Tensions are high in the new suburb of Coombs as frustrated residents continue to fight for a supermarket three years in the making.
Developer Renato Cervo said on Friday he had secured one tenant, although would not provide details of the business. He said he was in negotiations with others. The approved development allows a 1000-square-metre supermarket and nine smaller tenancies.
The construction of the shops has become a protracted battle since the ACT government sold the land to Mr Cervo in 2015.
Just a week before the auction, the government reduced the size of the proposed shopping centre which arguably made it more difficult for the eventual purchaser to find a tenant.
Mr Cervo, who technically has until April 2019 to open the shops, said the delays were out of his control.
Meanwhile, residents are suffering an inconvenient situation.
Coombs resident William Noble said the community had to rely on the already overcrowded Cooleman Court to do their shopping, about 10 minutes away by car.
He said he missed the ability to easily swing past the suburban shops to get a loaf of bread or milk.
"It's not so bad either for people like myself who are employed and have transport," Mr Noble said.
"But with people in public housing moving across from the shops, it should be easy for them to get to. Public transport from the new suburbs to Cooleman Court is shocking."
Mr Noble added there was fear amongst residents that if no tenants were secured the development would go under, be rezoned and a residential development would be built instead.
However ACT minister for planning and land management Mick Gentleman moved to allay community fears by ruling that possibility out.
"I can say unequivocally the ACT government will not be rezoning this land because we want local shops developed and opened there," Mr Gentleman said.
"We zoned to allow for a shop, sold the land for a shop, approved the DA for a shop and support the development of a shop on that site.
"Certainly, the ACT government expected the developer would have opened a shop there by now."
Mr Gentleman added the government had no ability to intervene with the development to speed up the process as the contract signed with the developer gave him 48 months to complete the project. That time frame will not expire until April 2019.
The government's role, Mr Gentleman said, was to set a vision for the areas, introduce planning rules and zone the area to meet the government's vision. It was not appropriate for the government to engage in commercial enterprises such as the development of a shopping centre.
Mr Cervo said he was as disappointed as anyone that the shopping centre had so far been unable to proceed.
He said residents were unaware of the costs he had incurred, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in rates and maintenance fees, while the project had stalled.
"It's in my interest to finish the job," Mr Cervo said. "I don't want to go broke because of this."
He said he had secured one tenant, although would not provide details of the business and was currently in negotiations with other businesses to secure further tenants.
Mr Noble said the experience of Coombs residents should show the ACT government that better legislation is needed.