Revitalisation doubts as Myer abandons Westfield Woden plans
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Revitalisation doubts as Myer abandons Westfield Woden plans

Shops sit empty and some vendors are struggling to stay open in Westfield Woden one week after Myer announced it would abandon plans to open in the centre.

It is understood the major retailer's decision to pull out, flagged in the company's full year results, was due to delays in renovations and upgrades to the mall.

The ACT Government has been spruiking the redevelopment and revitalisation of the area – even suggesting it might adopt some of the hipster cool of precincts like Braddon – in expectation of the renovation of the mall.

High profile pullouts are not the centre's only problem. In February, some retailerscomplained that high rents were pushing them out of the complex

When The Canberra Times visited on Tuesday the centre boasted at least nine empty shops.

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One vendor even said he would leave if he could.

Hashmat Safaq of Rosewood Furniture said he tried to break his lease earlier this year but found it would cost him at least $15,000 in costs or face what he saw as an impossible task to find someone to take over the shop.

He said he re-signed a five-year lease in 2012, before the public servants emptied out of the building next door, and now business has slowed almost to a stop.

Jamie Alchin from Bell's Dry Cleaners said he had heard other shopkeepers had been experiencing slower trading with the loss of jobs in public service departments in Phillip over the last year or two.

A Westfield spokeswoman responded and said it was "a normal part of business for there to be a degree of turnover" in retailers at any centre. "Lease expiries this year has resulted in new merchant activity consistent with the Canberra market," the spokeswoman said.

She said Myer "elected not to proceed with a new store at Westfield Woden as part of their strategic asset review".

On Tuesday the ACT Government said the planned revitalisation of the town centre was unrelated to the Myer pullout.

"The decision reflects issues pertinent to Myer's business rather than Woden," ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr said.

He said he still expects a development application from Westfield (now known as Scentre Group) for the site in 2014.

"Westfield has been negotiating with other anchor tenants and has indicated that it still intends to lodge a development application this year," Mr Barr said.

He said other major projects would go ahead despite decisions by major retailers and the diggers would move in to demolish the former Woden Police Station in the next two weeks.

"Other demolition work and redevelopment of the interchange will begin later this year," Mr Barr said.

Woden Valley Community Council chairwoman Jenny Stewart has long argued Woden has been neglected in terms of planning.

Exchanges with ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman and Mr Barr on social media also saw the council further its argument that a new bus interchange and a community centre were key to the rejuvenation of the area.