Canberra’s pedestrian malls – the glue of the city

As of 1 January 2018, the management of the City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy transferred from In The City Canberra to the City Renewal Authority. Views expressed in these articles may not reflect the views of the Authority.

Canberra’s CBD is evolving, with surrounding areas like Braddon, New Acton and the ANU campus have having all undergone significant renewal in recent years, having a positive impact on local business through increased foot traffic. With ongoing efforts to revitalise Canberra’s CBD this has not only enhanced the aesthetics of Canberra’s CBD but developed the community’s affinity for the area.

Speaking on the topic In The City Canberra’s CEO Jane Easthope said “ongoing efforts to revitalise Canberra’s CBD – particularly investment in the older areas such as the Melbourne and Sydney buildings – will significantly enhanced visual appeal of the city and surrounding precincts. In doing so, collectively we’re not only improving the aesthetics of Canberra’s CBD, but developing the community’s affinity with the area.”

The shops, restaurants, and cafes lining the buzzing streets of the Braddon, City Walk and Garema Place precincts bring life to the CBD. They give residents, workers and visitors a place to meet, talk, and support each other, whilst creating a sense of belonging and social harmony. This is what binds people to the city – the glue between individuals and the places they call home.

The CBD’s surrounding pedestrian malls connect our communities in a way that no giant shopping centre can. However, outdoor strips like these are often overlooked and overtaken by shopping precincts.

Big shopping centres can give customers what they want; convenience from more shops, easier access with parking, better facilities and a stronger shopping experience. However, the problem is that this ecosystem exists under one roof, providing less need for consumers to visit local outdoor malls.

The question arises; have local councils, regulators and communities thought about what will be lost as more shopping centres become the de-facto town centre, resulting in the deprivation of outdoor shopping malls and plazas?

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend in regional towns – even some capital cities – where large shopping centres steal business from main street stores, later becoming the new CBD.

Councils must rethink the future of local shopping precincts. There is no point in trying to compete with the mega shopping giants. Rather, they need to view local shopping malls in the context of integrated, smart cities that connect residents.

There are exciting times ahead for our CBD and Braddon precinct, in the form of an abundance of new developments set for completion in the next 5 or so years, coupled with the 4000-odd residents who will similarly soon call the CBD home.

Canberra is coming into a great period of opportunity. We must live up to the reputation of ‘world’s most liveable city’, and focus on renewal and expansion of our public areas while retaining what makes this city special. A way to do this is to maintain and create invigorating pedestrian malls in and around our CBD, to promote the success of small businesses and community connection.