A new $25 million European-style market hall, outdoor play area and eateries including cafes and a pub have been proposed for the site of the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets.
Owner of the site, Elanor Investors Group, wants the new market hall and associated eateries to attract not just Belconnen residents but all Canberrans, as well as tourists.
Taking its cues from food halls in Madrid to Oslo to London, the new market hall will have natural light and ventilation to avoid any feeling of shoppers being in an artificial, mall-kind of development.
Elanor head of real estate Michael Baliva said construction of the market hall, stage two of the redevelopment of the three hectare site, would start in September and take about 12 months to complete, pending planning approvals. Existing traders will move into a temporary market area on site during the construction phase and the markets remain open throughout it.
Mr Baliva said the owner wanted the new market hall to be a tourist attraction in itself.
The design, by Canberra firm Stewart Architecture, included cafes and restaurants that opened up to an outside eating and play area, for children.
There were plans for the precinct to also operate at nights, "ideally seven nights a week", with eateries from pizzerias to pubs to cafes to restaurants.
"We're very excited about it," Mr Baliva said.
"We're looking forward to creating something very unique. Not even NSW has a proper market hall like this.
"We want it to be a real destination not just for people in Belconnen, but people all over Canberra and visitors to Canberra. We want it to be on their list of things to do, along with the War Memorial, the art gallery, the arboretum, the zoo.
"We want this to be on the map as a destination."
Shoppers would be encouraged to take the food the had just purchased from the market and a coffee and sit outside to eat while their children played.
"We want to target providers that are fairly unique. We don't want fast food chains," Mr Baliva said.
"We want unique offerings that you can't get anywhere else in Canberra, small goods, cheeses, olives."
About 70 traders will be in the market hall, half of whom will be existing operators. If a lease was already in place, it was being honoured.
"Some are moving and some really want to stay. It's ultimately their choice," Mr Baliva said.
The proposal includes 190 basement carparks. Another 730 car spaces were in a nearby government carpark. Shoppers would move from the basement parking, up an escalator into the heart of the markets and an internal dining area to remove any sense of them shopping or dining in a carpark.
The design of the market hall, which will have entrances off Market Street and Ibbott Lane, includes a screen on the facade and a sense of airiness.
"The key point of difference it's not a shopping centre, it hasn't got air-conditioning, it hasn't got artificial light, it's all naturally lit and ventilated," Mr Baliva said.
"We're confident shoppers will have a really good experience, whether its a 40 degree day or a minus one degree day."
Meanwhile. construction of the approved $12 million stage one of the development, strip retail outlets along Ibbott Street, was due to start in February.
Tenants confirmed for that area included Chemist Warehouse, Toyworld, Pet Barn and Elements4Life.
A development application had been lodged for the market hall site. Future development of the land would likely include residential units.
"We're redeveloping the site as an entire precinct. It's not just one or two little stages," Mr Baliva said.
The design for the market hall was informed by a fact-finding mission to Europe by the architect and developer.
"We have investments in retail assets along the eastern seaboard. This is unique, but it's based on sound research and understanding trends in retail," Mr Baliva said.
"We're offering something here you can't get online.
"Retail is changing but where there is success is in food-based offerings in good locations, convenient locations in capital cities with significant population growth. This has all those elements so it provides the foundation of a very good asset."
And as for the markets iconic mushroom? Mr Baliva said it was "not fire compliant" so would not be in the development. But an updated version could be included in the children's play area.