Why the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan matters to you*

20 Nov

What makes you come to Belconnen Town Centre? What would make you come to the Belconnen Town Centre more often (or at all)? What would make you spend more time in it?

These are critical questions, and this is your opportunity to influence the answers – and, in turn, the future of the Belconnen Town Centre.

All the Town Centres in the ACT – as well as a few other distinct areas – have master plans. These are high level documents which set out an area’s character and quality, and how it can develop into the future (you can read more about master plans here). In 2015, the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan will be updated. Consultation has begun in earnest.

The thing about consultation is that people need to know that the consultation is happening, and that their views will be taken seriously. Often consultation is on something which has already been developed or fully worked up, which can give the sense that the consultation is a ticking the box exercise rather than views being taken seriously. Fortunately in this case, the three months of November, December and January is the ACT Government’s effort to gather as many views from people interested in the Town Centre as possible. There’s no plan to comment on, just a few documents with some key considerations to help guide your thinking. A 12 week consultation (the initial consultation on Woden Town Centre’s Master Plan was six weeks) is important – it’s enough time ensure the community knows it’s happening, and gives the opportunity for the community to really think through the issues and present their views.

You can meet the planners at Westfield on Saturday outside Max Brenner (what more motivation do you need?)

One of the common criticisms of master plans is they’re not binding. That they’re a guide. They outline how an area can develop, not how it will.

This is probably not going to change any time soon. But I believe in the power of the people:
- the more people who make their views known, the more these views can’t be ignored
- the more that views can’t be ignored, the more they’re going to be reflected in the master plan
- a master plan which genuinely reflects community views benefits from the community having a sense of ownership in it
- the more the community feels they own it, the greater the weight it will have, and the more attention it will be paid.

And that is why the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan matters to you. The Town Centre has some great amenities – an excellent Arts Centre, the Belconnen Community Services and its Centre, Lake Ginninderra, the library, wonderful restaurants, a new bus interchange, live music venues and, yes, Westfield – but it could have more.** And, these amenities could definitely be better connected. I strongly think networks of pedestrian and cycle paths could be improved. Do you agree? Tell them. There’s a real opportunity to have a street cafe culture – restaurants like Pho Hub, Lonsdale Street Roasters and Chatterbox have been a great start, as well as the Westfield restaurants on Lathlain Street – so where do we want to see more of it? If you’ve got ideas, make them known.

Have you ever noticed the huge amount of outside space at Westfield?

What would you like to see along the lake front, particularly at Emu Bank? Do you want more restaurants that face the lake? If so, tell them. Are there places where you regularly walk where there isn’t a proper path? Or there’s a path but people are using a shortcut? Identify it. What could improve the trade services area and ensure it remains viable? Submit your ideas. And just how do you make your ideas known?

      • You can meet the planners at Westfield Belconnen between 10am and 2pm at the bus waiting area on Saturday (22 November)
      • You can also meet the planners at the Belconnen Markets between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, 29 November
      • You can view a poster display at Belconnen Library until 30 January (or check it out here), and one at Westfield until this Saturday
      • You can come along to a design workshop at the Belconnen Arts Centre on Thursday, 4 December from 6pm. You have to RSVP to belconnen@act.gov.au. I’ll be there!
      • You can e-mail your submission to belconnen@act.gov.au
      • You can get in touch with the Belconnen Community Council
      • And of course I’m always happy to talk about it in detail!

AND, if you’d like to read more in the meantime
- I first wrote a post on this back in February
- The Belconnen Community Council conducted a survey earlier this year; this report summarises the views of over 200 respondents.
- Her Canberra published a lovely interview with me about the report
- Some historical resources are available here

Decisions are made by those who show up – or in this case, make their views known. If there’s something you want to see in the Town Centre, or want to see changed, you have to get involved now.

What would you like to see around the lake? How can we best make use of this beautiful amenity?

* I am currently serving as the Chair of the Belconnen Community Council. The views above are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council or the Committee.

** Here’s one such idea:

Brunch at Eightysix

16 Nov

After almost two years in business, people still rave about Eightysix and talk about it like it’s new – which is really saying something given how there’s something new (and good) opening up every week (or more) in Canberra, especially on Lonsdale Street near where Eightysix is housed. As part of October’s Good Food Month, Eightysix – usually only open for lunch and dinner (my first experience here) – launched a Sunday brunch menu which they’ve decided to keep up indefinitely.

In addition to the menu pasted on Facebook, fantastic local bloggers Megan and Natalie‘s reviews had me salivating. Thus, even with a relatively full tummy from dinner at Temporada last night (post forthcoming!), we were committed to having the experience today.

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Pho Hub, Belconnen

14 Nov

There are two things you should know before I start this post:

1) I loved Pho Viet on Beissel Street in Belconnen. I was saddened when it closed (but couldn’t be unhappy when Belconnen got its own Asian Noodle House in its place).

2) I think Belconnen has great amenity. The high rises – whatever you think of them – have space underneath, and many of the newer ones like Altitude and Sentinel, and even Oracle (Benjamin Way facing) have the potential to create a real street and cafe culture. Remedy by Lonsdale Street Roasters and Chatterbox have helped to kick that off.

Look, Belconnen will never be a Braddon – hell, we don’t want to be; we’ve got our own vibe – I think there’s the same sense that opportunities are emerging. There’s space to do things – not land to be developed necessarily, but there’s room to move and create. And hey – compared to Braddon, Belconnen has tonnes of parking. :)

With that in mind, here’s the review:

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Human Brochure weekend – a review by Jane

11 Nov

If you’ve ever wondered what 48 hours in Canberra with me as your (eating) tour guide looks like, this is it. Before the Human Brochure weekend began, I gave you a sneak peek of what I expected our experience to look like. I’ll let my best friend, guest human and superb writer Jane take you on that 48 hour ride:

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Local Press Cafe, Kingston

6 Nov

It’s taken me too long to get to the most talked-about cafe in Canberra: Local Press, on the Kingston Foreshore.

I’ve big plans to arrive right on their opening time of 8am (on weekends) this Sunday morning, but it’s not to be. I’m still borderline gloating that we’ve made it to Kingston by 9am on a Sunday morning, but soon realise we’ll be competing for a table with people who’ve been up for hours and have already exercised and look pretty damn good for it. (I really wish I was a morning person.)

Local Press doesn’t take bookings so it’s all a bit chaotic: there are people waiting in various spots around the cafe for a table to come available. Many people are up at the bar in the centre of the cafe as a holding area, but with agreement from our waiter we take permanent seats there.

While this gives us a seat I think it confuses things a little bit, because it takes us some time to get a menu. It’s then only a few minutes for our orders to be taken, and our drinks arrive reasonably quickly, but it’s a good 40 minutes before our meals come out. It’s easy enough to guess this will be the case given the huge amounts of people they’re serving, but be prepared for a leisurely breakfast, not a speedy one.

Local Press is known for its cold pressed juices so I can’t go past the apple, kale, celery, lemon, cucumber and parsley juice for $7. It comes out in a cute bottle – which gets a good shake – and a straw.

Apple & kale juice with flat white

It’s cliche: I do feel healthier for drinking it. But I also feel conflicted because I really feel like I could have a second one, but would that make it too much of a good thing (or unhealthy?). I decide against it. Boyfriend is a little disappointed with his coffee, which he describes at lukewarm.

Poached eggs on rye ($13) with smoked salmon ($4 extra)

I have major food envy of Boyfriend’s dish of poached eggs on rye – it’s presented beautifully, the colours bounce off the plate, and there’s a lot of it.

Mine’s not so pretty, but there’s just as much.

Salmon and eggs sandwich with dill yoghurt, chilli jam, baby spinach, truss tomato ($14) and avocado and seeds (extra $3)

I don’t eat this like a sandwich, rather enjoying a slide of avo and seeds on toast, and another slice of chilli jam with eggs, baby spinach and yoghurt. There’s a lot on this plate as well, and it’s a struggle to finish. The overwhelming impression I’m left with is just how fresh it all is; it really does feel like only the best ingredients have been used.

Local Press Cafe’s food is as well designed and prepared as its decor and seating – to the point that it borders on too good, if there is such a thing. The throngs of people are testament to that, but serve as a warning – this isn’t for you if you’re in a rush. Bring in a newspaper and relax with a juice and a coffee, and prepare for the breakfast to be your main meal of the day!

Date: Sunday, 26 October 2014

Where: Kingston Foreshore

Cost: $45.50 for two breakfasts, a coffee and a juice

Value for money: The meals are assisted with the add-ons which makes them more expensive; for the quality of the ingredients and the amount, it’s great value

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Try out the website, or Rachi’s excellent review.

 Local Press Cafe on Urbanspoon

Human Brochure weekend

31 Oct

Wow. It’s finally here. The 101 Local Humans endeavour was announced in March, with the ‘Humans’ (as we tend to call ourselves) notified in late April. From May we began a whirlwind experience learning all things Canberra, from food and beer and wine, to cultural experiences, to outdoorsy and kid-friendly things. I’ve been doing this blog for a long while now, and I’m happy to say that what I call the ‘training period’ reinforced all the good things I knew about (and just how good they are), opened my eyes to new experiences, and – most importantly – helped me to continue to scratch the surface.

Because the real Canberra is about what doesn’t immediately confront your senses. It’s about tapping into something beneath what you immediately see and hear and feel.

I’m part of the 101 Humans so I’m biased, of course. But my view is what ACT Tourism is trying to achieve is showing how the people of Canberra connect you to what’s truly special in Canberra.

Basically, never underestimate the power of stories; of peoples’ experiences – nor of their desire to share those with you.

I can’t wait to see and share Canberra with my guests this weekend – one a former resident, and the other a big fan of Canberra who makes the most of each visit.

To readers of this blog, I think there will be few surprises about the weekend I want to show off. I’m passionate about Canberra, and I’m passionate about what I love – and you’ve no doubt read about what I love already.

In addition to what we plan, there’s a special, dedicated event specifically chosen for us. Ours involves spirit. Can you guess?

Below is a snapshot of what I hope to share with my guests this weekend. You can follow what other Canberrans want to show off on the official humanbrochure.com.au page, which curates all of the social media posts from the humans and their guests. And you all know where to find me – the links to my Twitter and Facebook accounts are to the right of this blog. I have even started dabbling in Instagram (despite my drawn out and – I admit – ongoing reluctance)!

Do you recognise what I might be hoping to show my guests? If you had a blank canvas of 48 hours to share with interstate guests, what would you show them?

Friday night drinks at Old Parliament House*

24 Oct

* I enjoyed this experience as a guest of Restaurant Associates.

I count my early experiences of Friday night OPH drinks among my first introductions to Canberra. It was a great way to hang out with friends and meet new people, but I also have memories of it being rowdy with an annoying token system. OPH drinks seemed to take a bit of a hiatus a few years ago, but they’ve always held a soft spot in my heart. I was stoked when the sunshine-filled courtyards were equally resplendent with people – and beach balls – in 2013 in a more sophisticated manner, and looked forward to seeing what 2014 would bring.

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