Carter / Time to save the ‘ghost town’

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Ghost town... Garema  Place in Civic. Photo by John Griffiths
Ghost town… Garema Place in Civic. Photo by John Griffiths
“LACKING a heart and a soul”… “A mismatch of modern and dated poorly-maintained heritage buildings”… “A place with no oomph”.

Catherine Carter.These are just three comments from more than 400 people polled on their views of Canberra’s city centre.

The results are clear. Canberrans want more investment in the city centre.

“Transforming Canberra’s City Centre”, commissioned by Canberra CBD Limited and conducted by KREAB Research, finds strong support from Canberrans in three areas: refurbishment of the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings, adapting under-used buildings and revitalising Garema Place.

The report finds Canberrans are keen to see the revitalisation of Braddon and NewActon replicated in Civic, however views were mixed on introducing more high-density residential living.

They also questioned whether a major tourist attraction in Civic would add value. Moving the bus interchange, while acknowledged as an eyesore, was not considered a high priority and opening up City Walk to cars had a low level of support.

Some respondents spoke of Civic being a “ghost town” in which buildings and land were underused. While more frequent festivals, markets and events in the city centre would be welcome, those surveyed said the biggest opportunity lies in upgrading tired, old buildings.

The simplest way to maximise our opportunities in Civic is for the ACT Government to relax the flawed Lease Variation Charge, which is preventing many buildings from being refurbished or converted to new uses.

Developers pay LVC on any building that changes use, which is largely preventing adaptive reuse and renewal of these older buildings.

Canberrans see the city’s problems and they want them addressed. Only when we relax the LVC and adopt a taxation policy that supports building upgrade will we kick-start Canberra’s heart.

Have your say at the Civic Forum this Thursday,  September 10. Register at


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Catherine Carter
Former ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia

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