New park added to Southbank Blvd but residents worry it’s “not the most user-friendly”

Brendan Rees

A new neighbourhood park has officially opened in Southbank as part of a contentious $47 million makeover of Southbank Boulevard – which many residents claim is mainly made up of gravel and bluestone.

The new park between City Rd and Fawkner St [opposite Australia 108] was completed at the end of November and features garden beds and a steel walkway.

It’s part of a string of works completed along Southbank Boulevard including the planting of 150 trees, a new civic space, and stone installation and landscaping.

But the capital works project, which has become one of the City of Melbourne’s most expensive in its history since it was approved in 2017, has faced a number of delays and disruptions as well as a bloating budget. Initially estimated at $34 million, the now $47 million project is more than 18 months behind schedule after works began in July 2018 and is now expected to be completed by mid-2022.    

Lord Mayor Sally Capp, who has conceded the council “had learned a lot during this project” after acknowledging “we know it has taken far longer than expected,” said the new neighbourhood park was “another step closer to delivering the significant transformation of Southbank Boulevard” and would be enjoyed by residents, workers and visitors.

“This is another valuable piece of open space for our most densely populated suburb, alongside the already well-loved neighbourhood park between Moore and Kavanagh streets,” she said.

“It’s vital we continue to create new public open space in Southbank to help maintain Melbourne’s world-class liveability.”

“Now that this second park has been completed, we can focus on the new play space between Kavanagh St and Fawkner St,” she said, which was expected to open in early December.

While the project has received a mixed reaction from the community, most just want to see it finished.

Resident of 16 years Jannine Pattison said while the new vegetation and spaces “was a lot better” and had “contributed to much increased bird life in Southbank”, she questioned the designs saying there was a lot of gravel and bluestone.

“I think the designers leave a lot to be desired – who puts barbecue facilities on a corner of a road? The barbecue would have been much better in a shady area, not on bluestone,” she said.

“The large palm trees are also very lacklustre, creating no shade at all for people to enjoy the grassed area.”

 

The amount of blue stone pavers that will absorb the heat in the summer time make that area very unusable – and to include metal seating is simply outrageous.

 

“The rocky area and the ‘dirty yellow gravel’ lack greenery and vegetation which would have softened the look – I understand that this section is more drought tolerant and sustainable, but not the most user-friendly and inviting area to sit and relax in.”

“I know in time the trees will grow and I believe that it was a good move to get rid of the plane trees … but at this stage, in my opinion it is the most over-hyped and under-delivered development in Melbourne.”

“I think it is very underwhelming considering the money pit that it became and how much over budget it went.”

Another resident David Hamilton, agreed with Ms Pattison, saying the lack of shade for the barbecue area was disappointing. “On a hot day you’ll be able to cook the meat without having to turn it on,” he said.

“If ever there was a project which has contributed to green-house gas emissions it would have to be that project both in its construction and in the long-term because all it is, is a giant heat sink.”

“It just makes Southbank more unliveable.”

Mr Hamilton said he also feared there was an “accident waiting to happen” at the corner of Kavanagh St and Southbank Boulevard where “traffic goes around the corner … travels 30 metres and is suddenly confronted with a pedestrian crossing”.

Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said the project was “a remarkable improvement contributing to the open space of Southbank” with the City of Melbourne “delivering what they said they were going to deliver”.

“City of Melbourne did quite an extensive community consultation on it over a significant period of time, there was an ample opportunity for people to comment on the plans that were presented,” he said.

“In my opinion, what we’ve got is pretty close to what the renders were producing, I think it’s achieving what the City of Melbourne proposed.

“It’s an innovative project that’s turning a street into parks, it’s providing something for the community.”

Southbank resident Raphael OK, 36, welcomed the new park, saying it was “perfect” and “definitely enlightens the mood of Southbank”.

“Before there was no greenery or grass and no place for us to sit down. I live up the road, and I have many neighbours that can take their pets out to the space and enjoy the area,” he said.

The new neighbourhood park comes after a second park located between Moore and Kavanagh streets opened in October •

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