The Manuka shops were once known as the "Rodeo Drive of Canberra," with high end clothing, jewellery and homewares stores, and cafes and restaurants humming with life.
Now the streets are full of empty shop fronts and For Lease signs, a steady decline that set in long before the coronavirus economic crisis made trading conditions difficult across the country.
There is consensus among business owners that a change is needed to revive the once glamorous, desirable destination worth crossing the lake for, but traders have mixed opinions about what will come next.
Many are hopeful upcoming developments will inject new blood to the area, while some of the oldest businesses are considering relocating.
"It would be more viable elsewhere," admits Caphs Restaurant owner Manuel Notaras.
Notaras has been on the Franklin Street strip for three decades, but the cost of rent and neglected buildings and public spaces have left him questioning his next steps.
He's not alone. Pattisez owner Anna Petridis has also begun questioning her future in the precinct.
"I love Manuka, it's beautiful and it could be amazing, but it's held back by so many things."
'Manuka needs a new energy'
Apartment buildings popping up in the area and a five-storey hotel development complete with a new cinema complex are viewed by many traders as the lifeline the area needs.
"Manuka needs a new energy," Creations and Home owner Michele Black said. The hotel would be a "great asset" for the centre "going through a bit of a lull".
Ms Black said bringing tourists to the area and capitalising on Manuka's proximity to some of Canberra's biggest attractions in the National Gallery and Parliament House would help business.
"There's a natural progression of small business", Ms Black said, who welcomed popular brands like Trenery which opened just before the pandemic struck.
Supporting the hotel development across the road from Caphs Restaurant was a "no brainer" for Mr Notaras who hoped it would put pressure on landlords to invest in their properties.
Maintenance of communal areas on the part of the government, and landlords' buildings are major concerns traders have been raising for years to no avail.
"All of a sudden their side is going to look terrible and have a nice, brand-new complex on the other."
Mr Notaras said apartments will help bring a younger crowd to the area, and he hoped to see Manuka head in the direction of Braddon as a hub for young people.
Meischa Napthali bought her gift shop Lilly Cooper two years ago, and while she agreed the precinct needed some love, she is confident the "Rodeo Drive of Canberra" will return.
The right mix of business would be needed to help facilitate that change, with a combination of unique local fashion and retail brands and essential services to make Manuka a destination for the local area, she said.
For two years, the Inner-South Business Council's John-Paul Romano has been calling for the ACT Government to address general maintenance of communal spaces. A problem he said wasn't unique to Manuka.
Politicians have "too many things to care about", he said, which was the "unfortunate reality" of Canberra's homogenised legislative assembly, combining the role of local councillor and state politician.
"I want to walk around with a group of people, identify where the problems are, have them fixed and maintained."
The business council will soon release a draft masterplan for Manuka to traders in the precinct for consultation, to then be handed to government in the hope of resolving their issues. Among them are maintenance, parking and waste collection.
'The area is going to stay empty for a long time'
There is no set completion date for the long-mooted hotel complex, and the draft masterplan is also a slow process. For now, the lease signs and empty windows are likely to stay, with business confidence at a low ebb due to coronavirus.
Patissez's Ms Petridis has watched a store across from hers go through three retailers in two years, now she is concerned coronavirus and the cost of rent will see it remain empty for a long time.
"Retail and hospitality took such a massive hit, people are not going to be willing to dip their toe into that for a while," she said.
And for those stores that are filled there is concern for buildings falling into a state of disrepair. Ms Petridis said tenants should see the benefit for the "premium" paid for the location, but landlords weren't maintaining properties.
Mr Romano said the "over supply of commercial space" should result in lower rent prices due to the lowered demand, but increasing rates is putting pressure on landlords.
Commercial property lawyer Susan Proctor said "unsustainable" commercial rates left landlords without funds to improve or maintain property. One of the biggest issues, she said, was rates being calculated on land value.
"There's an assumption that if you can afford to own a place in Manuka ... you can pay whatever it costs. I don't think that's a fair assessment of ownership."
Ms Proctor represented Manuka businesses' at an ACT parliamentary inquiry into commercial rates last year, stating a lack of government spending on the "outdated" area and increasing rates meant landlords couldn't command rents needed to maintain a competitive yield.
Twenty-five recommendations made by the inquiry included creating a taskforce to improve transparency and certainty of commercial rates, relief for commercial lessees who have extended vacancies in their properties and greater predictability in rate increases.
Ms Proctor said the recommendations hadn't been adopted.
The added pressure of coronavirus may delay new stores setting up shop in Manuka, Ms Proctor said, as despite relief for landlords and tenants there is uncertainty surrounding rates post-coronavirus.
"Is any slight relief being offered going to be added next year to recoup it?" she asked.
The Mandatory code of conduct for landlords adopted by the ACT Government on Monday sets out guidance to landlords in assisting tenants who had suffered more than 30 per cent loss of revenue. The ACT Government is offering a discount on rates to businesses who have reduced rent, but Ms Proctor said more is needed.
Moving forward, businesses want cohesion to table concerns and address them.
"Something good will come out of this at the other side," Lilly Cooper store owner Ms Napthali said.
"We do need to work together as businesses."