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Why we don’t like Manuka Plaza

V8 Berlina with a three tier spoiler 25 February 2008 31

On the 26th February, Canberra’s first Starbucks and one of the few remaining original tenants of Manuka Plaza will close. The reason: lack of business and the lease holder preferring to invest in the Brand Depot store rather than renew the lease in Manuka. To me, Starbucks and their imitation brew is no big loss, but this does bring up the question of why we don’t seem to like Manuka Plaza. The Plaza has never been fully leased and most of the original retailers (newsagent, jeweler and Michelles to name a few) have closed down or moved. In fact the once struggling Thai place is now going well right across the street.  The rapid turnaround  of tenants and relatively frequent closures s in contrast to the rest of Manuka. The plaza (now called The Terrace) is currently undergoing its third major reno in the hopes of attracting more people. So, do you like Manuka Plaza? Why isn’t is successful, at least in comparison to the rest of Manuka?


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Why we don’t like Manuka Plaza
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MelonHead 10:49 pm 27 Feb 08

Wasn’t there a furore when this development was announced? Are the naysayers now proven correct? As stated above, it is a dismal place. I feel for those who have tried to conduct retail there, and left. This would not be easy. Even Michel’s is gone!

I-filed 9:51 pm 27 Feb 08

I think it doesn’t work because it doesn’t have Manuka atmosphere. They should have designed it with Melboure-esque laneways. None of the intuitive signals for comfort and safety are there. The wide stairs make you feel too exposed. There being no back exit makes it feel weird. Whoever designed it was an amateur – or someone who designs old-fashioned shopping malls. Which, by the way, are going the way of the dinosaur.
There are echoes of the same problem in the new part of the Canberra Centre where you had up the escalator at the western end. But the enclosed sensation in the Wagamama, Koko Black bit of Bunda Street is very conducive to hanging around and shopping.
By the way, I suspect Australia Post pay virtually no rent – they will have been tempted there in the hope of attracting need-to-post shoppers.

barney 6:51 pm 26 Feb 08

It’s time to ban Manuka.

ASP 5:15 pm 26 Feb 08

“the shelves are always stocked and they mark things down throughout the day.”

Ha ha, Ant, that may be convenient for you, though I’m not sure how that bodes for their business 🙂

Holden Caulfield 4:18 pm 26 Feb 08

The Coles at Manuka is overpriced.

Duh, who’d have thunk it!

tickboom 3:15 pm 26 Feb 08

“I here that a Woolies may be built on the car park in Kingston.”

Where’d you hear that, Crikey?

ant 11:45 am 26 Feb 08

It’s still better than Qbn Coles! And the meat section in particular seems very well-run, the shelves are always stocked and they mark things down throughout the day.

ASP 10:41 am 26 Feb 08

Coles at Manuka use to be a cut above the rest in Canberra. Used to stock a very wide range of premium slines the others didn’t such as specialty cakes, chocolates and coffee. Now, the range is in most cases equal or less than the other stores and the store has seen better days.

Dave_K 9:51 pm 25 Feb 08

Actually, most of the anti-social behaviour seems to happen on the Captain Cook Crescent side of the complex. There always seems to be a passing parade of noisy, drunk and mildy dangerous looking characters at all hours of the day and night, mostly coming and going or hanging out around the flats over the road. Another wacky design feature – the car park exit, with that silly curved concrete divider which you can’t see as you come up, out and over the rise onto the road. It catches the unwary all the time and has a decent collection of scrapes and paintwork to prove it.

bd84 9:26 pm 25 Feb 08

They decided to close the woolies at manuka for the same reason, it did very little business and it wasn’t profitable to keep it open.. then the bright sparks at coles decided to open across the road, can’t say I’ve been inside but I doubt it would be doing much better.

Meconium 8:24 pm 25 Feb 08

I agree with everything needlenose just said.

However, and maybe it’s just me here, I think the ‘dodgy’ feel of the place prevails over everything else! I don’t feel in danger walking around most of the other parts of Manuka at night, even around ATMs etc, but the quiet, barren corridor of Manuka Plaza seems like a good place for anti-social behaviour to occur! Although I’m pretty sure none of that happens – maybe because everyone is a little put off, or maybe because the gangs of youths looking for a fight hang out in more prominent places.

But during the day is when you’d expect more business, so I guess the above isn’t the reason it hasn’t succeeded, I’m just a night owl I guess.

Just bad design I suppose – it’s practically invisible, it’s not well signposted or advertised, and besides, there’s nothing there anyway (because of the high rent and other reasons Dave_K mentioned)…

sepi 8:17 pm 25 Feb 08

It doesn’t look interesting, and isn’t on the way to anything – why would anyone go there?

gooterz 7:42 pm 25 Feb 08

Hmmmph i didn’t know Manuka had such a plaza

shiny flu 7:34 pm 25 Feb 08

The carpark exit for pedestrians spits you out at Coles and a pedestrian crossing. Who’s going to walk all the way up outside just for a look-see?

needlenose 5:59 pm 25 Feb 08

It’s ugly, and it’s set out in a way that makes it seem vaguely unsafe to walk around in on your own – lots of walls and very few people.

But my theory is that (as Maelinar said) the developers tried to piggy back off the good will and cachet of other businesses in Manuka. However, they went about it badly, without recognising that what makes Manuka an attractive place to shop is that it has very few retail chains – it’s mainly one-off boutique-type establishments which are owner-operated and directly targeted to local wants and needs.

So Dymocks was never going to thrive when you can get a more interesting range of books – and more street cred – from buying at Paperchain. Sanity was never going to succeed when people can cross the road for exactly the same pop/rock records, plus a huge range of classical & jazz and staff who really know what they’re talking about at Abel’s. That Mecca Bah has survived and done well despite all of that just goes to prove the point – it’s still quirky and individual enough to pull in the punters.

Anyone who goes to Manuka for a coffee doesn’t want to drink it from a chain store – you can get a better one from a locally owned business two steps away, and probably at a better price.

It’s also why the businesses in the redeveloped Woolworth’s site are doing much better than the ones in the “Terrace” – again they are not tacky, boring, predictable chain stores selling tacky, boring, predictable crap.

bunnycoat 5:37 pm 25 Feb 08

in my opinion the original multi-colour scheme was horrible and that is now being painted over with a plain stone shade, and the dreadful metal lightening conductors are being removed from the roof. Coles has a very limited range, high prices and the shelves are often empty, especially of the current specials.

Maybe the area is cursed by miss-pronunciation of Manuka – ma-NUKE-a rules.

Mælinar 2:48 pm 25 Feb 08

They could do a Dickensian london feel without any great financial outlay, then it’d look cool at least…

ant 2:21 pm 25 Feb 08

The Coles there is actually the best Coles I’ve found! You should see the Qbn one, whopping long lines, and permanently empty shelves.
That development needs more destination/drawcard places in it. If Starbucks can’t make a go of it, that’s pretty indicative. It’s very bare/barren and concretey/tiley, none of the shops are tempting to enter, meccabah seems popular but it’s not flowing over to the rest of the development.
I usually park on Captain Cook in front of those flats, and bypass this Terrace thing to shop at Manuka-proper. Unless I’m going to Coles.

ASP_canberra 1:50 pm 25 Feb 08

I park there all the time because its close to Manuka and under cover. Something about the place though has largely precluded me from shopping or eating there if another option exists. It feels less inviting than the Lanyon Market Place (which has an almost weekly brawl and constant vandalism).

Dave_K 1:49 pm 25 Feb 08

Let me offer a few observations as a residential tenant in the building. It is badly managed and maintained. Car park exit boom gates frequently out of order. Elevators servicing both public and residential areas frequently out of order or operating erratically. Elevators frequently dirty from the remnants of a certain fast food chain’s rubbish. Getting in and out of the building to the apartment levels can be a magical mystery tour at times. Building management generally non responsive to issues raised by tenants, both business and residential. They are either lazy, careless or running low on cash to maintain the facilities properly (or, all of the above). Starbucks is going because their customer traffic did not warrant the rent being demanded. Whatever you think of Starbucks, from a centre management point of view you would have thought they would have done what they could to keep them. For a centre to prosper it needs big names to anchor the retail business. I really wonder how NAB and St George can justify their full-service branches – their foot traffic seems very low from what I’ve seen. The Coles supermarket is perhaps one of the worst I’ve come across in Australia in both lay-out and stock management. Shelves are frequently empty during peak shopping periods. (Not that you can blame that on the centre management, but it just adds to the general sense of abandonment about the place.) I was recently offered an opportunity to buy my apartment. The body corporate fees were at least double those of any other apartment building I looked at, with far less amenity and facilities. That said, apartments seem to rent pretty quickly and no doubt the proximity to the Manuka ‘high life’ is a major factor. (Although some of the real estate pitches promising ‘sophisticated, cafe society living’ are a bit rich. It’s Manuka, after all, and it does get a bit mangy after dusk.)

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