It follows a separate review last year, which found a 70 per cent fall in foot traffic and a 30 per cent decline in business revenue. Business exit rates had also increased by almost 19 per cent.
Hibberson Street sports supplement store owner Cam McAlister said businesses were struggling to recover customers lost during the construction period, who had instead begun shopping at Amaroo and Casey.
«It’s gotten even worse since Hibberson Street opened up,» Mr McAlister said. «Sales are still going backwards. Customers have changed their shopping habits and it’s going to take time to win them back.»
He said it was strange to see the area so quiet at a time when the population was booming.
Gungahlin Community Council president Peter Elford said while the new shared zone was «really pleasant» it was still quiet.
«It’s a no man’s zone. The construction’s over but there’s no additional benefit from light rail,» Mr Elford said.
Ongoing construction on roads including stage one of the Gundaroo Drive duplication was not helping the situation, nor were the delays to the new bus network, he said.
MyGungahlin’s Mark Scarborough said there were problems with traffic flow in the redesigned area, although people were happy with how the zone looked.
«People have formed new habits and are going to other centres, there needs to be a lot more effort in getting people back into the town centre,» Mr Scarborough said.
While business owners like Mr McAlister had called for help with rent or advertising and marketing while the construction was ongoing, the ACT government instead offered social media training through the Canberra Business Chamber and created a new Facebook page to promote the town centre.
New Business Chamber chief executive Michael Shaper did not respond to questions about how their business support program was going.
The government also spent tens of thousands of dollars on the Celebrate Gungahlin festival, only for it to be washed out.
But Mr Milligan said businesses did not want «half-baked events» or «social media blitzes».
«We had clear lessons learnt from the businesses and it’s now time to implement them before it’s too late,» he said.
An ACT government spokeswoman said lessons had been learnt from the project, and were being applied to other projects.
«For example, works to upgrade the Sydney and Melbourne building verges was supported by naked fencing so that patrons could see through to the businesses, there was bespoke signage used and fortnightly construction updates were provided to keep local businesses informed of progress,» she said.
The spokeswoman said the government was also continuing to help businesses in Gungahlin, with a case manager available to help them expand their operations through activities like getting approval for outdoor dining.
«The ACT government is very cognisant of the impact infrastructure projects can have on existing services, businesses and our road network,» she said.
«It is rarely possible to completely eliminate all construction-related impacts, so the government has sought to minimise impacts during light rail construction by staging works, managing traffic and through business support and consultation.»
Light rail is due to start running in late April, with the government understood to be planning a major launch event.
Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.