Plan needed to address waterfront woes

Plan needed to address waterfront woes

By Sean Car

As a major gateway to our local community and our city, residents in Beacon Cove say that the Waterfront Place precinct is in urgent need of regeneration.

Home to Station Pier and the 109 tram station, which feeds directly through Southbank, the precinct is the first point of contact with our city for more than 700,000 passengers who travel through it each year.

While the state government provided the Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne) (VPCM) with $5.8 million over two financial years in its 2018/19 budget to redevelop a long-term plan for Station Pier itself, locals say the wider precinct is deteriorating.

Complete with an abandoned building at 1-7 Waterfront Place, which has long been the subject of an application for a 10-storey mixed-use development, and a series of struggling cafes and restaurants, residents say the area has become “tired and run down.”

The Beacon Cove Neighbourhood Association (BCNA) has been lobbying all levels of government for many years on the issue, and its president Eddie Micallef said a master plan was badly needed.

“We’re well aware that this area is not terribly functional. The businesses are all struggling desperately, some of them are going under. It’s also progressively deteriorating. It’s tired, run down and it’s lost the support of the local community,” he said.

“These businesses have 99-year leases and they’ve got about 80 years to run. The original vision about having big restaurants packed on Saturday nights and spread out during the week is gone and they’re struggling to exist.”

While the City of Port Phillip developed the Port Melbourne Waterfront Urban Design Framework back in 2013, which focuses on the area from Bay St through to Princes Pier, the BCNA say a more coordinated, state government-led plan is required. Local member for Albert Park Martin Foley agrees.

“I know that the Station Pier precinct and surrounding area is under increasing pressure from population growth, increased cruise liner and tourism traffic, ageing infrastructure and the demands of a changing climate,” Mr Foley said.

“The need for a single coordinated whole-of-community response that brings together the three levels of government, industry and community for a single coordinated approach is crucial to the area’s future.”

“I think the state government is best placed to lead this. We need other levels of government to come on board.”

City of Port Phillip Mayor Dick Gross told Southbank Local News that while its urban design framework already provided high level direction on the vision for the area, council recognised that the precinct would benefit from greater guidance and planning.

Cr Gross said that between 2016 and 2018, council had conducted a series of stakeholder workshops and surveys, with the findings to form the basis of a planning scheme amendment to update “out-of-date planning controls.”

“This work is currently on hold, pending direction on VicPorts’ plans for Station Pier,” Cr Gross said.

He also said that council had applied for a Victorian Planning Authority grant, requesting it provide coordination and guidance of an integrated transformation of the precinct. The request is still pending.

The CEO of the VPCM Rachel Johnson said she was supportive of a master plan for the precinct and that Vic Ports had established a community advisory group made up of a number of key stakeholders to inform the redevelopment of Station Pier.

“The pier is the gateway for tourists arriving in Melbourne by ship so we want them to have the best possible experience while they are at Station Pier and in the surrounding area,” she said.

Newly-elected federal member for Macnamara Josh Burns said that while the direct role of the Commonwealth was very limited, he said that it could, however, play a role in helping fund improvements through Infrastructure Australia.

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