“It’s only natural council will be defensive”: Overshadowing concerns for linear park

David Schout

Early indications from designs suggest the new NGV Contemporary (NGVC), while impressive, could overshadow Southbank Boulevard’s linear park, leading one City of Melbourne councillor to suggest the state government should offset the impacts with a new Southbank park.

Detailed plans for the 60-metre-high building — the centrepiece of the state government’s $1.7 billion Melbourne Arts Precinct transformation — were yet to land in the council’s hands.

But designs revealed on March 15 raised questions of whether the landmark project might present a sub-standard interface with Southbank to the west, and in particular excessive overshadowing of the local park outside the ABC which opened just six months ago.

Cr Rohan Leppert said that while the initial plans were “spectacular”, the project’s impact on Southbank’s limited green space needed to be addressed.

“Council spent considerable funds on the Southbank Boulevard linear park project, as locals well know,” he said.

“It’s only natural that council will be defensive about that project. We want to ensure that the usability of all of the scarce green open space in Southbank is not compromised.”

Southbank is one of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia, and the dearth of nearby public areas has long been the source of angst among local residents.

Cr Leppert, the council’s deputy planning chair, suggested that if excessive overshadowing did indeed occur as a result of the large-scale development, the state government should carve off a “tiny slice” of the $1.7 billion project to help pay for another local park for Southbankers.

“While there will be new wonderful publicly-accessible open space as part of the Melbourne Arts Precinct development, this is not the same as a local neighbourhood park, so I do think the state government should chip in for another local neighbourhood park further west into Southbank, to offset some of the impacts of the Southbank Boulevard overshadowing.”

Cr Leppert said he would like to see Martin Foley, local member for Albert Park, advocate on behalf of residents for this.

He remained confident the council could ensure the best possible result.

 

The detailed plans are still likely to come to council, so I look forward to our landscape planners and design experts adding value to the design and ensuring that its interface with the public realm is exemplary.

 

The City of Melbourne has already expressed concern about the project’s bulk and what that could mean for locals.

At the February 1 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, a report from council officers stated that overshadowing of the Southbank Boulevard linear park was one of the “key issues” it wanted addressed in an amended master plan.

However, the council would not confirm with Southbank News whether it had yet conveyed these concerns to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne.

At that meeting, planning chair Nicholas Reece said that while there was a “hugely exciting vision” for NGV Contemporary (or the “National Gallery for Contemporary Art and Design”), the council’s support hinged on amendments.

“The City of Melbourne does welcome the Victorian Government’s investment in the Arts Precinct, and NGV Contemporary is going to be an incredible addition to the precinct and secure our reputation as one of the world’s leading locations for fine art,” he said.

“Having said all that, it’s important that we get the design of the vision right, and how it actually hits the ground and interfaces with the local community is a very important matter.”

The preferred building height on Southbank Boulevard is 24 metres, however the plans proposed a height of up to 60 metres for NGVC.

“[To support that height] we will want to ensure that what comes before us is something truly, truly world-class in terms of design excellence,” Cr Reece said.

It is not yet known when the City of Melbourne will receive detailed plans of the project •

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