When Ben Holland returned to Canberra after 15 years of working desk jobs overseas, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and where he wanted to do it.
Together with sisters Phoebe and Allison, Holland had concocted a plan to open a cafe in Woden Valley, the area where he grew up and one that was rapidly evolving.
When the old Lyons fish and chip shop came up for sale, the Holland siblings snapped it up and went to work transforming the space into Stand by Me, a cosy cafe with a courtyard, which opened in 2014.
“We wanted it to be a nice little local cafe where everyone feels comfortable,” says Holland. “We also thought we might attract people to the area who wouldn’t normally come to Woden Valley and we’ve definitely achieved that.”
Stand by Me is not the only eatery drawing out-of-area interest. It seems that the pocket of suburbs that make up Woden Valley are enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with a highlight being the Bradley Street Dining Precinct, which will soon celebrate its second birthday.
Within Westfield Woden, the precinct boasts six eateries including Fenway Public House, The Bavarian, and Golden Child, a contemporary Chinese restaurant and cocktail bar.
For those keen to live within strolling distance of this kind of amenity, local developer Keggins has begun work on the 24-storey W2. With architecture by Dezignteam and interior design by Parallel Workshop Architects, apartments in W2 will capture views of the Woden Valley, Brindabellas and Black Mountain. To showcase the potential views, a display suite is now open on the 21st floor of the neighbouring Lovett Tower.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback,” says Keggins’ sales and marketing manager Steph Davies. “People love the incredible views and the quality of the apartments.”
Davies says the stone benchtops and integrated Asko appliances are included in all apartments, from the one-bedrooms through to the three-bedroom penthouses.
“There’s a vibrancy in the design,” she says. “We’ll be activating all of the ground floor, which adjoins the Woden Town Square, giving it a new lease of life.”
Davies says the Woden town centre has seen a lot of gentrification over the past two years, drawing the attention of a younger demographic. The influx of younger residents is likely to continue with the Canberra Institute of Technology getting the green light for a Woden campus, which Davies says will bring 6500 students into the area from 2025.
Holland believes the ongoing new development has been positive for the valley. “A lot of young professionals and families are moving into the area,” he says.
With Red Hill at the northern end, Oakey Hill to the west and Isaacs Ridge in the south east, Woden Valley residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to walking, biking and horse riding trails.
Holland says the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre is well worth a visit, as is the Southside Farmers Market, held each Sunday morning at Canberra College and boasting more than 60 stalls.
Stage two of the ACT light rail, which will connect the north-south line from Gungahlin to Woden, is underway, with the first section to Commonwealth Park set to be operational in 2024.
“We believe W2 is in the best location right on the doorstep of Westfield, with bars, restaurants, gyms, employment and transport infrastructure all offering a huge uplift to the area,” says Davies.
This article has been created in partnership with W2.