No end in sight for LaTrobe St traffic woes

Six months on, motorists are no closer to having full use of LaTrobe St where one lane remains blocked while adequate bracing is sought for the historic Russells Old Corner Shop.

In June, the City of Melbourne effected temporary wooden bracing to the northern wall of the building due to safety fears.

It issued an emergency building order against the building’s ageing owner, Lola Russell, demanding immediate remedial work and forcing Lola and her husband George Dixon from occupying the building.

Intervention by concerned friends and a direct appeal to councillors on July 4 resulted in a softening of the conditions and the elderly couple remained in the building.

But George fell ill towards the end of the year and was hospitalised.  Sadly, he died on December 12 (see our tribute on page 6). Lola has not returned to the house.

The City of Melbourne is unable to say when the temporary bracing will be replaced by a proper gantry structure which would allow westbound traffic to be restored to two lanes.

A council spokesperson said: “The City of Melbourne advised the property representative of the Russells Old Corner Shop that we would pay for emergency building works required to keep the building safe. The owners and representative considered the offer and were grateful but we understand a property developer offered to assist with a complete refurbishment of the building and the owners decided to accept this offer.”

“It is our preference that both the road and footpath are made accessible. For this to occur, a gantry structure will need to be designed and installed, allowing pedestrians to use the footpath underneath the gantry and clear the road of all propping that is currently obstructing traffic.”

“We understand that engineers have been engaged by the representative to progress the matter of the gantry and restoration of the building. The City of Melbourne has communicated to the representative that the road and footpath need to be made accessible as soon as possible and we will continue to pursue the matter with the representative until this occurs.”

“We had been working with the representative on a long-term solution for the site and have previously assisted by funding emergency works that were required to make the wall on LaTrobe Street safe in the short term and also paid for engineering reports.”

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