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New Dodds St park moves ahead after council called out for “prematurely celebrating” the end of Southbank Boulevard  

New Dodds St park moves ahead after council called out for “prematurely celebrating” the end of Southbank Boulevard  
Brendan Rees

Work to create a much-anticipated linear park in Dodds St is set to begin in January, with new decorative landscape walls, mounded grasslands, and trees among its features. 

The City of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp announced the news at the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting on November 22, after the tender evaluation of a preferred contractor for the $5.05 million project had been completed. 

“With council approval of the preferred contractor, construction will begin in January 2023, which is really exciting,” Cr Capp said, adding works were expected to take 12 months.

The new park will be situated between Southbank Boulevard and Grant St, and will cover a 2700 sqm area. The project will be carried out in conjunction with with the Southbank Major Public Art Commission.

According to the council, the park will comprise “high-quality paved areas, mounded grasslands and swales with native planting and trees, civic meeting spaces with seating walls and features and public lighting”.

Once completed, it will link a state government-backed proposal for a pocket park to be created near the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), which would transform the current area of granitic sand. 

 

The announcement of the Dodds St park comes after the council was publicly called out for “prematurely celebrating” the transformation of Southbank Boulevard while stages two and six, including landscaping at Dodds St and a section between City Rd and Queensbridge Square, had yet to begin. 

 

The Lord Mayor admitted the $44 million project – which had been beset by delays and cost blowouts – was “not yet complete” after the council embarrassingly issued a press release in November declaring the “Southbank Boulevard transformation complete”, in which it claimed the final stage of the project – a children’s playground at the corner of Southbank Boulevard and Kavanagh St – marked its completion.

Cr Capp made the acknowledgement after councillors faced a series of questions from concerned residents and community stakeholders over the incomplete major project during the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting on November 22, which was held in Southbank.

“Stage six of the original project was designed to connect the gardens with the river, yet it seems to have quietly dropped off the project agenda,” Yarra River Business Association president Jeremy Vincent said, who also called for the removal of the “eyesore” red steps at Queensbridge Square, which had “suffered from maintenance neglect for many years”.

Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna also addressed the meeting, and commended the council for the launch of the new playground but questioned why it had claimed the Southbank Boulevard project had been completed.

 

“Connecting the river was a central feature of this plan. Is this an attempt to, on paper, reduce the current budget blow-out of this project by stripping these items out of the project?” he said.

 

In response, Cr Capp said the council was “very aware of” of the final two stages being unfinished, and that the development and delivery of stage six was being “coordinated with adjacent developments in order to ensure that disruption to the surrounding precinct and suburb is minimised” to “maximise both the benefits of resources, work time and ultimately benefits to the community”.

Cr Capp said the council would keep the community up to date on the Southbank Boulevard transformation including information once planning began but noted, “we absolutely accept all of us as councillors that the Southbank Boulevard project is not yet complete”. 

“Thank you for calling out on the things and areas where we could do better”.

The meeting also heard the council would also come back to residents for feedback on the red steps and “will review if there is something that can be done in the interim”.

As previously reported by Southbank News, it is understood that the funding and building for stage six hinges on the completion of the STH BNK By Beulah dual skyscraper at the corner of Southbank Blvd and City Rd, which is due to be finished in 2028.

Southbank 3006 residents’ group president David Hamilton applauded the council for moving ahead on the Dodds St park, and maintained the miscommunication about the two final stages was “not worth getting agitated over” as “it would be premature to spend ratepayers’ dollars until the Beulah development is completed”.

“I think what’s really important is that the council is committed to the next major element in Southbank which is the Dodds St linear park which will link with the ACCA green space development,” he said.

“Until the Beulah development is finished, and the plans and its contribution of open space are understood, we should just put that section on hold.”  

Mr Hamilton added Southbank3006 welcomed the opening of the new playground on Southbank Boulevard, which was “such popular asset for the community and highlights the need for more open space”. •

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