“Swanston Triangle” to undergo green renewal

Swanston Street Triangle
Swanston Street Triangle Park
Sean Car

An unused corner pocket of the CBD located at the intersection of Swanston and Victoria streets will be transformed into a new green open space under a City of Melbourne plan.

Councillors unanimously endorsed the final concept design of the “Swanston Street Triangle” at their Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting on April 9 after draft plans were put to the surrounding community for consultation in February.

The idea to revitalise the area opposite the Melbourne City Baths was conceived following Yarra Trams’ plans to renew existing tram tracks along Victoria St, whereby it revealed that the tracks through the triangle would be removed.

While the tram operator had originally proposed replacing the tracks within the triangle with asphalt and new kerbs to “tie into the existing footpaths” on Victoria and Swanston streets, the council identified an opportunity to instead add more green space.

With Yarra Trams to only provide funding for the new space within its original project scope, the council is expected to tip in an additional $1.5 million in order to deliver the final concept plan.

The council’s deputy chair of planning Cr Rohan Leppert commended council management for “making good on a really clever opportunity to build new green open space right near the heart of the central city”.

“We have a very big park building agenda here at the City of Melbourne,” Cr Leppert said.

 

We know that population is booming and that opportunities for new public open space in an area that is well established isn't always easy, isn't always cheap, and often come with unexpected complications partway down the line.

 

“The Hoddle Grid, of course, famously never had any public open space built into it. Democracy was not in vogue at the time, and so places like City Square or, more recently, the sliver of the Market St Square, have been added well after those streets were laid down and all the land between the streets and the little streets were sold. So, this is a beautiful opportunity”.

The final concept approved by councillors includes plans for a new expanded raised lawn with new trees, a new outdoor dining zone for surrounding restaurants as well as new seating.

The plan also identifies a “potential future activation opportunity” for the disused heritage-listed tram signal box building that sits at the corner of Swanston and Victoria streets.

While the plans received broad support during consultation with the community, the report from council management noted a “consistent theme” among traders and building managers in the area regarding rough sleeping and vandalism.

In a question put to the council’s planning team during the meeting, Cr Roshena Campbell asked how the concept design would help deter antisocial behaviour to “avoid the type of situation we've seen in Elizabeth St south”.

The council’s general manager, strategy, planning and climate change Evan Counsel said while management wasn’t aware of any current issues with antisocial behaviour in the triangle, the plans had been designed to encourage a range of uses.

“Our experience in the renewal of these types of spaces is that through design we can successfully deter antisocial behaviour,” Mr Counsel said.

“Of course, [only] to a degree; we can't control people through design, but we can do what we can to design these public spaces as best as possible.”

“Existing activity and passive surveillance at this location on Swanson St from apartments, Melbourne City Baths and restaurants would also be expected to promote community use of the space and create a welcoming environment where there are eyes on the location which does help.”

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