Tuggeranong town centre

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Tuggeranong town centre has received some mixed commentary in recent weeks. Ever since it was reported that Tuggeranong’s population is declining, locals have mounted their soap boxes. They’ve pointed out how it is much loved, that they are proud to live there, and made the call for local action.

The Hyperdome is well maintained and offers the range of shopping experiences expected of a regional shopping mall. It was lunchtime when I last visited, and the place was reasonably busy with a cross section of people, including students from the nearby college as well as public servants wandering around with their badges on display.

While most cafes inside and out were not exactly crowded, there is no doubt where most had congregated for their feasting. The upstairs food hall was packed and noisy!

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Across the road from the Hyperdome sits the commercial block titled Homeworld. Years ago that this place was not quite the success it was supposed to be. It was then a wall of shops and commercial outlets (hardware, grog shops etc) with a large parking space in the centre.

It did not look attractive then and sadly it is not much better today.

The main café was very empty. Obviously the view of the centre car park does not attract many customers.

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There are several streets of apartments on the edges of the main centre. While this was sound planning — as people live close by and spend money locally — the quality of the build is not much to rave about. In fact I spotted several with serious cracked render — with two under major repair.

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The image most used for this town centre remains photographs of the lake and/or the public buildings on the southern side of the lake. There’s a good reason for this. They looked good several decades ago when they were first built by the government, and they still do today. In fact, they seem even more attractive now because of the comparison to the more recent boring buildings in and around the town centre.

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There is little evidence that the private sector has contributed much to the generous public amenities first established through the public purse. The whole area is on pause.

This is not to say that it does not generally work for the people who live in the area. It is functioning centre with a medium standard of commercial outlets. However it does seem to be struggling to move to the next stages of development.

This next stage will be hindered if developers continue to build boring bland boxed buildings and more is not done to make the place far more aesthetically attractive — not only for the locals but also to attract people to visit.

The commercial precinct and the parts of surrounding suburbs need an intensification of residential developments. This in turn needs to be matched with encouragements for more business opportunities in and around the centre.

However — the argument for intensification is qualified with the cautionary note that the current ACT government has a questionable record on delivering quality and aesthetically pleasing developments.

There is little evidence that this ACT Government understands the importance of and the linkages between integrated design, aesthetics, landscape, infrastructure, cities, the environment and climate change.

Something needs to change in how developments are delivered; especially  in already established areas such as those in and around this town centre.

Much of the planning undertaken in Canberra is usually fairly sound, but along the way so much gets dropped resulting in too much blandness and beige and short term decisions.

Along with positive steps to encourage more people to live closer to the town centre, there could be further improvements to the community and cultural facilities. Around the world, whenever governments increase their commitments to public amenities and the arts, magic happens and places become active and people enjoy their cities and suburbs far more.

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Almost every week now we see the business sector and the government publish media releases on how someone needs to take actions to update Civic (which is overdue). However we rarely see the same energy or priority put on town centres such as Tuggeranong, where a large percentage of the population have chosen to live.

The Land Development Agency has as one of its reasons for existing: “The LDA is dedicated to achieving new standards of innovation, excellence and value in urban design and sustainable development.” Despite such promising visions, it seems that when it comes to the Tuggeranong town centre the relevant agencies have chosen to take a vacation and allow the place to sink or swim on its own.

This town centre has good basic green and grey infrastructure that was constructed by previous governments. This could have been used by more recent governments and the private sector to ensure that the town centre  had by now become more alive and successful.

The Tuggeranong spokespeople need to stay on their soap boxes, they need to encourage other locals to voice their concerns and the government and business sectors need to take the future of the Tuggeranong town centre far more seriously.

Some bright spark within government needs to take some very positive steps to get that finger off the Tuggeranong town centre’s pause button.

also published on RiotACT

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Paul Costigan

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