The Canberra Times

Kingston in FocusAdvertising Feature

Kingston area among the best places to live and to workAdvertising Feature

Making beer great again. The Durham Castle Arms at Green Square, Kingston turns 30 this year. Photo: Supplied

Turning 30 this year, The Durham Castle Arms currently employs 17 people, most of whom are either food and beverage attendants or chefs.

Items they serve include international and domestic craft and artisan draught beer, wines, and spirits, along with what we think of as modern Australian bistro and pub food.

Poised and ready to host your pub lunch, dinner or simply a catchup with friends and family, they also take group bookings for celebrations and functions.

In addition to celebrating the pub's own history this year, managing director Marc Grainger indicated to us that he is also looking to the future with optimism as well as a keen eye on how to best address the challenges being faced by every sector of the economy the world over.

"Kingston is seeing a resurgence in activity, particularly, bars and restaurants, with many talented hospitality operators establishing roots in the area," Marc said.

That said, "as we are all aware, Australia-wide, across every industry, there are supply and labour shortages as a side-effect of COVID.

"We ask our customers, new and current to be patient whilst we adapt and overcome the challenges upon us," he said

"As business operators, we are just as frustrated, if not more, when these issues arise as you are."

Kingston is in a good position though strategically, and Marc is a very long-term local who is passionate about this important part of the nation's capital.

"Personally, I've lived in or close to the inner-south for most of my life," he said.

"I attended high school and college, my first job during summer was at Manuka Pool, I scrubbed dishes, poured beers in some of the best restaurants and pubs, and revelled in the area.

"Kingston and the inner south have always been the coolest districts of Canberra to live, in my opinion."

He believes that continues to this day as well.

"The amenity and the history of the area makes it one of the most beautiful and unique districts of Canberra, and the residents are friendly, supportive, and engaging.

"I feel very fortunate to live and work in the area," he said.

Kingston is home to some of Canberra's oldest historyAdvertising Feature

Kingston Powerhouse was the first public building in Canberra. Built in 1915 and last used for power in 1957, it is now the site of Canberra Glassworks. Photo: Brenton McGeachie for Canberra Glassworks

Kingston has changed a lot over the years, not least of which is because it is the oldest suburb of Canberra. It also remains one of the most densely-populated.

Named after Charles Cameron Kingston who is a former premier of South Australia and was a minister in the first Australian Commonwealth Government, the suburb is only 4km from the centre of Canberra.

It is surrounded by the suburbs of Barton, Fyshwick, Griffith and Manuka.

Looking back much further, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri Peoples are the traditional custodians of the land on which Kingston sits.

In more recent history, there are a number of heritage listed areas in and around Kingston, including Lake Burley Griffin as of May 2022.

"It was the NCA (National Capital Authority) that nominated the lake and adjacent lands for heritage listing in 2009, and so we are glad our efforts over the years have come into fruition," said NCA chief executive Sally Barnes in a statement.

"The listing recognises the significant historic, natural and Indigenous heritage value of Lake Burley Griffin, including Commonwealth and Kings Avenue Bridges, Scrivener Dam and Stirling Park."

The Kingston/Griffith Garden City heritage precinct is also heritage listed. This is where lower-ranked public servants were accommodated as they prepared for the opening of Provisional (Old) Parliament House in 1927.

The Kingston Powerhouse Historic Precinct is another.

Built in 1915, the powerhouse was the first permanent public building in Canberra. It was closed in 1929, then reopened for two separate periods from 1936 to 1942 and again from 1948 to 1957. It became the site of Canberra Glassworks in 2007, 50 years after electricity production at the site had ceased for good.

Another place on the heritage list is the former ACTION bus depot, which since 1998 has been home to the Old Bus Depot Markets.

This site was the centre of government transport in Canberra from 1927 to 1992.

The Foreshore re-development has been a long-term planAdvertising Feature

The planning and vision for Kingston Foreshore dates back to September 1995. Photo: Shutterstock

The ACT Government's Suburban Land Agency's (SLA) vision for Kingston Foreshore describes it as "Canberra's unique waterfront precinct with a strong arts, cultural, tourism and leisure theme."

They go on to say this vision "was to rejuvenate an under-utilised industrial area through the creation of retail, commercial, residential and recreational areas, while preserving the overall historical significance."

Planning dates back to September 1995 when the Interim Kingston Foreshore Development Authority (the Authority) was established.

"One of the major focuses of the Authority was to ensure an orderly transition to the Foreshore's ultimate end as a mixed-use waterfront precinct," according to SLA.

To achieve this a number of principals were developed. SLA's website says "the Kingston Foreshore would:

  • meet Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles

  • complement the existing metropolitan structure

  • provide a diverse range of experiences by allowing the community to access and use the site in multiple ways

  • reflect and strengthen the unique qualities of the natural and built environments and the identity of the Canberra community

  • deliver environmental and quality of life dividends, without placing any undue burden on the public purse, and

  • have a 10-15 year project life, so that development meets need and demand."

The ACT Government also undertook a list of activities which included:

  • "extensive community and stakeholder consultation, including a community census held in 2015

  • detailed site analysis and research

  • a National Competition of Ideas, and

  • the subsequent formulation of a comprehensive development strategy for the site."

In closing, SLA states "The Kingston Foreshore project has been an opportunity to reflect on Canberra's past, present and future with a development that celebrates and reinvigorates its history, but is also leading the way towards a higher-density, increasingly-sustainable way of living."

Lake Burley Griffin is a centrepiece with multiple benefitsAdvertising Feature

Covering 664 hectares, Lake Burley Griffin is described as the centrepiece of Canberra. Photo: Shutterstock

Kingston Foreshore, and Kingston Marina, both exist because Lake Burley Griffin exists.

The Australian Government's National Capital Authority (NCA) describes Lake Burley Griffin as "Canberra's centrepiece."

NCA also says "a significant number of national institutions, parks and national public places are located on or near its shores and [the lake] is an integral part of Canberra's design and is a vital element in the plan for the nation's capital."

The lake is named after Walter Burley Griffin, who, along with wife and fellow architect Marion Mahony Griffin, was the winner of the design competition to lay out a plan for the new national capital in 1912.

In 1959 the federal government agreed to the construction of the lake and committed funds to the project. Work commenced in 1960 and prime minister Robert Menzies officially commemorated stage one which was the filling of the lake on October 17, 1964.

Offering up some numbers, Lake Burley Griffin is a shallow body of water which occupies the floodplain of the Molonglo River. It has a maximum depth of 17.6 metres near Scrivener Dam, and a mean depth of four metres. The shallowest area of 1.9 metres is in the East Basin.

Scrivener Dam is used to maintain the lake level, which is kept very close to 556 metres above sea level

In terms of its size at the surface it's around nine kilometres long, and the width varies from 300 to 1,200 metres. The distance around the shoreline is 40.5km and the surface area covers 664 hectares.

Far more than ornamental, "the lake is a busy waterway with rowing, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating, fishing, model boating and stand up paddle boarding being just some of the activities available."

As such, various associations and clubs organise activities which take place on or around the lake.

There was a time 15 to 20 years ago when talk of motorised watersports saw debate from those who were for and against, but with increased use of the lake by slow craft, anything that disturbs the surface of the water too much just isn't a viable option anymore, leaving calm waters for other users.

A place to see, create, shop and learnAdvertising Feature

Jacqueline Knight is skillfully bending tubes for neon lights in the Neon Studio at Canberra Glassworks. Photo by Pew Pew Studio for Canberra Glassworks

Built and supported by the ACT Government, Canberra Glassworks describes itself as "a dynamic, professional glassmaking facility, dedicated to artists working in contemporary glass art, craft and design."

The kilns and other heating infrastructure of the studios, the exhibition space, the shop and more, are housed within the heritage structure of the old powerhouse, "which was preserved because the ACT Government had the foresight to preserve it for a great facility," said Canberra Glassworks CEO Elizabeth Rogers.

The glassworks only occupies part of the space though, and the area around the old powerhouse is being transformed into a new arts precinct.

Being a visitor site with resident local artists actively creating new works all the time, the mantra for Canberra Glassworks is; see, create, shop and learn.

"You will see amazing exhibitions showing how glass can do extraordinary things," Elizabeth said.

The resident artists are regularly commissioned to do a wide variety of works, and have collaborated with other artists to bring their visions into a glass-based medium as well.

Other works they have been commissioned to do include reproducing vintage light fittings for facilities such as Canberra's Old Parliament House, as well as Parliament House in NSW whose fittings were over 100 years old.

Elizabeth explained that the solution was to take an unbroken one, make a mould and model of it, and reproduce it exactly from that. And it was the only way such pieces could be replaced, since the original manufacturer stopped making them long ago.

The shop on-site has wonderful handmade pieces you can browse and buy, which is another way to support locals as well as see some of the amazing things that can be created with glass.

Another great thing about visiting Canberra Glassworks is you can see some of the resident artists in action.

Canberra Glassworks is also a place for budding new artists to learn more about the craft, as well as other types of artists to come and discover what glass can do and then imagine how their work might be portrayed in this form.

Children can also learn a lot from their experience, whether it's just a casual visit with family or one of the programs that are run at appropriate times such as school holidays or for school excursions. National Science Week is coming up soon (August 13 to 21) for instance and the team is currently preparing some interesting and engaging demonstrations for that.

Canberra Glassworks also run inclusive workshops and short courses in glass blowing, engraving, casting, kiln forming, flameworking, beadmaking and more.

Learning more about glass is especially relevant, for everyone, since 2022 is the International Year of Glass, highlighting the substance's many very important uses not just in art but in our everyday lives from touchscreens and different types of windows, to tableware, lights and many other things.

Taking a new approach to the sectorAdvertising Feature

Principal Nathan Dunn and COO Melanie Rusk-Dunn. Photo: Supplied

Belle Property Commercial Canberra was opened in August of 2018 in response to the Australian Capital Territory's strong development activity and emerging population growth.

Principal Nathan Dunn leads the business, focussing on the leasing, selling and management of key commercial projects and mixed-use precincts.

"Kingston was the obvious choice for Belle Property Commercial Canberra as our residential counterparts, Belle Property Canberra, are located here who do a fantastic job servicing this sector of the property market. It has proven great for collaboration between the two offices," Nathan said.

"Further to this, the Kingston Foreshore is quite a desirable location. We love being near the water, and close to some of Canberra's favourite cafes.

"We are proud to be a part of Canberra and we feel that the Kingston Foreshore blends everything that is good about the ACT into one area. Corporate businesses sit proudly amidst nature. We are, in particular, proud to be a part of the Kingston community with its lively and active businesses, great atmosphere, and again, great coffee."

In terms of their agency, "the sector felt like it needed a new approach," Nathan said.

"Belle Property Commercial Canberra leverages off the systems, structure and process epitomised by the Belle Property residential arm. No other offering in the ACT market focusses so heavily on the process over the promise, utilisation of digital marketing, and above-all absolute client focus."

Early in his career, Nathan felt that the human element of commercial real estate was being cast aside, and he looked to residential real estate for cues on all that is good about the property sector; repeatable processes, quality property marketing, heavy focus on staff training, and absolute client focus and communication.

"The business was opened with these pillars in mind, essentially, taking the best of residential real estate and incorporating into a different property sector."

Belle Property Commercial Canberra is currently a team of six.

"There are two sales and leasing associates who have recently joined the team. They are Keeley Gillespie and Paul Douglas-MacDonald. Belle Property Commercial is unique as the office has its own marketing expert, Melanie Rusk-Dunn, and property management is led by Greg Moore and supported by Lauree-Mae Sutton."

Belle Property Commercial Canberra has three business lines. These are commercial sales, leasing, and property management. These cover all the asset classes of retail, industrial and office.

In terms of their goals, "above all else, we genuinely have a desire to educate the community on this lesser-known property industry and in particular the pros, cons and process of buying and leasing commercial property in the ACT."

Interestingly, "COVID has accelerated the popularity of industrial property. Like housing, the industrial property sector in Canberra has set new record prices lately, with a lack of building and land supply leading to sky-rocketing prices and rents.

"Currently, around three quarters of all of Canberra's industrial propertis lie in Fyshwick and Hume. With non-traditional uses like retail and e-commerce providers taking up more and more space, coupled with minimal new supply, this has put pressure on an already very tight industrial market.

"Obviously, our sector is not immune from interest rate increases, however with a generally more financially secure client base, most property owners in the sector can look beyond the turbulent next few years.

"I do really want more people to know about why commercial real estate can be such an amazing investment option. Mortgage or loan terms are often half that of a residential property at 15 years rather than 30. And more often than not rent outweighs the mortgage, even with this compressed mortgage repayment time period. So although the interest rates are usually higher in commercial, the asset can be paid off in half the time, has amazing tax depreciation benefits, and often provides cash flow and is significantly higher-yielding than residential property, often delivering five to seven per cent net annual yields."

Operating restaurant a real joy at OTISAdvertising Feature

"The Kingston area is experiencing a major rebirth," Damian Brabender said. Photo: Supplied

"OTIS has been open now for six years. Time has certainly flown by," said Damian Brabender, executive chef and owner.

"Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a chef, and open restaurants. After quite some time in the industry, both here and overseas, I felt it was definitely the right time for the challenge of opening.

"Our kitchen team, led by Adam Wilson, is three chefs, one apprentice and four kitchen hands. Our front of house team is managed by Sommelier James Barker, consisting of up to nine staff at any given time, however with the shortages at the moment we are a few short at the moment, so if you know anyone," he laughed.

OTIS provides "elevated seasonal fine dining. Modern classics prepared in an approachable way for everyone to enjoy."

Observing the local culture, "the local industry, meaning the Kingston area, is experiencing a major rebirth. Not just from the effects of COVID, that to be fair is affecting us all as much as ever right now, but a rebirth of the once great hospitality precinct that old Kingston - or original Kingston as I call it - that it used to be 10 years ago. The green square area is a hive of opportunity and energy at the moment. The community spirit between business owners is at an all time high as we face the next chapter together. It really does have a great village vibe going on at the moment," he said.

"When I decided on Kingston for the location of OTIS, I took into account the new Atria apartment complex, and superbarn opening as part of the Eyre street market. The increased car parking that would be created and the visual appeal of green square. The whole area has an air of quality about it, and now with the newer offerings in the area also it is showing to be the place to be. The atmosphere, the friendly people walking around everyday. The accessible nature of the area. And the amazing other business owners in the area. Be it Essential ingredient next door, the hospitality legends at Carabu and The Durham across the road, the friendly staff at Tokyo Canteen and Wildflour, it's a friendly place, and it makes operating a restaurant in the area a real joy."

As for the industry's need to move forward, "hospitality venues have to revisit costings and business plans to ensure viability."

When doing this, "remember why we are in this business; for the customer's satisfaction, and pride of product. Raise prices in line with inflation, the whole country has to. Be fair to your business, your suppliers, your staff and your guests. Don't lower standards to avoid inflation effects; nobody wins that way."

Damian also believes that giving back remains important though.

"OTIS has been a long-time supporter and sponsor of sporting teams, cultural events, public cooking demonstrations and talks, and always has held its door open to work experience kids from local schools. Giving back to the community is pivotal, and helps spread your businesses ethos and message. It also means meeting so many wonderful locals, many of whom have become great friends."

Canberra's Maid Marion party boat as popular as everAdvertising Feature

Clint and Charmaine Rees gave the Maid Marion a makover in 2020 and now cater to a variety of social occasions and celebrations. Photo: Supplied

"We purchased the boat - Maid Marion - in January 2020, but due to COVID were unable to start operating until August 2020," said Clint and Charmaine Rees.

Maid Marion was built in 1997, and prior to 2020 it had been operating on Lake Burley Griffin since 2000 as the pirate party boat.

"The boat was up for sale and it looked like a fun and interesting business to run and offered a great, unique venue for people to hold a party on the lake."

Additionally, Charmaine has a background in managing events and marketing, and Clint has a mechanical background "so it was a good fit."

The business employes 10 staff, including skippers, deckhands and security.

With the boat having received a thorough makeover in 2020 for a completely new style, the crew provide cruises on Lake Burley Griffin for private functions including "birthday parties, hens, bucks, Christmas parties, celebrations and friends and family get-togethers, public events like spirit and wine tastings or Balloon Spectacular, as well as guided tours for bus groups and school excursions."

Plus, "we recently started gin tasting, whisky tasting and wine tasting public events. These have proved extremely popular with our first few selling out in under 24 hours. Due to popularity we are now planning on holding these each month.

"We are also finding we are getting more older milestone birthdays booked with us from 50th to 80th birthdays, which is great and shows our boat is perfect for any occasion."

Due to this popularity, "we would recommend booking early if you don't want to miss out on your preferred date and time, especially if it is a Friday or Saturday evening."

Between outings, Maid Marion is moored at Kingston Marina.

"We love working in Kingston. It's a beautiful part of the city and the residents and other business owners are so friendly.

"The view changes each day with the weather and it is often quite spectacular, particularly at night.

"The Kingston Foreshore is a real community with great support from everyone and we help each other out when needed."