Gone are the days of slow winters in Melbourne

Gone are the days of slow winters in Melbourne
Jeremy Vincent

What a dynamic winter period we’re having in the Yarra River Precinct. During my 40 years in Melbourne, I cannot remember a winter period so rich in events and special occasions.

Our rather tired 30-year infrastructure along the riverfront is slowly but steadily getting replaced or rejuvenated. It’s a case of having been “loved-to-death”, when you think about the hundreds of millions of feet that have worn things down during the past three decades.

When we began in 1990, the destination was little known, but during the past 20 years it has been the thriving heart and soul of Melbourne’s tourism experience and has been leading the city’s post-COVID recovery.

In front of Hamer Hall and at the western end of Southgate the Promenade is looking ready for another 30 years. However, there might be some confusion regarding the still untouched major section of promenade in front of the Southgate food court. It’s a long story!

Originally, the City of Melbourne proposed to upgrade the whole section of the promenade between Princes Bridge and Queensbridge Square. For funding reasons this was later modified to a smaller footprint between Princes Bridge and the Evan Walker Bridge.

However, when Southgate’s owner ESR made its announcement about the major redevelopment of the eastern end of Southgate, the council decided to remove that section of promenade in front of the Southgate food court from its schedule of works. It will be revisited once ESR is ready to proceed with the redevelopment, and then it can be done in conjunction with that – a sensible approach. However, annoyingly it could be years before we see the full completion of the Southgate section of the promenade.

That section of the redevelopment will also eventually see the removal of the current trees to be replaced with an assortment of Livistona Australis​, Melaleucas and Jacarandas, which have been chosen for their large canopy spread, tolerance to full sunlight, tolerance to complex soil conditions, longevity, biodiversity potential, high aesthetic value and appearance. A perfect choice, it would seem.

The council has a long-term succession plan to replace all the trees along the promenade, including those 21 trees in front of Southgate. 

As for the upgrade of the rest of the promenade? Between Evan Walker Bridge and Queensbridge Square it’s now anyone’s guess. Originally, Crown was going to fund it as part of a “community contribution” required when building its third tower. However, that money disappeared when the project was cancelled.  

So, funding for the rest of the promenade now needs to come completely from the council’s coffers. Only $500,000 has been allocated towards it in the council’s capital works budget over the next two years to help determine this future stage. And so, the story continues … •

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