Addressing the sad state of Southbank Promenade
This Christmas marks the point when I think we can say that the destructive COVID years are (fingers crossed!) now in the rear vision mirror.
Southbank business has bounced back remarkably well, although Monday to Thursday patronage is still a challenge for many, with the corporate sector still only about 50 per cent at work in the office towers.
Even with household economic challenges, our food and beverage sector is still holding up well, though the top end might be starting to feel the pinch. Who knows what 2024 will bring, but at least this year I am writing with a little more optimism and confidence than during the past three years.
It is covered elsewhere in this edition, but the general condition of Southbank Promenade is raising its head as the major issue for 2024. It’s looking shabby and really showing 30 years of wear and tear.
The Red Stairs in Queensbridge Square is fast becoming an eyesore but take a look under your feet across the whole promenade and you will see signs of neglect.
The City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp and CEO Alison Leighton gave us some hope at the November Future Melbourne Committee meeting held in Southbank. There was agreement that Queensbridge Square needed “some love”, as the Lord Mayor put it. There was also a commitment of sorts to take a holistic look at Queensbridge Square.
Since 2006 YRBA has been advocating to the council that Queensbridge Square doesn’t work particularly well either as an events space or as a place of rest and recreation for workers and visitors.
The square needs a complete re-think and revamp, to convert it from a windswept sheet of concrete into a comfortable place of relaxation, but still with the ability to host small to medium events.
What we’re particularly concerned about along the promenade is the council’s seeming reliance on contributions from the proposed private sector developments to fund the maintenance of the public realm.
Southbank Promenade is awaiting the start of three major developments. Each of these developments have not even started and, therefore, it could be a decade before they are completed, if not longer.
We have put to the council that rather than waiting for the open space contributions from these developments, it should refurbish the public realm to a high standard, befitting Melbourne’s tourist hub, and then, if the new developments need to disrupt the pavement, the developer must reinstate the promenade to the same level of quality.
It’s a problem of being such a popular precinct, but Melbourne’s image among its visitors is now at stake. While we applaud the council’s Greenline initiative for Northbank, we trust it will not be at the expense of cyclical maintenance and the refurbishment of Southbank. •