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Southbank Residents Association

08 Mar 2018

Finally a park, but a long time coming

It is with great enthusiasm that I am writing about the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Boyd Park at the Boyd Community Centre on City Rd.

The site was bought from the state government in 2007 for $10.5 million and, not long after, the community received its community centre in the heritage-listed JH Boyd school building.

The centre has a library and a number of meeting rooms. At the time, it was envisaged that the 70s-era two-floor school building at the rear would be demolished to make way for a park and roughly a third of the remaining rear block would be sold to a residential developer to allow the City of Melbourne to recoup its cost for the provision of the community centre and park.

Also at the time, the 239-apartment, residential and commercial development was to incorporate affordable housing specifically designed for people with disabilities.

Despite the development being approved in 2012 by Matthew Guy, followed by a lot of fan-fare by the then lord mayor, Robert Doyle, and developer Ralph Mackie, CEO of the Mackie Group, the project never got off the ground – suffering from continual delays until eventually the agreement expired in 2016 and the City of Melbourne rescinded the contract.

From the onset, Southbank Residents Association (SRA) had argued the entire block should be retained for the enjoyment of the community and not sold to a developer for yet another residential high-rise development.

The City of Melbourne has an open space policy of 20sqm per resident while Southbank is currently sitting at about 3.5sqm and decreasing at an alarming rate with every completed development. To the community it was a no-brainer that this space should be retained.

Despite the development being approved, SRA continued to pressure the council for our promised park but it never eventuated.

In 2016, upon learning the contract was rescinded, SRA saw an opportunity to fight once again for the entire site to be developed into green open space for our community.

Despite intense lobbying and garnering in excess of 1000 signatures on a change.org petition, once again we were unsuccessful and the council put the development back to tender.

Surprisingly, the council awarded the contract to the same failed developer, but now called Cairo Melbourne, even after SRA advising the council that we believed the developer’s financiers were questionable, as highlighted by The Australian newspaper linking the failed business of the then Family First Senator Bob Day to the same financiers.

SRA was assured that the council had done its due-diligence and was given all the necessary sureties that finance was sound. As SRA expected, Cairo Melbourne failed to satisfy the project and as such last year the contract was rescinded once more and now the council is in the throws of sending the contract back to market.

Of course, this only meant further delays to the highly anticipated park, so this time around the council is developing the park independently to the residential and commercial development – and about time too.

In the meantime, the land value has increased exponentially, with expectations of a $15 million windfall to the council of which it has confirmed will be allocated to the Queen Victoria Market rejuvenation fund and not spent within Southbank. Another disappointment to the Southbank community.

SRA has been engaged in all aspects of bringing this park to fruition, particularly with the community consultation, which started in 2014 and most recently with the draft concept plan.

While the whole block has not been allocated for development to public open space, we are very pleased with the final concept plan.

We acknowledge the complexities the project team had with trying to balance the diverse needs and competing interests of our broad and diverse community. It would have been no easy task to achieve the outcome.

SRA truly believes this space will be a hit with the community and will go a long way to creating a feeling of being the community heart of Southbank. The completion of the City Rd west upgrade will add the finishing touches to this community space. While the park won’t be everything to everyone, we feel the balance is about right. We trust the community will feel the same way about this park.

SRA would like to thank and acknowledge Steve Perumal and his team, with particular mention of Victoria Evans and Lewis Wright for their tireless efforts, innovation and attentive listening to the community.

A real effort was made to ensure the community was heard and kept abreast of the progress. It has been a real pleasure working with them on this project. Let’s hope the park is as good as it looks on paper!

Commencement of the park proper will begin in early April. In the meantime, continue to enjoy the pop-up park and check out all the park’s programmed activities on the Boyd website.

If you were not aware, SRA is a volunteer-driven association and relies on membership to ensure it has a voice. The more members we have, the louder our voice.

If you would like to join, please visit southbankresidents.org.au and signup online. Alternatively, you may like to get involved and be part of the passionate team of residents who volunteer their time and skills. Any questions please email president@southbankresidents.org.au

Tony Penna

President 

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