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Arts plan falls off the radar

10 Nov 2016

Arts plan falls off the radar Image

By Nadia Dimattina

A long and ongoing commitment to the Southbank Arts Precinct redevelopment by consecutive State Governments is still yet to be delivered.

City of Melbourne councillor candidate and Melbourne Heritage Agenda group representative Adam Ford recently raised concerns about the current government ignoring its promised plans to connect Southbank with the Arts Precinct.

“Melbourne has been waiting 20 years for this promised connection,” he said.

“This is a vital piece of badly needed pedestrian infrastructure for Southbank residents, who are crying out for their suburb to be made more walkable and better connected to the CBD.”  

In 2014, the Coalition government pledged $1 million in funding towards delivering a major redevelopment of the Arts Precinct as part of the Arts Precinct Blueprint plan.

This proposal involved the construction of an elevated pedestrian link connecting Sturt St with the Southgate complex and St Kilda Rd.

Shadow Minister of Arts and Culture Heidi Victoria said she was disappointed by the lack of progress being made on the former government’s plans for the Arts Precinct.

“I look at what they could have done in the past couple of years and there could have been some substantial stuff and it just kind of hasn’t happened. The current government seemed to have dropped the ball on what was the start of something really amazing,” she said.

Current Minister for Creative Industries and member for Albert Park Martin Foley said the previous government commissioned the Arts Precinct Blueprint and it did not cost or commit to any of its projects.

“The blueprint was blue sky and unfunded,” Mr Foley said.  “This government is building on the best creative and cultural precinct in Australia that is a big part of what makes Southbank such a great place to live,” he said.

“Some projects recommended by the blueprint, including the redevelopment of the Victoria Police stables into art studios for the VCA, the redevelopment of the Testing Grounds public art space and the establishment of creative studios at The Guild, have been put into action.”

“It detailed a number of long-term aspirations for the precinct for consideration by a range of stakeholders – from precinct organisations to local and state government – in the context of future planning.”

Minister Foley said any future projects, including a redevelopment of the arts spine, would need to be considered in the context of a range of budget priorities for the government.

Highlighting the issue as part of his recent bid to become a City of Melbourne councillor, Mr Ford said the project was a realisation of “Southbank’s missing spine”.

Mr Ford believes that better connecting the Arts Precinct will promote venues that are becoming invisible to citygoers.

“Constructing the spine will connect the CBD with what are currently very isolated-feeling venues, particularly in the evening when most do their business, at the south of the arts precinct – the Malthouse, ACCA, the MTC, the Recital Hall and new conservatorium,” he said.

Although The Heritage Agenda did not win a seat on council, its strong views have brought the issue back into the spotlight.

“Regardless, it’s appropriate for council to take an urgent co-ordinating or, if necessary, lobbying role in making this project finally happen for Melbourne, for Southbank and for the arts community,” Mr Ford said.

Cr Rohan Leppert said council was already pushing forward with its own plans for the precinct through the City Rd Master Plan.

He said the plan’s vision for connecting pedestrians from the Arts Centre through to City Rd and Sturt St were much more affordable and achievable.

“The part 3 actions doc on pages 76 to 84 show the plans for treatment of the Arts Centre pedestrian issues,” Cr Leppert said.

“This is a departure from the blueprint but much much more affordable, and so more achievable.”

To view council’s plan visit participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/city-road

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