Tag Archives: Town Centre

Jaffle Degustation at 54 Benjamin

12 Feb

In the last few years, the Belconnen Town Centre has grown and changed in more ways than many of us could have imagined. One of the best parts about that has been the number of new businesses that have opened. 54 Benjamin is one of these: a hole in the wall cocktail bar at the bottom of the Churches Centre which just recently celebrated its first birthday. Its wide-ranging menu, convenient location and late-night jaffle menu makes it a favourite among residents and workers alike – and I’m proud to call it my local!

I have to say it wasn’t until Two Before Ten started showing up with their van and breakfast jaffle menu at the Aranda Shops – as it was developed to make way for the new cafe and the Bolt Bar that I was reminded of just how good the humble jaffle is. It’s the warm sandwich that doesn’t fall apart, with no end of delicious fillings. The only risk is a burnt tongue depending on your fillings – tomato, I’m looking at you – but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

54B – as it’s known – has brought jaffles back in a big way, with butter chicken jaffles and alphabetti-cheese jaffles proving a hit: so much so that 54B decide to shake things up a bit by kickstarting their Thursday night ‘event’ series with a jaffle degustation.

Continue reading


Draft update to the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan

27 Sep

As you all know, Belconnen is my home and it has my heart. When I’m not blogging or working, I’m advocating for Belconnen as Chair of the Belconnen Community Council.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve worked hard a range of community consultations into the update of the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan, like hosting a free barbecue at the Belconnen Arts Centre. Master Plans are important because they set out the future character of the area – what things might be developed, what it could or should look like, and what areas should be preserved.

Today the draft update to the Master Plan was released. It includes a whole lot of things that the BCC, I and the community have been advocating for to make the Belconnen Town Centre an even better play to live, work and play, including:

  • clarity about height limits in the Town Centre (proposing different heights for different sites, and providing for both high- and medium-density)
  • activating the previously abandoned Joynton Smith busway and turning it into a cycleway to better connect the Town Centre to Florey
  • increasing and widening paths in the Town Centre so it’s easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get around; joining the path around Lake Ginninderra behind the Belconnen Arts Centre so it’s completely connected
  • expanding the 40km/h zones so that it’s safer for pedestrians and cyclists to move around, and replacing plastic speed humps with build-outs and raised pedestrian crossings
  • providing a multi-storey car park in a place that’s central to encourage activity – ie park your car and then walk around the Town Centre, such as to Emu Bank. This could free up key areas which could be used for entertainment (like on Emu Bank) and also provides an alternative for commuters instead of activity like driving from the Belconnen Markets to Westfield to Emu Bank to John Knight Memorial Park – and may also free up existing car spaces elsewhere

  • preserving the Diddams Close peninsula and considering ways to activate these open spaces, such as community gardens or concerts
  • activating Margaret Timpson Park with play areas (including water play), a legal graffiti wall and barbecue facilities
  • proposing stricter rules around building design to ensure high quality
  • linking the Town Centre to the University of Canberra
  • providing a destination at Emu Bank with more outdoor dining, increased walking areas and – potentially – fewer car parks taking up important lake views

There are also sections in the Master Plan which will require careful community consideration. These include the proposal for different height limits in different parts of the Town Centre and high-rise buildings along Lathlain Street, as well as the eventual redevelopment of the bus depot as housing. There’s also a question about what might the Master Plan be missing? Are there any great ideas out there which haven’t been included and really should be?

The best part about it being a draft Master Plan is that we’ve now got time to answer these questions and provide feedback. Formal feedback opportunities will open later this week but in the meantime please do yourselves a favour and read the proposals so you are ready to comment. There are plenty of diagrams and detailed explanations, as well as overarching statements about the character. It all starts on page 57, but the preceding pages give really useful context (like a study into car park use) as well as a summary of the input the community provided.

Read the draft update to the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan here. The future of the Town Centre depends on your input!

Cafe 2617, Belconnen

2 Aug

Belconnen Town Centre’s Urban Roast has undergone a revamp: the ownership hasn’t changed and the cafe is still bright and roomy, but there’s a new, streamlined menu and the shouting to the kitchen and back has thankfully stopped. The outfit seems calmer and more organised. The lunch menu has completely gone – replaced with blackboard menus which change every three or four days to allow the kitchen to take advantage of what’s fresh and seasonal and be more creative. And, of course, the name has changed.

Continue reading

54 Benjamin, Belconnen

16 Feb

Five years ago people would have laughed if I’d said Belconnen would soon be home to some of the trendiest bars and cafes in Canberra – or that the service in these places would be among the best. But it’s happened. It’s come to Belconnen. In fact, it’s a close tie between La De Da, Chatterbox and newcomer 54 Benjamin on which has the best synergies with Cheers: everybody (at least the staff!) knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

Continue reading

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:

Views: Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan

18 Feb

Have you ever wondered why things are the way they are in the Belconnen Town Centre? Tomorrow night, Tuesday 18 February, is the first opportunity the community has to influence the 2014 update to an important planning document: the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan.

Belconnen Town Centre has had a Master Plan since 1968, since before the damming of Ginninderra Creek to form the lake, and around the time the first offices were being built.  The Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan is just that: a plan. A framework for development decisions. It’s meant to be flexible.

Since 1968, the Master Plan has been updated or revised a few times: in 1974/1975, 1986 and 2001. In 1998, the Lakeshore Master Plan was also released. Now, in 2014, the Master Plan is (finally) being updated again.

This is an incredibly important opportunity for all of us to get involved – I’ll use this opportunity to outline why from my perspective.

Continue reading