St Kilda Triangle still a carpark

By  |  0 Comments

Council spent millions of dollars on inaction

St Kilda Triangle was set to become a $400 million retail, hotel and tourist destination. The task of rejuvenating the foreshore site had been left to Council, who partnered with a private developer.

The exorbitant cost of building an underground car park, refurbishing the Palais, and creating public spaces would be offset by commercial spaces.

A vocal protest ensued that labelled the plan a ‘Chadstone by the Sea’. The movement culminated with all Councillors in support of the plan being voted out in 2008. Subsequently a radically different Council paid the developer $5 million to rip up the contract and walk away.

Last month, Mayor Amanda Stevens revealed the total cost was in fact even greater.

“There has been talk of the cost in progressing the revitalisation of the Triangle. It’s important to recognise that of this $8.7 million, 91 per cent relates to a previous Council’s proposal — which was voted down in 2008 by the community,” Cr Stevens said.

“This Council has spent about $700,000 over the past few years on a process that gives us the best opportunity of developing a world class outcome that will be welcomed by our community and supported by industry and the State Government.

According to the Mayor’s office, Council is “pressing ahead with plans to help realise the community’s vision for the St Kilda Triangle”.

Identifying the community’s vision however seems a difficult task, as discerning a cohesive will of the people eludes the democratic process. Never is everyone in agreement. The elected are left to find outcomes that fulfil community expectations within budgetary constraints.

“There is a unique opportunity to guide the community from having opinions to owning the issues, then understanding the options at hand and ultimately being satisfied with the decision that is made,” says community engagement specialist and CEO of OurSay.org Eyal Halamish.

“This is a very nuanced process and if this is not done well, outrage will increase and the Council’s reputation will continue to sink,” he told St Kilda News.

“We have seen this type of conflict in a number of communities around Melbourne and across Australia, the key is ensuring community members feel valued, heard and understood and are then appropriately guided through a deep and meaningful engagement process.” Halamish explained.

Mayor Amanda Stevens is adamant Councils community engagement process was even more successful than expected, where “community participants helped refine parameters for the project”.

“The overwhelming feedback we have received so far is that the project should generate cultural production, support the Palais Theatre, include a park, provide car parking, encourage visits to St Kilda and improve the pedestrian crossing across Jacka Boulevard,” she said.

How this will be packaged into the Triangle site is uncertain, but what is clear is that the City does not have the purse to fulfil these expectations.

“The next steps include a community and stakeholder engagement co-design workshop, expected to run from June to August. The results will inform a business case, expected to be ready in November, aimed at attracting future government funding and private sector investment for project options.” Cr Stevens explained.

The irony is of course that marrying government and private sector funding for this project echoes the public-private-partnership that cost millions to scrap.

The expectation is that this prime chunk of foreshore real-estate is to become a landmark site in Melbourne’s landscape. This is a heavy burden for a City Council that cannot match the resources and expertise of State or Federal government.

Conversely, what lessons State politicians from either side of the isle want to draw from this protracted story of miss-starts to a major project is up to them.

Continued inaction would not bode well for St Kilda. Its role as a key cultural destination is diminishing. The Age recently reported a notable decline in visitation numbers and overnight stays in the past four years.

By Daniel Wilson

Find us on FacebookFind us on FacebookFind us on FacebookFind us on Facebook