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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Community calls for Manuka to be revitalised

A strongly worded letter from the Griffith and Narrabundah Community Association (GNCA) has called on the ACT Government to rejuvenate the Manuka precinct that they say is “in a state of depressing decline”.

Citing “cracked and shabby paved areas, pedestrian-unfriendly streets, unhealthy trees, fenced off areas awaiting development and other eyesores”, the letter, written by GNCA President Leo Dobes, suggested “significant improvements could be achieved with a number of simple cosmetic measures”.

The improvements suggested by the GNCA include laneway makeovers, more public bins, replacing existing graffiti with commissioned “congenial street art”, and converting of Franklin Street between Furneaux Street and Flinders Way into a shared traffic zone, akin to Bunda Street in Civic.

Inner South Canberra Business Council (ISBC) Chairman John-Paul Romano said they don’t believe the precinct is in depressing decline.

“We certainly agree that the amenity of the area is begging to be upgraded,” he said.

“We can see that this is not the sole duty of government, it is also the duty of local businesses and developers.

“The ACT Government needs to also invest, in nothing major, rather smaller things like repainting old heritage street furniture, landscaping, tree maintenance and planting more trees.”

The heritage-listed London plane tree on Franklin Street.

ACT Shadow Planning Minister Mark Parton told 2CC radio that the lack of attention shown by the government toward Manuka precinct, combined with rising commercial rates, make it hard for nearby business owners.

“Leaf sweeping, uneven and cracked pavement … all of these factors are leading to fewer and fewer people coming to the area.

“Those commercial rates are a massive concern for local business; they do put pressure on the rents for tenant businesses, and they also translate to less money to be spent on the maintenance of the building.

“When I arrived (in Canberra) at the back end of last century, Manuka was the place to be … You have to get in there, display a bit of respect for Manuka, and spruce it up in the little ways,” he said.

Mr Romano said local businesses want to see the Liangis family’s proposed multi-million dollar hotel development on the corner block of Flinders Way and Franklin Street go ahead, which is currently being held up due to a heritage-listed London plane tree on Franklin Street.

“It will certainly be a great rejuvenation, coupled with the Morris Group’s 400 apartments going up where the Stuart Flats were.”

Mr Romano said because of the way the ACT planning regulations work, the developer can’t even demolish the existing, semi-vacant building.

“We may get to the point where it becomes similar to the row in Curtin where there’s a hoarded-up building sitting closed for two to three years … we certainly don’t think anyone would like to see that happen,” he said.

The ISBC has sent a letter to Minister Gentleman co-signed by 80 local businesses, stating they want that development to go ahead.

The GNCA’s letter presented a solution, which would involve designing the building to wrap around the tree, “creating an enclave with seating that is shaded by the tree”.

The ACT Government was contacted for comment but did not respond by print deadline.

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