Acland Street upgrade

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A respected architect and urbanist who knows St Kilda well, Jan van Schaik, has analysed the Acland Street plans and Serge Thomann has requested his comments be added to his column.

By Jan van Schaik

Thanks for bringing the proposed works to Acland Street to my attention. I have been a resident of St Kilda for a cumulative decade over various stages of my life.

While I now live in the Melbourne CBD I remain very fond of St Kilda, and Acland Street and am a frequent user of the no. 96 tram – in my view, one of Melbourne’s better tram services.

In my capacity as an ex-St Kilda resident, and in my capacity as an architect interested in the design of cites and their spaces, I am very interested to see the new works proposed for Acland Street St Kilda.

I am especially interested in the works around super stops: as a result of the Victorian State Government’s laudable commitment to equity of access, a number of super stops have been added to Melbourne tram routes. In Melbourne’s CBD, for example, some were designed with input from the City of Melbourne, and others without. The ones that were done in collaboration with the local government authority function extremely well and meet the needs of the complex groups of people and business affected by the design of the tram stops. In light of this observation, I would like to commend the City of Port Philip for taking a collaborative approach to the redesign of the Acland Street tram stop, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of Public Transport Victoria alone.

I note that the new design proposes the pedestrianising of Acland Street between Belford and Barkly and that the no.96 tram stop will be moved north along Acland Street by the length of one tram. In my professional view this creates an opportunity to have an open and highly activated public space unencumbered by cars or trams. This is a rare thing in Melbourne, and an amazing opportunity for St Kilda. Moreover, the addition of activated public space has been achieved without major changes to the no. 96 route, allowing East St Kilda and Elwood residents to retain comfortable access to the route – and board and alight trams with far greater ease in a well designed local urban environment.

The reduction of car access between Barkly and Belford Streets will increase pedestrian use of the street. On-street car-parking is a very inefficient way to deliver people to the businesses of a street as one car, with one person in it takes up about 14m2, while at least seven people can make use of the same space – and in a far more activated way. The businesses of Acland Street will become visible to a greater number of people as a result of this design and will likely see a corresponding increase in revenue.

Acland Street is visited by people from all over the city and the state. They arrive on foot, by bicycle, on tram and by car. In my professional view, the proposed design is to be commended for understanding the value that pedestrianisation can bring to a local urban environment while not over-applying the pedestrianisation doctrine. The design should be commended for the continued, and improved, access to the no. 96 tram which I have already mentioned. I also note that the visitors arriving by car can still make use of Belford and Irwell Streets to access car parking. These car parks, and the parking to the rear of the Woolworths have long been the main parking address for Acland Street.

Anecdotally, when visiting the area I have never found an available parking space on Acland Street. So infrequently do they come up, that I long ago stopped looking, heading straight for the bulk car parks instead – a method of parking in Acland street that will remain unchanged for me under the new design.

I wish you the best in rolling out the design, and looking forward to visiting in person during and after construction.


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