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05 Jun 2018

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An expert Southbank local

By David Schout

Growing up in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, lawyer and Southbank resident Kristoff Lajoie was apprehensive when he bought into the area five years ago.

Since establishing himself however, Lajoie has become an active member of the local community and shown a keen interest in Southbank urban planning, both professionally and personally.

“I had the same impression of Southbank that I think a lot of people might have had that it was a bit soulless, all about high-rises, and more concrete-than-grass, more telephone-poles-than-trees,” he said.

After viewing a place on Sturt St, he was pleasantly surprised.

“The area was surprisingly low-rise. A lot of green and a lot more grass than anticipated.”

“Five years on and I’m still really happy living here and if I were to move out, it would just be to a better apartment in the same area.”

He has ditched his Myki card, preferring to walk to work on Collins St.

“Being right near the theatres and the galleries is great. The city is just a walk away and everything is next door. At the time (before buying) it was a dream to live that lifestyle, and now I’m living it,” he said with a laugh.

Before moving in, a sense of community was something of importance to him, and any fears of constant resident turnover were quickly allayed. In fact, he has built strong relationships with neighbours who live “not metres away, but the other side of the wall”.

“There’s a diversity of people who live in the area which I think contributes to making it such a great place to live.”

Lajoie said he had met all his neighbours, who regularly attended each other’s parties and gatherings. Even those few who have moved out often return for social events, a nod to the importance of getting to know those that live within close proximity, something he said “not everyone does”.

The 33-year-old acknowledged that, like any area, continual improvements were needed. Through his work at Kabo Lawyers, Lajoie is able to have a lens on property matters in the area, albeit without being directly involved.

“Sure, there’s always room for improvement no matter where you look. The development in Southbank – it’s something that comes with the territory,” he said.

“Sturt St itself could do with a bit of aesthetic improvement as opposed to some other streets that are a bit more taken care of.”

When asked about his longer-term outlook for Southbank, Lajoie said he took a balanced approach.

“There’s my hopeful outlook and my more realistic outlook. My hopeful outlook is that the Arts Precinct will maintain its quality,” he said.

“There are some lessons to be learned from what happened on that (Crown) side of Southbank and, from there, to take a view on the Arts Precinct. There’s so much potential because there are parts of it that are underdeveloped and there’s great potential to learn from those lessons and have much more appropriate development.”

He takes a more diplomatic view on development in the area, and said: “it is what it is.” Some development however, he said was “getting a bit excessive”.

Of an impending 40m-high development on Sturt St in which he stands to lose part of his view, he said: “I can see that it’s something that’s acceptable”.

He said that while Southbank was perfect for his and his partner’s needs, he understood the trade-off of living in an apartment didn’t suit everyone.

“I understand other people have needs and desires, whether that’s a backyard or peace and quiet. Right now it caters to my needs perfectly,” he said.

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