Skate park and tram stops…

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By Deputy Mayor Serge Thomann

Everybody knows how involved I was in getting the right skate park to St Kilda, a task that has taken the City of Port Phillip 17 years. Yes, I sort of started on the wrong foot as I moved a motion at the first Council meeting when I was elected late 2008 to stop the skate park that was previously approved for Fitzroy Street. World champion skater and local Renton Millar was so upset with me that he did not want to speak to me. I was genuine when I asked him to get involved in this project. I know we could not get the best outcome without Renton’s passion and know how.

When I see now that the skate park features as one of the top five skate parks in the world, after hosting the first of the Vans World Park Series in April, I am very proud of what we have achieved together. Thank you again Renton and all!

I hope that everyone will now celebrate the successes of what the City of Port Phillip has done. To have received accolades from the Chair of the Australian Sport Commission speaks volumes.

Skate boarding will most probably become an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020. I hope that one of the kids who use our bowl as their training ground will compete or even become an Olympic champion. Go Eva, Zach or even Keegan Palmer who comes to St Kilda as often as possible from the Gold Coast and managed to finish 10th at the Vans competition. At only 12 years old!

The concerns among part of the community before we started developing Marina Reserve is somewhat similar to the current atmosphere around the Acland Street upgrade. For the past few months, I have made myself available to all and have been trying to correct misinformation about this. I could write a whole paper on this but I’ll try to be succinct.

I became very interested in tram stop issues when I was informed about changes in Fitzroy Street not long after I was elected. At the last Council elections, when I was asked what would be the biggest issue in the new term, I said that it would probably the Acland Street tram upgrade and I was right.

Changes proposed for the Acland Street terminus were made public in May 2013. The first sets of plans were unacceptable with the removal of most footpaths trading zones, half of the palm trees, all car parking and access to the car parks made very difficult. Council set up a working group to look at finding better solutions. A majority of the Acland Street working group members agreed with an option they helped develop and the new plan was progressed.

This was 2 1/2 years ago. Since then, Council has worked with PTV and Yarra Trams to create a unique terminus in Acland Street.

One of the questions I get asked most often, especially from people who have recently paid interest to the plans, is why can’t we keep it as it is? The answer is there is legislation that dictates all tram platforms have to be Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant by 2023.

The second question is why not get the trams to stop at Luna Park? Luna Park cannot be a tram terminus as it is a tram stop for various routes. But most importantly, not having a tram going to Barkly Street would mean a diminished services for the Elwood community and a loss of connection to the Elwood bus service. It would be very unfair to expect a person with disabilities to go all the way to Luna Park from Barkly Street.

Some people still incorrectly describe the terminus as a super stop. This gives the impression that the Bourke St tram stop will end up on Acland Street and destroy the beauty of our street. One of the main drivers for me has always been what Acland St would look like from the Vineyard. The “no clutter approach” – no rails, no ramps, no boring traditional shelters – is in my mind the best way to do this.

Obviously, Acland St is only that wide and we decided to remove car traffic between Belford and Barkly streets to keep footpath trading and have better walking and cycling options. We also decided to create a small plaza that will allow some community activities in the street.

We all agree that Acland Street looks tired and Council took this opportunity to work with PTV and Yarra Trams to renew the street. I admit that there will be disruptions when the works will take place but all efforts will be taken to minimise the impact on traders and residents.

The detailed design is close to being finalised. When complete, I hope the community will be able to see all the benefits the project will bring which includes a new public plaza space and improved access for everyone to enjoy this iconic destination.

A respected architect and urbanist who knows St Kilda well, Jan van Schaik, has analysed the Acland Street plans and I am adding his comments to my column.

We all love St Kilda and are passionate about a sustainable future. I hope that, like the skate park, the proposed works in Acland Street will in the end bring many benefits to our village.


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