The development of Braddon’s streets and surrounds makes for an excellent case study on how variations to town planning policies can drastically change a suburb and its local community over time.

The area’s story begins in 1922, when a light industrial precinct was proposed adjacent to the city centre, and kick-started two years later, when the Federal Capital Commission (FCC) held Canberra’s very first public auction and offered 99 year leases on 41 industrial sites.

Back then, Mort Street (which sits behind Geocon’s Midnight development on Northbourne Avenue) and Girrahween, Torrens and Cooyong streets bordered the industrial area, with Elouera Street crossing the area from east to west. Eclectic and popular Lonsdale Street did not yet exist, with rows of pine trees growing in its place on land set aside as a railway reserve.

Despite the destruction of the railway bridge over the Molonglo River during a flood in 1922, and the sale of only six of the 41 industrial leases, the FCC continued to develop the area in the expectation that businesses would require ready access to rail transportation. Later, the commission decided to rezone 17 of the industrial blocks along the western side of Torrens Street for public housing, with the first residents moving in during 1926. Some 30 years later, this decision, which led to people living side by side with noisy industrial businesses such as a sawmill, was to have a few unintended consequences for Torrens Street residents.

The FCC continued to sell industrial leases in Braddon until 1927, however many of these were subsequently surrendered due to lack of market demand and the restrictive, two-year time limit of the leases that required lessees to begin construction within two years.

The remaining industrial sites, unsold or surrendered, were sufficient to meet the small demand for long-term industrial leases over the following two decades, so much of the Braddon industrial area remained undeveloped well into the 1950s. Lonsdale Street did not emerge until then when, with population increases, industry in the ACT expanded rapidly.

Read more about the evolution of Braddon’s industrial area and the neighbourhood in the ACT Government archives.

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