ACT News


Street gets new life, but shops and cafes not everyone's cup of latte

DEVELOPERS in Braddon face a difficult task to maintain the area's newfound "funkiness" as old buildings are demolished to make way for the new, according to an urban planning expert.

The Lonsdale Street area of Braddon, just north of Civic, has changed rapidly over the past decade. Streets once dominated by car yards, mechanics and light industry, are now flooded at weekends by trendsetters and hipsters visiting new cafes, restaurants, and boutique stores.

Professor Barbara Norman, an urban planning expert with the University of Canberra, said a lot of Lonsdale Street's appeal stemmed from its connection with its working-class past.

She warned that new developments that ignored the industrial roots could quash the street's recent vibrancy.

"The mix is what enriches the place, and I think it provides variety and interest to people who come. It doesn't just become another suburb, it's got that variety," Professor Norman said.


"Where places have kept some of the original character, almost like combining the best of the past and embracing the best of the future, it's a really successful mix.

''The challenge is how you retain that over time, because what's happened in some other places in other capital cities around Australia is that it's become too much a strip of coffee shops and restaurants, and that's good, but you're almost going from one monoculture to another, and that's not what brings diversity and richness and makes it an interesting place."

There are just four mechanical workshops left on Lonsdale and Mort streets, and one car-yard split into two lots.

But one developer said designs for their new buildings on the street would have a more industrial "grunge" feel, and would include tributes to the mechanical past of the area.

Nick Bulum is creative director at B & T Construction and founder of the boutique pop-up store warehouse Lonsdale Street Traders. Together with his father, Ivan, he is redeveloping the northern end, and says he understands local wariness at the rapid change, and is passionate about maintaining the street's unique, industrial feel.

"I suppose it will be like New York with its Meatpacking District - this will always be like the grease-monkey one. As the buildings evolve, they're going to disappear, which is kind of sad," he said.

"But they were never built to be extreme big warehouses which you could use. They were kind of just small, and for an inner-city thing, you can't really keep that."

Mr Bulum said he didn't like comparisons with Melbourne or Sydney, because it detracted from the area's Canberran identity.

"Canberra was hungry for something, and now they've got it I want them to be proud of it. I want everyone to say this is Canberra, this is Lonsdale Street, Canberra."