A controversial urban renewal project in Canberra's inner north has been given the tick of approval by locals.
CHC Affordable Housing is in the final stages of designing up to 300 new residences including townhouses, apartments, independent living units and a childcare centre on the site of Downer's old primary school.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr officially launched the project on Wednesday, saying the precinct would be a "real focal point for the inner north".
Minister for Planning and Development Mick Gentleman approved the high-density housing project in May amid vocal opposition from residents.
But Patti Kendall and Denys Garden of the Downer Community Association, who attended the project launch, said they were pleased the development was entering its next stage.
"Downer been quiet but it hasn't been dead. To see all of this starting, it's just really good for Downer," Ms Kendall said.
Mr Garden said CHC appeared "quite keen" to communicate with the community again about the final plans for the precinct.
A development application is expected to be lodged in the next six months, CHC Affordable Housing chief executive Kim Sinclair said.
She said the growing demand for housing for low-income families in Canberra is a driving factor for the development.
"While we currently hold over 400 homes in the Canberra area, our goal is to hit 500 in the next couple of years and to keep increasing that portfolio," Ms Sinclair said.
"Part of that is regenerating and repurposing sites that may be underutilised for more affordable housing. Hopefully it will bring a bit of heart back to this space."
It's an invigorating time for the aging suburb.
Life drained out of the precinct first with the closure of the school in 1988 then the shopping centre in 2005.
But the Downer shopping centre overhaul – expected to be completed by Christmas – should inject some soul back into the suburb, independent developer Theo Poulos said.
"We've got a vet signed up for one of the tenancies, we're just about to sign a licensed cafe come suburban pub on one side, we have a South Korean barbecue and we're just negotiating with a bakery next door so we're pretty much full leased," Mr Poulos said.
"Everyone else wanted to knock it over but we wanted to save it so it's been an interesting challenge but we're getting there."
The centre is not the only relic in the suburb set to be saved.
The heritage trees that border the site are to be maintained and the old school courtyard will be preserved for the community to use, Ms Sinclair said.
"We've been engaging with the community to understand their aspirations for the site, we'll continue to engage with the community as we go forward and be part of it when we're complete so we're not moving on," Ms Sinclair said.
''We're going to be here for the long term too and we want to be a good neighbour here."