Canberrans have always known our city is a well-kept secret: a rare mix of national institutions and country charm, federal politics and home-grown community, urban beauty and wide-open spaces.
But this year, the world discovered our little secret, when the OECD ranked 362 regions in 34 countries, finding Canberra came out on top in terms of access to broadband, education, income, jobs, environment, health, safety, housing and civic engagement.
2014 was a year in which Canberra’s reputation as bland and boring made way for a new cool, creative vibe. The New York Times praised our “big-sky beauty, breezy civic pride and a decidedly hipster underbelly”, while a number of our developments won national awards for design.
People around Australia are talking about the NewActon precinct, which picked up the national Australia Award for Urban Design; the suburb of Crace, a reinvention of the Great Australian Dream, was named the nation’s best master planned community, while Hotel Hotel picked up Gourmet Traveller’s gong for best boutique hotel.
Inspired, imaginative people around our city are daring to be different. The organic evolution of Lonsdale Street, which has moved to The Hamlet, oozes an indie vibe of hole-in-the-wall bars, food vans and rickshaw food tours. The soon-to-open shipping container village down by Lake Burley Griffin has captured the imagination of the city. A world-record million LED lights in Civic created a new festive vibe, while night markets in Barton attracted a new crowd sniffing out Christmas bargains.
As we think about the places we love and the activities we’ve most enjoyed this year – whether that’s window shopping in civic, dining out in the restaurant precincts of Kingston, NewActon or the North Quarter, marvelling at the collections in our museums, or catching a flick at the cinemas – take a moment to consider where we’d be without the people willing to take the risks to create these spaces.
These retail strips and restaurant precincts, museums and market spaces, pocket parks and public infrastructure are all shaped by consumer demand. Canberrans want a better city – and that’s what the development industry is delivering.
Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia