Southbank open space funding: too little too late?

Tony Penna

The budget has once again been handed down and there are no surprises for Southbank. No surprises insofar that, as has been for years, City Rd upgrade still stumbles along with no real commitment to see through the masterplan.

Stage 6 of Southbank Boulevard upgrade also still fails to get any mention. I wonder if the council has any appetite to finish that considering in the most part it was being funded by Crown’s Queensbridge development that never started.

During one of my regular catch-ups with the Lord Mayor, open space in Southbank was once again the topic of discussion. As you may recall, in last year’s four-year budget Southbank had $20 million allocated for sourcing open space. It was anticipated these funds would secure land to be repurposed for community open space. The council has recently called for expressions of interest of its desire to source this land, I suppose hoping the major commercial real estate agents, such as CBRE, might see it and have the connections with the land holders to entice them to sell.

As novel as the idea is, and of course well intentioned, I have always maintained the horse has bolted for Southbank; it’s too little too late. There are hardly any undeveloped lots remaining in Southbank and those that are there already have approved developments., let alone any potential site being appropriately positioned to provide suitable open space benefits to the community.

There is only one undeveloped block that I am aware of which would tick all of the council’s boxes for location and that is at 127-129 Kavanagh St, which is currently an open-air car park operated by Ace parking. This site’s proximity to Boyd Park, directly opposite, would be ideal to complement other facilities which Boyd currently doesn’t offer. However, there is an approved development on the site with the adjoining block which currently occupies the old purple building which is now heritage controlled. So, I guess this block won’t be an option.

Failing that I can’t see where the council will find any land suitable for conversion to open space, with the exception of the concept plan to cover the Burnley Tunnel, as outlined in the Southbank Structure Plan 2010, and create open space behind Melbourne Square. Maybe this $20 million should be allocated to getting that off the ground?

Anyway, I wish the council all success with sourcing land for Southbank open space, but I won’t hold my breath waiting.

Our annual general meeting (AGM) is fast approaching, and we will be looking for more Southbank residents to join our committee. Maybe you have some finance skills and might like to take on our treasurer role? Or you have an interest in social media? Or you’d maybe just like to be a committee member and help out when you can? I am sure we will have something on offer to interest you if you are keen. •

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