Some breathing space

By Rhonda Dredge

Residents of the CBD are thinking about how the spaces of the new city will look in the post-COVID era. 

“They won’t ever be the same,” Sarah Mercer, who lives near Bar Clara in Little Bourke St, said. 

In the pre-COVID era she was a people person and loved the city for people-watching.

“Post-COVID I’m still working it out,” she said. “I used to walk at 10pm. The city’s now too empty. It’s tumbleweed country.” 

Sarah meet friends and clients at bars near her apartment in Lonsdale Heights, the first residential tower built in the city.

“When it was first built in 1976 it was called Chateau Melbourne,” she said. “It’s very old. It’s chocolate brick.”

That old confidence and pride in development has taken a beating since COVID and residents are still feeling their way forward. 

The cocktail waiter at Bar Clara said they weren’t seeing the after-work and after-dinner crowds like they used to. Theatre has started up again so that might make a difference.

Sarah orders a Bramble, a gin and lemon with a twist. The waiter goes off to do his version of it, a mix of sweet and sour. These things count in her little neighourhood. 

She’s noticed “some weird little things” of late. The local shoe repair guy and the key cutter have closed, for example. Shark Fin House down the road is also boarded up and a favourite bookshop has disappeared. 

She has been exploring new models of work for a while with a start-up business called Play Lunch and a hot desk at Hub Australia in Spencer St, which stayed open during the lockdown and offers a flexible working model. 

Sarah combines work at her educational game company, with consultation on website design for a range of clients. She brings the communication and design skills to the partnerships.

The work can be done from anywhere but she feels strongly about the viability of business hubs.

“I could work from anywhere, even Tibet, but you need a business community. That can’t be done from home.”

She moved into the CBD in 2016 with her husband. “I always wanted to live in the city. I wanted to live in an attic. There’s always new places, new trends, new graffiti.”

Her neighbourhood is important to her. She thinks the CBD should be filled with residents but she’d glad of some breathing space.

“It was getting to the point there was so many new buildings it was difficult to get around with the crowds and delivery guys.” •

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