Re-lifing our offices can revive our CBD

While the amount of vacant office space in Canberra has decreased slightly over the last six months, our city continues to record the second highest vacancy rate in the country.

The Property Council of Australia’s latest Office Market Report, released last week, finds that vacancy in Canberra has decreased marginally from its record high of 15.4 per cent to 15.3 per cent over the last six months.

This decline is due to a slight increase in demand, as well as withdrawal of office stock from the market.

But with a vacancy rate second only to Perth, we need a lot more office withdrawals to revive our CBD and town centres.

Empty office buildings have an impact on Canberra’s street level vibrancy – particularly in our CBD.  High office vacancy rates should be the concern of all Canberrans wanting Civic to be a dynamic destination.

When we unpack the statistics, we find that vacancy rates for A and B Grade stock have fallen, while C Grade vacancy has risen to 18.7 per cent – the highest on record. 

This statistic confirms what Canberrans see each day with their own eyes.  Many of Canberra’s older buildings – particularly in Civic – are tired and in need of some TLC. 

The challenge of renewing our office stock is also one of Canberra’s great opportunities. Look at the work being done in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to re-life older office buildings.  Converting old offices into apartments, hotels and retirement living developments can be a driver for positive economic, social and environmental outcomes. 

But to achieve this, we need industry, government and the community working together – and we need positive policies, promotional programs and support services that rehabilitate tired areas of our city and help us create exciting new places for Canberrans to live, work and play.

On Thursday 10 September, the Property Council, Canberra CBD Limited and Canberra Business Chamber will host a ‘Civic forum’ to examine the challenges facing Canberra’s CBD – including office market vacancy – and how collective urban leadership can provide solutions.  Every Canberran with an interest in the future of our city is welcome. 

For further details and to register visit: www.propertyoz.com.au/act

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia