Belconnen's skyline is rapidly changing.
Ten years ago the town centre had no high-rise buildings, now it's home to the capital's two tallest towers. The milestone recently achieved after Geocon's High Society towers topped out at 113 and 100 metres, respectively.
More tall towers are set to come after new planning rules came into effect last year that would allow buildings of up to 28 storeys in the town centre.
As a result, thousands more residents are set to call the town centre home over the next decade, albeit slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic as its unclear when international students will be allowed back.
Belconnen already has the highest number of apartment dwellers in Canberra, according to the 2016 census. On census night 3647 people lived in units in the town centre but no doubt that number has swelled as more unit blocks have been completed.
Some say the town centre is shaping up to be a serious alternative to Civic, particularly with a proposed $1.7 billion expansion of residences at the University of Canberra.
Residents think the densification has helped to make the area more lively and businesses are coming to the area.
But many have expressed an emphasis on making the town centre better linked and have cited a disconnect between the university and town centre as one of the shortfalls.
"Opening up the connection to the Belconnen town centre"
A number of developers have had their eyes on the Belconnen town centre in recent years.
Cirrus by Per Se Developments is one such complex coming to the Belconnen town centre, it is due to be completed early next year. Cirrus will comprise 217 apartments across three buildings of 13, 14 and 24 storeys, along with five commercial tenancies.
Per Se managing director Anthony Tokich said he had confidence in the Belconnen town centre and he hoped Cirrus would prove a good connection to Westfield.
Mr Tokich said while commercial tenancies had yet to be decided he hoped to target a mix of restaurants and cafes for a lakeside dining experience.
"[We want] to create a vibrant colonnade in the area and to invite people from Westfield to actually come down and enjoy some of our dining and eateries and take advantage of that lake view," he said.
"It will be the link between the lake and Westfield. I think it will draw people from Westfield and also from Westfield to the lake."
As well as Cirrus, Geocon is in the process of constructing what it says is Canberra's largest mixed-use precinct, Republic. The development will have 1250 apartments and about 3000 residents, along with an array of commercial offerings.
Other development applications to go before the planning authorities include a 12-storey building by HTI Group and two 27-storey towers by Morris Property Group and Amalgamated Property Group.
What impact the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent slowing of construction will have on the town centre is unknown.
But the coronavirus pandemic has already held up some development.
Four years ago the University of Canberra signed a development deal to build up to 3300 new residences on campus and these would bridge a connection between the university and Belconnen town centre.
UC had a deal with the ACT government that a maximum of 2000 dwellings would be released each year and this would start in 2017 but this has not yet happened.
A spokeswoman from UC said this could not happen until requirements under the project agreement happened but said planning was underway.
However, the coronavirus pandemic had made it more difficult to reach such requirements.
"Master planning for the proposed residential development area is well advanced," the spokeswoman said.
"However, the current pandemic has added another layer of complexity to this process. No residential dwellings can be released for sale until the requirements under the project agreement have been completed.
"The master plan for the whole university campus - including the proposed residential development - takes into account opening up the connection to the Belconnen town centre."
According to Belconnen Community Council chair Glen Hyde a connection between UC and the town centre would be the key to making it the most functional town centre in Canberra.
"A good mix of residential and commercial"
Mr Hyde welcomes more residential in the town centre. An apartment dweller himself, he said it had proved beneficial for businesses in the area.
"The direct evidence of the small businesses that have opened up in the town centre as a result. I could name three coffee shops that existed 10 years ago outside of the mall and now, pre-COVID, there's about 16," he said.
"It grew on the back of the development of residential here because we have got a good mix of residential and commercial in a lot of those sites. We've been able to make those offerings to the community and sustain business as a result."
Over the years there has been some stoushes between the council and developers but they have perhaps not been as inflamed as others around town.
Mr Hyde said it was important that mixed-use precincts did not lock out the community or adversely impact existing commercial premises.
"We have to be a bit more clever around the precinct style developments," he said.
"The thing that concerns me is we might be locked out existing town hubs within the town centre by having these precinct style developments.
"Again, if you are not constraining a businesses right to trade and to thrive, I have no problem whatsoever but we have to strike a balance, not just environmental sustainability but economic sustainability as well."
New development had provided an opportunity for Canberra hospitality venues to expand. Italian restaurant, Trecento is set to open another restaurant at the Republic precinct. The restaurant first opened in Manuka in 2017.
"Expansion plans have been on the horizon for some time now and while COVID-19 has caused some disruptions, this was an opportunity for us to spread our wings," Trecento owner Josh Kosteski said.
Mr Kosteski said the decision to go to Belconnen was cemented when the restaurant would do more than 20 orders a night to the north side during the pandemic shut down.
"We are delighted to be partnering with Geocon to expand Trecento into the Belconnen region," he said.
"Having the opportunity to place our brand at the base of Canberra's tallest building is very exciting and we are looking to serve a whole new landscape of people in a thriving area that is seeing new developments being completed regularly."
For offices, Belconnen had shaped up to be a genuine alternative to Civic, Colliers International ACT office leasing executive Caleb Brinton said.
"It's a more affordable area and in some respects it has similar quality buildings," he said.
"It doesn't necessarily have the A-grade development the CBD is currently seeing but there is a really strong value for money proposition out there, generally when we get inquiries they're looking between the CBD and Belconnen as an affordable alternative."