A NEW discussion paper, Transforming Canberra's City Centre, was last week launched by the Property Council of Australia and Canberra CBD Limited to 'rev up' Canberra's engine room and accelerate progress in revitalising Canberra's CBD.
In 2014, the Property Council and Canberra CBD Limited brought together planners, public servants, retailers, restaurateurs, building owners and designers to explore how to create new landmark addresses, attract more residents into the CBD and rejuvenate the city's tired existing buildings. Transforming Canberra's City Centre is the result.
"This discussion paper was developed to encourage both the ACT Government and the broader community to engage in a deeper conversation about how we transform our city centre," said the Property Council's ACT Executive Director, Catherine Carter.
"Canberrans realise that our city centre faces many challenges – they see the transport bottlenecks, the empty streets and boring building façades. What they don't realise, perhaps, is that a range of simple and straightforward solutions can help us transform our city's heart into one that is economically and socially vibrant," Ms Carter said.
"The stagnation can't go on any longer - Canberrans deserve better and it's time that together we make real changes in our CBD happen.
"While we are encouraged by the ACT Government's commitment to urban renewal, this discussion paper presents an opportunity for the government to prioritise our CBD, and to develop an action plan with deliverables," Ms Carter added.
The Property Council's latest Office Market Report reveals a record high office vacancy rate of 14.7 per cent. Similarly, Canberra CBD Limited's latest Street Level Activity Report registers a vacancy rate of 15.9 per cent.
According to Canberra CBD Limited's Chief Executive Officer, Jane Easthope, vacancy levels aren't just a problem for building owners and retailers.
"High vacancy rates affect the liveliness of our city at the street level. We need investment in policies and programs that will breathe new life into our city, attract new development and residents, and improve the overall amenity and cleanliness of the CBD," Ms Easthope said.
"Revitalising our city centre is essential for Canberra to remain competitive and attractive in the 21st century. Canberra CBD Limited works very hard at activating public places with events such as Christmas in the City, but creating a world-class city centre is much more than placing a skate rink into a wintery and unpopular Garema Place.
"Whilst events and other attractions are important, reinvigorating the older parts of the CBD is dependent on ease of investment and investor confidence. A good hard look into the red tape, taxes, fees and charges that slow investment, employment and productivity is needed," Ms Easthope added.
"We must work together to create new places for people. The opportunity is great, but the price of doing nothing is greater," Ms Carter concluded.
The 'Transforming Canberra's City Centre' discussion paper is available from the 'In the City Canberra' website at <http://www.inthecitycanberra.com.au/transforming-canberras-city-centre/>.