Solving St Kilda Triangle

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By Alec Nejad

Six years ago the Port Philip foreshore was under threat of invasion. Not by ships and foreign men armed with guns or bayonets. Rather by men in sharp suits and luxury cars commanding a cavalry of earthmoving equipment and concrete trucks. They wanted to impose their foreign and unwanted vision upon the picturesque St Kilda seaside.

Proposed was a mini metropolis hosting everything from retail stores, supermarkets, bars, a hotel and even a TAFE college. Essentially a “Chadstone by the sea”. That’s right folks, breathe a sigh of relief, we dodged that bullet.

Today the dull and decrepit sight of the triangular asphalt open air car park still remains. For a municipality that prides itself on sustainability, it would be sad to leave such a prime and valuable asset of crown land out in the sun and traffic to crack.

In the years following the momentous council/developer defeat, the new anti-crony-capitalist order at Catani Ward set about conducting a number of thorough community consultations and feasibility studies which later became known as the 2012 St Kilda Triangle Vision Framework. It was a flop.

Even vehement opponents of the original plan thought this wasn’t much better. Gerry McLoughlin, then Catani candidate, who has no time for greedy developers, didn’t mince words: “My profession is as an urban designer and as a visioner. I am disappointed with the Vision document that council has delivered. The document doesn’t provide any vision”. Harsh. Clearly the murky document was not the triumph newly elected councillor, Serge Thomann, hero of the 2007-2008 “Triangle Wars” had anticipated.

It is without doubt that any decision must be in tune with community interests. So maximising community engagement is essential. Today, Port Philip Council believes that running five parallel working groups will yield a much more focused and feasible outcome. Each has a different focus: statutory considerations, commercial uses and tenants, programming and activity, precinct planning, and site constraints. Each would address a range of issues including the adjacent Palais Theatre or significant pitfalls like contamination.

Mayor Amanda Stevens is optimistic that this new approach will take advantage of Port Philip’s diverse skill set, and will help overcome any challenges or obstacles to delivering an end result for the iconic space that best reflects the spirit of St Kilda.

“The community told us they want a contemporary public space, reminiscent of St Kilda’s original seaside allure that’s an example of world-class urban revitalisation… We want to refine that vision with the help of passionate and enthusiastic residents who have a strong connection to St Kilda Triangle and who understand the numerous challenges and opportunities facing the site.” Cr Stevens said.

Any consideration with the triangle will have to be considered in terms of the Palais Theatre. While it is owned by the State Government of Victoria, the leaseholder, the City Port Philip, wants to enhance its rightful title of Melbourne’s premiere live music venue. With its tenure set to expire in twelve months time, council intends to extend that to March 2017 to give ample time to undertake a careful and transparent approach to securing the long term future of the iconic venue.

To keep up to date with triangle developments visit http://www.stkildatriangle.com

Want to read more about St Kilda triangle? A feature length article by Architect and Writer Don Gazzard, was published this month on our website titled ‘More triangulated games in St Kilda’ – to read, please visit www.stkildanews.com

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