Giralang shops – or at least the construction site that will one day be shops again – needs an anchor tenant. I will trial using the community co-operative model to bring something different and viable to Giralang.
Securing an “anchor tenant” is the only viable solution to the saga that is Giralang Shops.
The Labor party has continually dodged the problem for 15 years, blaming the private sector. While there is some truth to that, the government should be an advocate for our communities, especially when the solution is out of reach for residents.
The Liberals policy for the shops demonstrates a lack of understanding of the problem; one phone call to the developer shows they are not interested in selling the block back to the government. Further, the community does not want residential ground floor space – anything there should be community focussed.
Construction has not started because there is no anchor tenant. There have been problems with the commercial reality of opening a supermarket here. First, planning guidelines scuttled a larger supermarket. Next, strong competition from the nearby Coles is a consideration for any generic supermarket. Finally, COVID has had an impact on everything.
A community-owned solution
If we are going to spend money or resources to fix this problem – which we should at this point – I want to invest that in the Giralang community, not a large chain supermarket, or adding value for the developer.
To move forward, I propose a formal trial of something different. I will establish a co-operative, owned by the Giralang community. This co-operative group will sign on as the anchor tenant, allowing construction to start immediately. The trial will be supported, monitored, and assessed. It can be rolled out to other communities if it is successful.
The co-operative will deliver a unique offering to the people of Giralang, Yerrabi, and Canberra. With Coles so close, it is important that the anchor tenant at Giralang differentiates itself. Attracting customers from all over Canberra will be key to remaining viable.
The trial will fund startup costs including a professional community facilitator, business planning, and store fit-out. Investing these funds in the Giralang community makes more sense than incentivising a large chain, or buying the block back from a developer who doesn’t want to sell.
My vision for Giralang shops
With a community-owned anchor tenant, every resident in Giralang will have an interest in the ongoing viability of the shops. The co-op will offer something localised, sustainable, and dynamic. This offering can update as the needs of the community change, so too will the co-op.
With such a strong anchor tenant, other retailers in the space will thrive. There will be competition for the space, ensuring a high quality and diverse range of options for locals to enjoy.
Giralang will once again have a focal point and meeting place in the suburb.
Giralang public school next door could be invited to participate in the co-op, learning about community development, sustainability, and local business.
The Buy Nothing Project has a strong presence in Kaleen/Giralang/Lawson (Facebook group). The co-op model is very compatible with the spirit of the Buy Nothing project, and could make a great partnership. No other supermarket would encourage locals to buy less. This could be part of the unique offering at Giralang shops.
Canberra region vineyards could be invited to showcase their wares if the co-op decided to sell alcohol, with regular wine tastings hosted by the co-op.
- Secure funding for a community facilitator to establish the parameters of a community co-operative.
- Develop a business plan for the community-owned anchor tenancy.
- Fund start-up costs on behalf of the Giralang community.
- Support the co-op as they establish themselves in the local market.