Underutilised, Poor Urban Design and Planning South of the Yarra

The Age has published two articles by Jason Dowling and Clay Lucas that highlight problems with City of Melbourne planning and urban design.  Issues that the the City has failed to tackle.

Ask any resident in South bank or South Yarra and they will tell you that the lack of basic amenity and infrastructure is the main drawback of inner city living south of the Yarra 

There is no central focus for daily shopping in South Bank   The City Council has allowed the Domain Road precinct to deteriorate to the point where it no longer fulfills its intended use. 

Most notably is the lack of quality delicatessens or small supermarkets.   There are numerous seven elevens and a few small convenience stores that provide milk and basics.  Residents of South Bank and South Yarra are forced to either travel to South Melbourne or Prahran to buy daily produce South Bank lacks a residential amenity commercial precinct or square.  What business there are cater for the office workers not residents. This lack of amenity and planning has an impost and cost on inner city living.

The decline in Domain Road and other inner city residential commercial precincts are expected to further deteriorate as a result of inactivity and failure to act in behalf of the City Council. The changes to planning schemes introduced by the Minister in July 2013 will only exacerbate the decline further .  The shift from Business 1 zones to Commercial 1 zones will remove controls over planning and development designed to inner city residential development.

It comes as no surprise that the article in the Age reports that up to 8% of houses surveyed are empty.

The CIty Council has wiped its hands freom responsibility to plan or develop South of the Yarra.  the recent budget and 4 year plan has no projects or expenditure spent on South of the Yarra.  The Council Urban design team and planners have abandond this poart of teh city for the new precincts and new projects. Projects such as Docklands and Gishermans Bend that are also doomed to fail in the same way as South bank has.  As long as property hold and increase their value the Council will ontinue ti hide in the shadow of inactivity and complacently and Inner City remain captive to the car as a node of transport.  Eff9rts by the City Council to lock down the city by exempting developers from car p0arking requirements without a fee will not help.   Money collected from a car0-parking levy could and should be used to encourage more development of amenity and supporting residential use.

Rob Adams and Geoff Lawler and the City Urban Design and Planning departments turning a blind eye and ignoring the problems will not make it any better.  Part of the problem is the organisational disconnect between the two departments.

Melbourne’s Bike Plan Roll-out in need of review

300m is not going to address issues related with Car Dooring.  The so called “Copenhagen” style bike lanes are not the solution. They will only add to risk of commuter safety. A better and mare prudent cost saving option would have been to install wider open  Chevron line delineated bike paths. For the cost of 300m Melbourne could have upgraded and installed 4Km of bike path in St Kilda Road travelling down both sides.  The City of Melbourne’s rejection of a one month delay and a review of the Latrobe Street and Princes Bridge lanes closures is a step backwards.

Latrobe Street is a mistake and remains a risk to both driver and cyclist safety. Swanston Street and Albert Street lanes are also in need of review

An important aspect of any road design is the ability to read the road ahead and gauge the level of traffic management and design that applies.

The installation of wider Chevron line delineated lanes would have been consistent with the design of the Princes Bridge bike lane and  other more successful bike paths such as the one installed in Clardeon Street East Melbourne
 
Instead of Latrobe Street the City of Melbourne should have investigated installing bike lanes in alternative less used smaller side streets such as Abbeckett Street or Franklin Street

As to Princes Bridge I have no objection to the lane closure provided the City of Melbourne provides an alternative traffic river crossing to the East of Princess Bride. 

Swan Street Bridge is already congestion servicing West-East bound traffic.

A new bridge connecting Linlithgow to Batman Avenue Toll way would be in order to allow a further reduction in traffic flow on Swantson Street-St Kilda Road Between Flinders Street and Linlithgow Street.

There were a number of flaws in the Council’s consultation process not the least of its failure to properly consider alternative cheaper and more effective designs that address the safety concerns of cyclists and dooring.  Council consulted widely with Cyclist groups but ignored the broader communities concerns in pushing ahead with the design solution adopted including the safety concerns of disabled drivers and passengers.

The segregated lanes in Albert Street, Swanston Street North and recently installed in Latrobe Street are a disaster in design and implementation.  They would have been better had they adopted the alternative chevron design. The money save alone would have allowed the upgrading of a significant number of bike paths within the city not just 300m in St Kilda Road.

A pause for a review to allow assessment of the Princes Bridge and Latrobe Street developments would have been prudent,  responsible and would have allowed for a better roll-out of a safer greater bike plan that is embraced by the whole community as opposed to one that had divided and created hostility towards cyclists.

This is not a way forward but a regressive step to the side

Urban Designers and Engineers: Losing the plot

Melbourne City Council has lost the plot.  Our Urban designers (Headed by Rob “Bamboo” Adams) and Engineers (Headed by Geoffrey Robinson) are slowly yet consistently destroying Melbourne and the things that make Melbourne.

The rot started back in 1996 when the Council back-down and supported the shift of Melbourne’s Museum from the City Centre to the Carlton Gardens. A move that was widely opposed by the general community. (The Museum should have been built as part of an expanded Federation Square or on the ill-fated CUB Swanston Street site)

Residents and traders managed to save Lygon Street from the destructive designs of Rob Adams who wanted to build balconies over the top of Lygon Streets Victorian Street Verandahs. (The City of Melbourne may still revisit Rob Adams nightmare on Lygon Street as the adopted Verandah policy has been allowed to slip out of sight and was not listed or included in Melbourne recent heritage review).

They just spent $5Million engineering congestion and reducing the number of traffic lanes in LaTrobe Street and now they have their sight on destroying the Queen Victoria Market extending Franklin Street so that it carves through the market car park and connects up with Duddly Street, increasing traffic where it is most definitely not needed.  Franklin Street should have been the new bike path and the precinct  should be encouraged to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.  If they had of channeled the money spent on LatTrobe street into Franklin Street redevelopment it could have made a positive contribution to Melbourne.

Clearly Road Safety is not on the Council’s agenda.  The other end of Franklin Street at the corner of Victoria Street is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Melbourne and a major accident hotspot. Channeling vehicle traffic down from Duddly Street down Franklin linking up to Victoria Street will only make this intersection worst.  The Council need to close Franklin Street between Swanston and Victoria Street and hand it over to RMIT to allow it to flow into the area and link in with the City Baths.

It is as if Rob Adams and Geoff Robinson are hell bent on destroying Hoddle’s Grid in what ever way they can.  The have extended Collins Street, tried to extend Bourke Street (In name alone) and turned LatTrobe street into a lane with dangerous cross street intersections.

The proposed Queen Victoria Market Franklin Street extension is their “piece de resistance” of utter stupidity in urban design and planning.

Proposed Upgrade of Queen Victoria Market Land Grab: Fails to enhance Melbourne’s iconic precinct

The Melbourne City Council’s concept plans for Melbourne’s iconic Victoria Market is nothing but a land grab that fails to deliver any benefit to the city, the people of Victoria or the interests of the market traders.

The existing car parking site to the South of the Market sheds needs development but it needs to have civic focus and not a high rise residential complex.

The height of the development on this site should not be allowed to exceed the height of the neighbouring Nonda Katsalidis  Equus, Mondo, Roma and Fortuna Terrace Apartments building at the corner of Franklin and Queen Street or the height of the Market historic sheds.

The site should facilitate an underground car park servicing the market and a cluster of laneway shops, dry goods store that complement the Market community services.

The market should also be able to trade 7-days a week with unrestricted times. Bring back wholesale local farmers produce, some bric and brac, second hand goods, local produce and reinstate the vitality it once had.

Remove the Italian house of leather from occupying a predominate spot that brings down the overall appeal of the Market. Bring back Punch and Judy and other community theatrical events. Turn it back into a market of authentic ethnicity.  This can be done now without redevelopment.

The worst aspect of the design concept, developed by Rob “Bamboo” Adams, is the proposed extension of Franklin Street to link up with Dudley Street.

It does not need a park, there is the Flagstaff Gardens nearby and it certainly does not need a road dividing it in half  If anything it should be an open hard edge public space full of activities and events.   The site could have an underground link to Flagstaff Garden’s railway station

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s talk of the Markets redevelopment being the Federation Square of the West is a joke.  Clearly the design concept plan is no Federation Square.

Melbourne’s fated wall collapse was planned to be demolished

Redevelopment plans for the former Swanston Street CUB site have been on the drawing board for decades with numerous designs and owners.

The wall that collapsed was retained at the bequest of the City of Melbourne Urban Design department headed by architect, Professor Rob Adams.

The CUB site was the subject last month to an archeological dig prior to work on the new construction  which was scheduled to commence in April 2013

Building company Grocon payed $1 million for the six-week dig, which ended on March 1. The dig was a Heritage Victoria requirement before Grocon redevelops the land.

Sadly the wall which collapsed on Thursday had been standing in a dilapidated state and was scheduled for demolition as part of the new approved design.

There is speculation that the recently attached hoarding to the left of the wall may have caught the wind which then levered the masonry wall to collapse

The site is subject to a coroner and work safety structural report

Melbourne’s Wailing Wall: An accident waiting to happen

The collapse of the wall at the old CUB Swanston Street site was avoidable yet it was an accident just waiting to happen. The wall had remained in situate for over 20 years deteriorating as each year passed.  The City Council Engineering and Urban Design Departments knew that the wall was not stable and they failed to monitor it and ensure its safety.

The Swanston Street site was a significant site in Melbourne  the book end of Melbourne’s main street.  The shrine at one end and the CUB sign at the other.  It was one on five constructions sites that were left standing in a demolished state by the former Minister for Planning, Robert Maclellan .

The main heritage building was  the 1860’s bluestone building on Bouverie Street. Most of the original bluestone building  was demolished but the western wall was maintained, supported by solid structural bracing.

Of a lesser heritage value was the red brick wall along Swanston Street. With over twenty years of exposure to the elements the structural integrity of the wall was compromised. The Swanston Street wall had not been braced to the extent of other walls on the construction site. 

The CUB site was one of the alternative sites  put forward for the site of Melbourne’s Museum and the favorite site of Trevor Huggard, former Lord Mayor.  It was a site that required a signature development and the Museum, if located on the site, would have made a significant contribution and focus to what is the gateway to Melbourne’s “Knowledge precinct”.  It was one of three preferred sites for Melbourne’s Museum. The others being the Federation Square and the original site where the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings (Jeff’s Shed) now stands.

The site which was first demolished in 1989. Robert Maclellan who came to office in 1992 failed to ensure that construction and development of the site proceeded.  The Kennett Government was not prepared to commit public funds for the sites development

The site has remained a bomb site ever since

The Swanston Street Wall became a poster board and a blight on the City. A monument to the city’s failure in planning and development. The City of Melbourne, who had insisted in the walls retention , required that the wall be boarded up and the graffiti and posters removed.  Sadly this may have contributed to the walls collapse.

The wooden hoarding would have added to the dead load placed on the structure and when part of the wall began to collapse it would have brought down the rest of the wall with it. The hoarding  also hid the wall from the Street and restricted the ability to monitor the walls structural integrity. It may have even been the cause for the collapse as the poorly supported left hand section of the hoarding may have caught the wind and acted as a lever in pulling the masonry wall over.
Link: For more analysis on the wall’s history and its collapse by Butterpaper

This was not an accident that can be dismissed as being an act of god..  The winds, whilst high, were not that extreme and the wall should have been able to withstand a live wind load much greater than the force of wind recorded in the city on Thursday.

It is clear there was a collective failure of  responsibility to ensure the public safety of this site.  The developer, the construction engineer, site manager, building inspectors (past and present) all share liability along with State Government and the City of Melbourne Engineering and Urban Design Departments.

This was an accident that should not have happened. An accident that should have been avoided.  The lives of two innocent pedestrians lost and a third person suffering serious injury.

The Coroner will need to investigate the deaths of the two pedestrians and work safety will prepare a report of the engineering and structural design elements that contributed to the walls collapse.

The Coroner must go beyond the engineering science and look closely at the administration and successive failures of the City of Melbourne and other authorities who should have been on top of this issue long before the walls collapse. It must look at administration, planning, reports and events in the lead-up to the sites demolition and up to when the wall collapsed.

It needs an investigation equivalent to an Air-crash investigation but without a black box.  A photograph taken on Google street view in 2009 indicates that a CCTV camera is installed above the real estate agency opposite at Grocon site at 488 Swanston Street and there is a CCTV camera hanging off the adjoining RMIT Hub building looking along the Swanston Street footpath

The last thing we want to see is a protracted legal case with those responsible for this tragic event denying liability or responsibility in order to avoid or limit claims for compensation.  Excessive delay in reporting and proportioning responsibility for the accident would only add further injury to those whose lives where effected