Ailinga Street (City Walk) and Ainslie Avenue
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Australia's first fully-enclosed shopping complex was not located in the environs of either Sydney or Melbourne but in the capital city of Canberra. MONARO MALL [pronounced "muh-NAIR-oh"], the first 3-level retail facility in the nation, was developed by the Sydney-based Lend Lease Corporation and designed by the Whitehead & Payne firm, also based in Sydney. 

Encompassing a city block, located 1.8 miles northeast of the Australian Parliament, the 2.5 million dollar MONARO MALL was dedicated on March 6, 1963. Officiating at the inauguration ceremony was Prime Minister Robert Menzies. 

The original shopping precinct enveloped 270,000 lettable square feet and contained 61 stores and services. Its primary anchor was a 3-level (125,000 square foot), Sydney-based David Jones. Other charter shops included a (35,000 square foot) Marcus Clark and (15,000 square foot) Coles New World supermarket.

Shopping centres in the vicinity of MONARO MALL included WODEN PLAZA / WESTFIELD WODEN [1971] {5.2 miles southwest} and BELCONNEN MALL / WESTFIELD BELCONNEN [1978] {4.7 miles northwest}.

A 220 million dollar expansion was built between 1987 and 1989. The existing MONARO MALL was worked into a new complex known as CANBERRA CENTRE, with 3 adjacent city blocks being developed with new retail structures.

To the southeast, the block bounded by Ailinga, Ainslie, Bunda and Akuna was filled by a 3-level (145,400 square foot), Sidney-based Grace Brothers and 3 floors of inline store space. An 18-bay (basement floor) Food Court was included as was a 12-storey commercial tower. 

The section of Ainslie Street running between the existing MONARO MALL and new retail structure was closed off, with a fully-enclosed mallway linking the 2 components into one.

To the east, the block bounded by Bunda, Ainslie, Cooyong and Akuna became a 1-level (75,000 square foot) Target discount department store, with a single level of exterior-entranced retail spaces stretching along the southwest side of the structure.

The block bounded by Bunda, Petrie, Cooyong and Ainslie was also filled by a new structure. This portion of the shopping precinct was known as the CITY MARKET, as it was tenanted by various fresh food vendors. The nation's first Supabarn Emporium supermarket was to open here in 1994.

CANBERRA CENTRE was officially dedicated on November 1, 1989. The following March, the Brisbane-based Queensland Investment Corporation acquired a 50-percent interest in the property. In March of 1995, they established full ownership.

Further redevelopment of the shopping centre had been carried out in the 2 previous years. In 1993, the interior of the original MONARO MALL structure was reconfigured, with a new mallway and entrance cutting though to the corner of Bunda and Petrie Streets.

In 1994, an Upper Level "Fashion Mall" was added to the existing CITY MARKET structure, with a multi-storey car park built over the CITY MARKET and Target structures.

The first banner conversion at the centre involved the Marcus & Clark store, which became a Sydney-based Waltons. This, in turn, was rebannered by the Venture discount chain, which folded in 1994.

A 50 million dollar renovation commenced in November 2001. 3 of the CANBERRA CENTRE / CITY MARKET structures were joined by an enclosed Level 1 bridge. This connected the David Jones and Grace Brothers mall with a new Ground and Level 1 mallway built over a section of Ainslie Street. 

The official dedication of the renewed CANBERRA CENTRE was held November 7, 2002. The complex now encompassed 613,500 lettable square feet. A third banner conversion at the complex took place when Grace Brothers stores were given a Myer nameplate, on February 13, 2004.

The next renovation of CANBERRA CENTRE got underway in 2005. The existing CITY MARKET structure was gutted, with a portion of its car park decks being refashioned into retail spaces. Moreover, the enclosed, Level 1 mallway was extended toward the northwest, with enclosed walkways being installed across Petrie Street and Scott Crossing.

The area, previously known as Section 84, was redeveloped with a 2-level, subterranean car park beneath 2 levels of new retail spaces. A 1-level (40,900 square foot) Supabarn supermarket was a Ground Level anchor of the "North Quarter" expansion.

A 1-level (97,000 square foot) Big W discount department store was installed above Supabarn. This was joined by tenants such as Fitness First, Borders, JB Hi-Fi and Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream. The 9-screen Dendy Cinemas Canberra showed its first features May 19, 2007.

Stores and services in the 355,000 square foot North Quarter addition began trading to the public on November 2, 2006, with the project officially dedicated on August 30, 2007. CANBERRA CENTRE now encompassed 963,300 lettable square feet, with a tenant directory of 310 stores and services. The shopping precinct was now the largest in The "ACT" (Australian Capital Territory).

More recent modifications include a Food Court One refurbishment in 2013 and expansion of the existing Dendy Cinemas Canberra into a 2-level, 15-screen operation. The remodeled facility was dedicated June 14, 2017. 

As this transpired, Ground Level space adjacent to David Jones was reconfigured. The Monaro Mall Beauty & Wellness Precinct was created, which housed boutiques such as Mecca Maxima, Jurlique, Perfect Potion and LaserClinic. Existing stores relocated into the the area included Lush, L'Occitane en Provence, Crabtree & Evelyn and Napolean Perdis. An official dedication was held July 13, 2017.

Swedish high-fashion retailer H & M opened a (29,000 square foot) CANBERRA CENTRE store on November 23, 2017. It was installed in Ground Level space previously occupied by Dick Smith, L'Occitane en Provence and Decjuba.

Sources: (National Archive of Australia) (Norman, Disney & Young architects)
"Canberra Centre" article on Wikipedia