Serge’s Column August

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St Kilda’s renewal

Cr Serge Thomann

As I finish writing this column, I have just returned from an information exchange with our community about where we are with the St Kilda Triangle, ahead of co-design workshops this month. Once again, I realised how our village needs renewal and refreshment, with the Triangle being one of the keys to the future success of St Kilda.

We are engaging with many of the potential key players so it is important that we ask our community about where we want to go. And for you to tell us!

The renewal of our precinct is key. Fitzroy Street has been in the news lately, and I understand why. It has also been a topic that I have discussed on many occasions and I think I need to talk about it again in this month’s column.

Let me first say that I personally think that St Kilda and Fitzroy Street did change when Melbourne CBD’s nightlife became more active, in recent years. I remember going to the city at night and there was almost nothing open after 10 or 11pm. When this changed, suddenly, there was a lot more competition facing our entertainment precinct – and not just the north side like Brunswick and Collingwood.

Social media is full of people’s opinions on what should be done next. In this case, more than others, there are a lot of diverging, and even contradictory, views.

Council cannot do everything but is doing a lot within its role. The much needed streetscape upgrade worth over $1 million is starting soon and new lighting will improve the street.

You might have read that Councillors will soon decide whether to apply for State Government funding to install CCTV cameras in Fitzroy Street. We have had a thorough briefing by Victoria Police and our officers are compiling a report for Councillors to consider. A Fitzroy Street Vibrant Village partnership group is meeting every two weeks and I hope some good things will result from the work of these great volunteers. We have made some of Fitzroy Street’s car parking free during the streetscape upgrade work but traders have asked us to do more. We are looking at the impact on the Council’s budget but cannot act without considering other parts of St Kilda, in particular Acland Street.

We are engaging with all the key Fitzroy Street stakeholders to establish a renewed long term vision for the street and a commercial strategy. This includes speaking with real estate agents, property developers, business owners, traders and land owners who can play a vital role in the street’s renewal. Consideration of the retail mix is crucial.

The feedback we are getting is that a lot of the key stakeholders would like Fitzroy Street to become a thriving street for locals, as well as visitors. And if the street is fun and vibrant for the local community, visitors will also come and be part of it.

The first part of our review is research and consultation with the abovementioned stakeholders as well as community groups, residents and the Village Partnership Group. Together with these stakeholders we will develop a shared vision for the precinct and outline the crucial actions that need to be delivered to get there. This will include an assessment of retail opportunities, urban planning, public realm, property development, events, programming and partnerships, for example.

We have already established that the cost of doing business can be high because a lot of the available commercial spaces are quite big. There may be opportunities to divide these spaces up and make them smaller and more affordable for new businesses that can fill some gaps in the street’s offer.

There is no quick fix for the street and St Kilda as a whole is in a stage of renewal. As I mentioned before, we need new activities and events and a new range of offerings to keep our strong position.

As someone put it, when a place is under pressure like in Fitzroy St, one of the main challenges is getting on with short term actions whilst also staying focussed on a clear, longer term plan. I believe that a robust process is in place to help us deliver better outcomes for the future. Please be part of the conversation. It is not an easy or quick fix but, as it has been the case in the past, we will find strength through our resilience.

It’s great news for our community that a range of other activity is already underway or planned in St Kilda. This includes the Restaurant Revolution temporary pop-up restaurant, co-design workshops for the St Kilda Triangle, repair and compliance works at the Palais and the redevelopment of the St Kilda Lifesaving Club.

Changing topic, it was a lot of fun to go to the footy, as the pic shows, and support our beloved Saints. Maddie’s match, in honour of Nick Riewoldt’ sister, was full of love. Thank you again Nikki from Monarch Cakes for taking us to the match! Talking about good causes, support our gorgeous resident UNICEF Ambassador Rosie and come to her 27 August art fundraiser for UNICEF at Firestation in Armadale. More info online and Facebook.

Until next month.

Cr Serge Thomann

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