Let’s get the “undercroft” on the national agenda

Let’s get the “undercroft” on the national agenda

Southbank, known for its soaring skyscrapers and bustling streets, stands as the most densely populated neighbourhood in both the City of Melbourne and Australia.

However, despite its vibrant atmosphere, residents lament the glaring absence of social and community development facilities.

The genesis of this issue lies in the initial land use planning for Southbank, which overlooked the essential social development needs of its future inhabitants. The planning process occurred on a building-by-building basis, neglecting considerations for recreational requirements.

Consequently, Southbank falls significantly below the open space standards set by the council, leaving a stark absence of facilities for passive and active recreational activities.

In response to persistent advocacy by Southbank3006, the council has initiated steps to address this gap. One notable project involves the transformation of the ACCA forecourt by the council and the state government, replacing granitic sand with a green space for passive recreation – a project for which Southbank3006 was the prime advocate. Structural limitations imposed by the Citylink tunnel confine the use of this space for passive recreation. Similarly, Southbank3006 advocates for investment and expansion of the Sturt St reserve into adjacent land parcels used as a car park.

In 2022 the removal of the only active recreation element in Southbank, a basketball court at Boyd Park, to accommodate a residential tower in late 2022, underscored the lack of foresight by a previous council administration’s planning and their total disregard for resident social and community development needs.

Although a temporary basketball facility has been negotiated with OSK, the developer of Melbourne Square, it remains evident that there is a substantial gap in active recreation facilities. The immediate response from young adults and families to the OSK temporary facility highlights the unmet demand for such amenities in the community. Likewise, the playground developed as part of the Southbank Boulevard project sees active daily use, indicating the community’s desire for active recreational spaces.

Reflecting on these issues, Southbank3006 proposes a comprehensive solution to the council:

Redevelopment of the “undercroft”

The vast area under Kings Way, known as the “undercroft”, presents an opportunity for the development of various active recreation facilities such as half-courts for basketball, netball, padel board and pickleboard, soccer, outdoor gym spaces, and practice nets for cricket. This underutilised space, akin to Crown’s use of another part of the undercroft, holds immense potential with proper planning and forethought.

Conscious investment decision

Instead of allocating resources to neighbourhoods already well-served with recreation facilities, such as Parkville and South Yarra, the council should prioritise addressing the needs of Southbank. This strategic investment would tackle the deficiencies rather than relegating them to the “too hard” basket.

Government collaboration

The project requires collaboration at all levels of government. The Commonwealth Government should provide financial support, the state government should facilitate access to land, and the council should lead delivery, management, and integration with the local community.

The redevelopment of the undercroft not only addresses the council’s diversity, health wellbeing, and neighbourhood strategies, but most importantly enhances the liveability of Southbank residents, spanning from Montague St to the heart of the neighbourhood.

While acknowledging the complexity of the project, Southbank3006 emphasises the necessity of government support, Commonwealth and state, to rectify past failures of governments and developers to deliver essential recreation facilities to the community.

At ACCA, progress has been made in closing the passive recreation gap. Now, the focus shifts to the undercroft, offering a similar opportunity to repurpose a wasteland to address the active recreation shortfall and pave the way for a healthier, more vibrant Southbank community.

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