Canberra Centre Celebrates 50 Years in 2013
On 6 March 1963, Canberra City was brimming with excitement. Prime Minister Robert Menzies was in town to officially open Australia's first fully enclosed, air-conditioned, multi-level shopping centre, Monaro Shopping Mall. In his speech at the official opening of the Mall, Menzies earned quite a few laughs from an audience composed of local dignitaries, politicians, retailers and keen shoppers. In a Mad Men-esque moment of political incorrectness – it was, after all, 1963 – the charismatic Prime Minister described the pleasure and pain of such a magnificent and modern shopping mall. 'I regard the whole purpose of the displays I have seen here today as practically immoral' he said during his ribbon-cutting speech. 'your wife goes along innocently thinking that she's just a spectator, and everything is so engagingly displayed that she comes home having spent a lot more money than her husband can afford. This is what I call wonderful, immoral, tempting and very satisfactory'.
It was the same year that Jack Brabham won the Australian Grand Prix, Margaret Court became the first Australian to take home the ladies' singles trophy at Wimbledon, and supermodel Elle Macpherson was born. The population of Canberra was just over 50,000, but during his speech Menzies recalled a visit to a much smaller Canberra almost 30 years before, when the city was home to just 6,000 people. At the time of opening, Monaro Shopping Mall boasted just over 27,000sqm of retail space and offered 2,000 car parking spaces. Anchored by David Jones and housing 61 retailers in total, Monaro Shopping Mall was encircled by roads, including Bunda Street, Petrie Street, Akuna Street and Alinga Street. With an ambitious design inspired by the market halls of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Monaro Mall was architecturally designed by Sydney consultancy Whitehead and Payne.
More than 540,000 working hours – the equivalent of 60 years – went into building the Mall. Renamed Canberra Centre in 1989 after a $220 million development, a number of major development projects have contributed to the shopping centre we see today.
The development of the Level 1 Fashion Mall (1994), the relocation and relaunch of the Lincraft Superstore (1997), the co-ordination of the Bunda and Petrie Street entrance redevelopment (1993) and an extension to include a specialty re-mix accommodating additional national and multi-national retailers (November 2002). In November 2006, the centre launched the first stage of its $500 million development of Section 84, incorporating an additional 30,000sqm of retail space. This retail component of the project was completed in August 2007 with stage three, the remix of the ex-City Market adding another 6,000sqm to the property. Canberra Centre is now a very different mall compared to the one that opened in 1963, but it still offers shoppers the last word in retail facilities. From exclusive Australian and international brands such as Sass & Bide, Apple and Nespresso, to a car parking system that takes the stress out of finding an available spot, Canberra Centre remains the jewel in the ACT's shopping crown. In 2013 there are plans to reinvigorate the centre's furniture – visitors will be able to shop ‘til they drop, collapse into one of the comfortable new chairs, gather strength, and then shop some more. There are also a host of exciting new retailers on the cards, including a certain European fashion label that is in hot demand worldwide; on 14 March, Canberra Centre will proudly open the doors to Australia's seventh Zara store. To mark a half-century of providing fashion that's the toast of the town, Canberra Centre will be providing many reasons to celebrate throughout the centre. Shoppers will have the opportunity to gain advice from Canberra Centre stylists, take part in workshops or enjoy fashion showings from our top designers. Canberra Centre will continue to evolve and innovate, just as it has for the last 50 years. If Sir Robert Menzies was here, we're sure he'd say 'Happy birthday' – then pretend not to be chuffed with the elegant tie his wife Pattie had just bought him.