Southbank Promenade upgrade gets priority nod from council
Works to revitalise a section of Southbank Promenade have been brought forward after the disruption of lockdowns prompted a reshuffle of major projects by the City of Melbourne.
Stage one of the $3.8 million Southbank Promenade project, which stretches 300 metres from Princes Bridge to Evan Walker Bridge, will start at the end of April after being given priority “because of the condition of trees, pavements, and longstanding issues with fast cyclist speeds.”
Due to the pending $470 million Southgate development, the council said it had decided in April last year to “proceed with an early works package, limited to extension of the upper promenade on the west.”
The council’s latest capital works program summary report said a tender had been awarded with works expected to be completed by December 2022.
The project seeks to provide greater safety and improved amenity for all users including replacing bluestone paving, lighting upgrades, new seating, reconfigured stairs, and ramps between promenade levels, as well as replacing and planting new native trees.
In other projects, construction is currently underway for the final component of the much-delayed Southbank Boulevard project, including a $5.9 million play space to be built between Kavanagh and Fawkner streets, with an expected completion in the third quarter of this year.
The play space will be a “natural environment”, accessible for children of all ages and include boulders for climbing, swings, slides, ladders, and street furniture.
According to the summary report, the council has also set aside $6.3 million for a major public art commission in Southbank – which has been “separated out from the broader Southbank Boulevard redevelopment project.”
“While the project has an independent scope and timeline, it will respond to the original stakeholder consultation done for Southbank Boulevard,” the capital works program summary report said.
While few details are known about the public art project, council has so far spent $1.98 million after proposing to provide an accessible green open space with “meaningful public art” with construction expected to be completed in 2024.
“The major public art commission in Southbank is in development and will respond to community consultation, providing accessible green open space with meaningful public art in one of Melbourne’s most densely populated areas,” the report said.
The report added the impact of lockdowns, worker limitations on projects sites, and construction work shutdowns related to the pandemic had affected council works at the end of 2021.
“As a result, the labour market and supply chain were disrupted, and the award of new contracts was delayed. This put further strain on our delivery goals and resulted in a $27 million variance from the ‘revised’ capital works budget,” it said.
Despite these challenges, we continue to deliver the largest and most significant capital works portfolio in the council’s history by accelerating or rescheduling ongoing projects, reprioritising works where possible, on-boarding skilled resources to increase our delivery capabilities and identifying opportunities to bring forward works or add new projects to the portfolio that can be commenced or completed in this financial year.
Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna welcomed the Southbank Promenade project being prioritised, saying it needed the upgrade as “the business community has been longing for it”.
“The promenade has been earmarked for a while now. Good planning would have these things addressed before it gets critical,” he said, but added “we hope that they continue their consultation with us, the residents’ association, as they have done in the past. The cyclists are still a concern, and we need that addressed.”
In terms of the proposed public art commission in Southbank, Mr Penna said it would also be a welcome addition as “we need more public art”.
“Southbank Boulevard would be the perfect place for art now that we’ve made it a public space”.
Southbank News contacted the City of Melbourne for an update on the $6.3 million public art project in Southbank with a spokesperson saying the council’s program included temporary and permanent artwork to “drive visitation to Melbourne and reinforce our position as the cultural capital of Australia.”
“Our Southbank public art commission is part of this program and will be completed in the coming years,” the spokesperson said.
The council hired Irish academic Vaari Claffey in 2017 as the “public art strategist” for Southbank, however, when contacted by Southbank News, the City of Melbourne didn’t comment on whether she was still involved in the project.
David Hamilton, president of Southbank3006, said given Southbank was the arts precinct of Melbourne, it was an “excellent opportunity” to engage local artists and “stimulate” visual arts in the area.
“Given the struggle and the difficulties that Victorian artists faced over the past two years, this is an excellent opportunity to pivot the project and appoint local artists to run the project and use it to stimulate art,” he said.
Late last year the council announced new public art would be informed by a more Aboriginal rather than Eurocentric view, which was part of several “shifts” in the City of Melbourne’s public art program.
Meanwhile, the council has forecast to have a full year underlying deficit of $47 million – $20 million variance to the budget – which Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece conceded “obviously presents a very challenging set of financial circumstances for us.”
“But I am confident that Melbourne will recover – we have a great team here at the City of Melbourne and look forward to those finances turning the corner,” he said •