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Fears Woden will become the ACT’s ‘problem child’ in 18 months

HENRY BELOT
THE CANBERRA TIMES
9 APRIL 2015

A group of concerned business leaders have met ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to convey their fears for the future of the Woden town centre.

Commercial property manager Shane Quinn, who owns a vacant property on Bow Street, said he was worried the town may become the “problem child” of the ACT unless urgent attention was paid to employment.

“Woden has lost big tracts of employment with close to 30,000 square metres of office space lost over the past two-and-a half years, which is close to 2500 people,” he said.

“Our big fear is that it is becoming a forgotten town centre and that without refocusing our attention it may become a less desirable place to live.”

Mr Quinn, whose company Quintessential Equity is a member of The Woden Group, said the government’s willingness to improve the town centre was clear but employment needed to be the number-one concern.

“It doesn’t take much to work out that when those buildings become empty then the small businesses that thrive off them will be hurt and eventually wiped out,” he said.

“Woden can’t sustain that loss of employment and why would anyone want to buy an apartment in there if there were no amenities to support it,” he said.

In late February, Mr Barr confirmed 400 workers from ACT Shared Services would move to Winyu House in Gungahlin, which is expected to host 600 ACT government staff and open in May.

Mr Quinn’s concerns come after the ACT government released a draft plan to redevelop the town centre in January, touting it as a major employment and shopping destination with the right investment.

A key component of the 25-year plan is to improve the bus interchange and increase the retail space of Woden Plaza by 20,000 square metres, with additional parking.

The draft report found the 14,500 workers in the town centre – mostly public servants and retail staffers – tended to leave the area after work, which resulted in minimal options for generating a night economy.

Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman said community consultation revealed high levels of support for a new cycle network, higher density residential developments, improvements to the town square and new urban parks.

Mr Gentleman said 97 feedback forms and 24 submissions were received from businesses and individuals during the six week consultation period.

Mr Quinn said members of the Woden Group – established to lobby the government to invest in the region – were pleased with the ACT government’s commitment to turning the town centre around.

“The Chief Minister was very aware of our situation and what we were trying to achieve and said he would commit resources to turn around employment,” he said.

Formal members of the Woden Group include the Hellenic Club, the Canberra Tradies Club, Mirvac Investment, Colliers International and Cromwell Property Group.

The draft master plan reveals the ACT government has already planned for the expansion of light rail with Callam Street and Athllon Drive identified as possible passageways.

“The planned improvements to public transport and the prospect of light rail will provide people with genuine options for travel to and from the centre,” read the draft report.

The final master plan is expected to be released in late 2015 along with a community engagement report.

“Feedback from the community engagement is currently being considered and will be used to further refine the master plan,” Mr Gentleman said.

“Industry input and the outcomes of expert planning studies will also be used to shape the final master plan.”

This story was found at:http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/fears-woden-will-become-the-acts-problem-child-in-18-months-20150409-1mgihh.html

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