Lakeside container village reverts to government control
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Lakeside container village reverts to government control

The ACT government has taken back control of the controversial Westside container village from Stromlo Stomping Grounds, which has struggled with months of delays, criticisms and complaints over unpaid contractors.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who attended a "mad hatter's party" at the pop-up village at West Basin on Friday night, said the site would be run by the ACT property group, which would manage it day to day, including getting tenants on site and organising events.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the Mad Hatters party at Westside.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the Mad Hatters party at Westside. Credit:Rohan Thomson

Announced July 2014, the container village was intended to bring life to the lakefront. The opening was scheduled for September, but construction was repeatedly delayed, with a number of subcontractors complaining about not being paid.

When set up it was reportedly to be managed by Stromlo, but Mr Barr said on Friday the group had been appointed to "see the project through the delivery and initial opening" and now construction was complete, management would shift to the government.

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The government gave Stromlo Stomping Grounds, headed by Terry Shaw, the contract to develop the container village without going to tender, claiming an exemption of urgency.

Mr Shaw conceded in May the build "hasn't been as smooth as I thought it would be".

"It's all a bit experimental, we're using shipping containers, we've got a temporary structure but we're overlaying it over the building regulations ... It's been a longer journey and a harder or a more complex journey than what we anticipated, but we're really really close," he said.

He said then Stromlo's spending on the project had come close to the government's.

The latest figures from the Land Development Agency, provided in July, show government spending of $910,000, including GST, with another $80,000 of works commissioned to fit more vendors and visitors, along with extra landscaping and seating, upgraded entry points and signs. Agency deputy chief executive Dan Stewart said then there might be future upgrades if required.

Mr Barr said it had been "a highly complex project, but the end result will give the area a new identity".

"The community now has a space unlike any other in the city that, even during the winter months, is attracting large numbers."

A new gelato stall, a fish and chip shop and two Indian street food sellers would open soon.

The project attracted criticism from a number of quarters, including from the chief executive of the National Capital Authority Malcolm Snow, who described it as a "damp squib".

Mr Shaw said in a statement on Friday the group was extremely proud of what it had achieved and it would be a "seamless transition" to government management. He did not answer further questions.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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