Tuggeranong still wears the tag of ‘nappy valley’, but many who operate in the town centre say it has long since grown up and is overdue for a more mature approach to its future.
Some say Tuggeranong has the potential to carry a vibe similar to Braddon, Manuka or Garema Place, but the ACT Government’s recent $3 million revitalisation project has been labelled as little more than roadworks, with no real community consultation.
At the heart of Tuggeranong is Anketell Street, with a laneway to Lake Tuggeranong that has a piece of art leading the way.
Hamish Sinclair, a research fellow at the University of Canberra, says that piece of art is also at the heart of everything that is wrong with the town centre.
Aside from completing his PhD in Canberra’s urban renewal and planning, Mr Sinclair is also a Tuggeranong resident and a committee member of the Tuggeranong Community Council.
He said while the age-old quote about art that “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like” rings true, the Tuggeranong community is entitled to feel ripped off by the improvements to the town centre.
“There’s no attempt to establish an identity in Tuggeranong. What’s been done so far is just roadworks. There’s no culturally relevant statement there for the people to identify with.
“The nappy valley has grown up and there’s a different demographic that has a voice on the way it looks,” Mr Sinclair said.
As for the artwork in the laneway towards Lake Tuggeranong, “The artwork was never chosen by the community and never developed by an artist,” he says. “It’s simply a stock item purchased by the government and forced into a public space.”
Mr Sinclair says what’s needed is an investment in developing a strong night-time economy in Tuggeranong.
“I think one of the biggest problems is that we’ve got government planners that don’t take into account of how you create a night-time economy and that’s the fatal flaw in the design,” he says.
“You can’t really call what’s there a night-time dining strip like other areas such as Braddon or Manuka and even Garema Place, which have thriving night-time economies. In Tuggeranong, all the fast-food franchises are down on the lakeside and not on the main strip.
“If you were looking for a nightclub or somewhere to socialise after dinner, there’s really only the Irish pub around the corner and not very visible.
“This is supposed to be a town centre for 100,000 people. It’s got less activity than a rural shire. It’s like going to Crookwell.”
President of the Tuggeranong Community Council Glenys Patulny said while there have been some improvements to the town centre, lots more could be done.
She said the biggest issues facing Tuggeranong’s coming of age are upgrading the bus interchange, buses going through Anketell Street and the town centre’s connection to the lake.
Ms Patulny said while there are plans to better connect the lake to the town centre, it’s presently “a bit of a dead area”.
President of the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Rauny Worm said that while the town centre looks great, it doesn’t provide a space for anything other than more traffic movements.
“We were expecting more of a shared zone that takes into consideration spaces for recreation and meeting places. There is a lot of traffic in the town centre already, so creating more traffic movements seems to defeat the purpose,” Ms Worm says.
“The space between the town centre and the lake is being wasted and would be better served as a shared zone and as a place to appreciate.”
Mr Sinclair says it’s not all doom and gloom for Tuggeranong and he hopes there is renewed interest in the area’s urban renewal. He also hopes the kids who were once wearing the nappies will now lead the way on their community’s look and feel.
“A few years ago, there was a project called T15 where young planners and planning students came together and made a plan for Tuggeranong.” Mr Sinclair said their vision, which included the establishment of a sports and community hub, has since fallen on deaf ears.
“The community is wanting to do something special for the area. The Tuggeranong Arts Centre has done its bit, so there’s definitely a determined view that just needs to be harnessed and it’s now up to the agencies involved to step up.”