that one item you can’t get anywhere else.

astrojax 7:19 am 18 May 15

Masquara said :

Any squeeze on parking in Dickson and everyone will shop at Ainslie.

um, you tried parking at ainslie during the many peak times across a week now? imagine if this had a significant load relocated from dickson added to it!

JC 9:13 pm 17 May 15

wildturkeycanoe said :

sepi said :

Dickson pool, the library, the little church, the bakery etc are all a pleasant sunny walk apart from each other. now there is going to be a massive object stuck right in the middle.

A massive object being a covered building with cafes and shops, instead of an open air car park with traffic to dodge. In the case of the latter you still have to follow the footpath around it so there is little lost by proceeding with this plan, in fact much to gain. Who needs a car park anymore, the tram is going to eliminate the need for it.

There is going to be a carpark, just an underground one. Gets away from the issues above where some are complaining about the apartments in Belco that look onto carparks.

wildturkeycanoe 1:52 pm 17 May 15

sepi said :

Dickson pool, the library, the little church, the bakery etc are all a pleasant sunny walk apart from each other. now there is going to be a massive object stuck right in the middle.

A massive object being a covered building with cafes and shops, instead of an open air car park with traffic to dodge. In the case of the latter you still have to follow the footpath around it so there is little lost by proceeding with this plan, in fact much to gain. Who needs a car park anymore, the tram is going to eliminate the need for it.

sepi 1:10 pm 17 May 15

It isn’t all about what it is going to look like (butt ugly). but how it is going to function and fit in without spoiling the good parts of Dickson (it’s not). Dickson is gridlock traffic around dickson from 3.00 when school ends. Putting a huge amount of units right in the middle of the blocked traffic, with their driveway pouring them all onto antill st is not going to work.

Dickson pool, the library, the little church, the bakery etc are all a pleasant sunny walk apart from each other. now there is going to be a massive object stuck right in the middle.

wildturkeycanoe 8:45 am 17 May 15

rubaiyat said :

A classic example of people not seeing what they are looking at:

http://images-2.domain.com.au/2014/06/12/5504372/1402638462740.jpg-620×349.jpg

The magnificent panoramic view from the Wayfarer Apartments in Belconnen of the car parks below and the stunning beauty of the Westfield Shopping Mall, never designed to be seen from any vantage point except inside.

If that is a fantastic view and you aren’t being sarcastic, you are quite easily pleased. All I can see is car parks and a big ugly tower in the middle. At least there are a few trees around.
As for the whole “anti-shopping mall” campaign, I can’t see what people are so concerned about.
It won’t be affecting the “view” of more than about 20 houses, isn’t as large as the multi-storey units on Challis street and will provide housing on top of the associated competition to Woolworths, thus reducing prices and increasing variety. Get over yourselves and consider it a blessing to actually get some infrastructure spending on a run-down part of town.
As for aesthetics, has anyone come up with an alternative? Anyone care to show us what they would like it to look like? Buildings are buildings, they are usually box shaped, not triangular or circular, with windows to allow light in.
If the government can get away with building a shipping yard on the shores of LBG, they can do what they like with a carpark in the burbs.

rommeldog56 7:37 am 17 May 15

rubaiyat said :

A classic example of people not seeing what they are looking at:

http://images-2.domain.com.au/2014/06/12/5504372/1402638462740.jpg-620×349.jpg

The magnificent panoramic view from the Wayfarer Apartments in Belconnen of the car parks below and the stunning beauty of the Westfield Shopping Mall, never designed to be seen from any vantage point except inside.

Well its certainly not to my likeing – nor obviously to yours, but some probably actually like that sort of view to a concrete jungle. If u want to live in a CBD in Canberra, thats the sort of offering/view you will often get.

Its probably not so much “people not seeing what they are looking at”. Its probably more like they either don’t mind that view or they are prepared to trade that off for the convenience of the location – especially so with investors with their negative geared rental portfolios.

The town planners and building approval/development people in the ACT Government have a lot to be held accountable for.

In any event, welcome to the new “grown up” Canberra. Enjoy !

rubaiyat 8:20 pm 16 May 15

Realm said :

rubaiyat said :

Realm said :

John Moulis said :

Realm said :

sepi said :

Dickson is old, extremely tired, and run down. It needs a major refurbishment.

Yeah, just look how well the “refurbishment” at Manuka shops went. That Manuka Plaza monstrosity must surely go down as the most disastrous property development in Canberra’s history.

You’ve got to be joking, surely. Or at least greatly exaggerating. It was by no means a perfect development but to call it the most disastrous property development in Canberra’s history is extremely over the top. And it’s short comings were completely unrelated to what is proposed for Dickson. The Manuka development tossed Starbucks, Dymocks, Sanity (All chain stores) into what was essentially a cafe/boutique shopping precinct in one of the richest parts of Canberra. It didn’t fit the mould. The Dickson development is adding two supermarkets to compete with one of the most successful Woolworths in the country, and minimalistic apartments in a low-socio economic area. They’re not even comparable.

Going on what we have seen so far of the Dickson Proposal there IS a lot in common.

It is also simply bloody awful.

The fact that the median house price in Red Hill is almost double that of Dickson immediately makes them two vastly different, incomparable proposals

It may be pink and have bows on it, that has nothing to do with failed design.

You can’t force bad design on people. If you can’t see how it is bad, that is a problem.

You especially have a problem if you claim that it had special local needs that it didn’t meet and that that wasn’t just an ADDITIONAL reason for its failure. The rest of Manuka doesn’t have high architectural or building values, so that is a furphy anyway.

It didn’t fail because it is pretty tasteless and unattractive, which it is, it failed because of the awkward access, layout, flow, and juxtaposition with the only relatively easy to get to and successful businesses of the MacDonalds drive through and the Coles supermarket, because there is no other supermarket locally.

Position, access and visibility and relationships to competing or complementary commercial spaces are what dictates the success or failure of developments. I can take you on a tour of most shopping malls and centres and point out to exactly where and why businesses, which already have a high failure rate, really struggle to stay above water.

If you can’t picture it, I can put it in terms of like a plant. Specific plants do well or die according to their environment. Few will succeed in dark, hidden spaces with no nutrition, water or pollinating insects, especially if there is a large dominating plant overshadowing them. There are some plants that specialise in these spaces, usually some tough weed that is not seen as useful to us. The same in property. Bad design leads to low returns, leads to bad tenants or a fast cycling of tenants, leads to further decline, then the real estate agent, palm readers, hock shops and tattoo parlors take over before another cycle of decline leads to painted over windows and eventually vandalism and demolition.

I have a feeling I may as well be trying to describe the workings of an internal combustion engine to a witchdoctor.

The point being is it actually is cheaper to design something well, than end up not letting it, having to do very expensive remedial work and possibly demolish it and start all over again. But the many bad developers out there and their employees can’t manage better or gamble that the savings they make up front, won’t bite them later on.

Usually they lose that bet. Then someone else comes along and does exactly the same and can’t figure out why making the same mistake over and over isn’t working.

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