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What’s behind the lights?

Southbank Residents’ Association

11 Jul 2019

A big month

There were two significant items since my last column, and I would like to have gone into them in more detail, but we have limited space.

Firstly, the 2019/20 budget was released by council. I was gobsmacked to see that once again the City Rd upgrade has essentially been overlooked. In our budget submission we argued for more funding, to be told that $5 million had been allocated. I could only see $500k for a dog park at the Kings Way undercroft.

In my verbal response to our submission I asked for the council officers to show me where the line items are for the other $4.5 million. To date, I have not heard from the council officers directing me to these line items. I suspect they aren’t there. I have heard that one of the reasons to further delay this project (by the way, it is now into its third year of delay, based upon the timeline given to the community in the City Rd masterplan document) is that there is so much happening in Southbank already with the Southbank Boulevard upgrade and Boyd Park.

While there is lots happening in Southbank, those projects were already identified within the masterplan as running concurrently with the City Rd upgrade. If anything, with the delays that we have already experienced with City Rd, then I would think that works in City Rd’s favour. But, apparently not. In any case, I have not been given any definitive reason why the master plan has the timeline so wrong, nor when funding will be provided. Rest assured, your Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) committee will not let up on this.

I can’t help but think the council officers are paying lip service to the residents of Southbank. At last year’s budget, Cr Rohan Leppert successfully moved a motion, unanimously endorsed, to improve the communication with the residents of Southbank by creating its own project web page and to update the projects accordingly. Well, the City Rd upgrade project has not had a single update since the masterplan was released almost three years ago, and the Southbank Boulevard upgrade is very haphazard with its updates. On the ground I can see significant development, but no mention online. It’s disappointing council officers can’t afford the community a little attention with keeping us informed.

And the other big item is the announcement of the successful developer for the Boyd site. There is a lot of history with this site, namely SRA’s relentless lobbying to save the entire space for open space instead of selling it to a developer to build yet another high-rise in Southbank. A few years ago, our petition garnered thousands of signatures in support of retaining the space. While ultimately, we were not successful with retaining this space, we have had a number of wins with how this space will now look. We successfully reduced the development footprint by about 30 per cent and have secured 1000 sqm of public space across two floors. When we realised we were not going to win to keep the space, we demanded the internal space to expand the over-subscribed library and community facilities. We are delighted council took this on board and included it within their tender brief. Interestingly though, the development is now about 30 per cent taller than the previous, failed, developments, yet council have added a boutique hotel, but kept the number of affordable housing apartments at the same number of 40. It is pleasing to know it will achieve a six green-star certification. Council is well-versed with the developer, PDG, through their relationship with the Queen Victoria Market (QVM), Munro site. PDG is certainly a credible and respected developer. I have no doubt they will produce a quality outcome. Council will receive a $16.5 million windfall from the sale of the land, some $9 million more than originally anticipated owing to the delays on the previous two failed attempts to develop this site. It would have been nice to see that $9million spent in Southbank, but instead it will be going to the QVM renewal project to assist with funding there. Overall, while we were unsuccessful at preserving the land for more open space, we have had several significant wins.

The SRA Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on Thursday, July 25 at the Malthouse Theatre (Tower Room), 113 Sturt Street, Southbank at 6.15 for a 6.30pm start. The meeting should go for no longer than two hours. I welcome everyone from the community to attend and hear from our guest speaker, Hannah Clement, Melbourne Arts Project Director at Development Victoria, to tell us all about the planned Arts Precinct upgrade. This is certainly an exciting project and will put Southbank on the map. We will then elect a new committee for 2019/20. If you have an interest in your community and would like to assist on our committee, I certainly encourage you to reach out to learn more about how you can be involved. More importantly, come along to hear what your local residents’ association has achieved over the past year and what we have planned for the coming year. You will need to be a paid-up member to vote on the night though. You can join through our website

Tony Penna - President

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