Stop playing games on the Triangle!

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A lack of commonsense and experience is demonstrated by the overly bureaucratic way decisions are not being made on the St Kilda Triangle.

It took them a year to write a meaningless 42 word ‘vision statement,’ and now five new talking committees are proposed to keep the ball safely in touch and to avoid kicking any goals. There’s also no finance committee, an important failing as all the decisions are interdependent and all depend on money.

It all seems like make-work when the 2012 Triangle Vision Report claims to have covered the same areas. The real joke after all the big words is that it isn’t rocket science; the pretend consulting and talking has to stop and hard decisions have to be made.

The first in-principle decision should be to decide that there will be no underground parking. It’s simply too expensive and the low daily occupancy would make it unsustainable financially. And not digging up the site also means that contaminated soil can be safely left where it’s been buried for years at no extra cost.

There are cheaper alternative places outside the site where parking could be located at grade. There are 440 existing spaces in the Sea Baths for example that are rarely more that 10% full. Angle parking in Cavell Avenue between the Palais and Luna Park would provide some extra spaces at no cost except for line marking. The Shakespeare Grove parking could be decked over to double the numbers; it would be much less costly and would also serve the Acland Street shops. There are other places like these, and a simple study would determine the minimum number of peak parking spaces needed and where they could be located.

The other in-principle decision is to separate the development of the Triangle site from the restoration of the Palais. While it’s desirable that a restored building should play a wider theatrical role, it isn’t equitable that ratepayers should pay the high cost of restoring this state owned building, and except for an electoral sweetener to stop the roof leaking so far neither side of politics has provided any major funds.

There are three main options in the absence of State funding:

• Make the development on the Triangle site sufficiently commercial that it could underwrite the restoration of the Palais
• Give a developer a long term lease at a low rent in return for fixing it up
• Do nothing

We’ve already tried the first option, no thank you we don’t want a shopping centre. The second option could be simply tested by calling for expressions of interest. If this fails the theatre will have to stay as it is. At the same time it’s also unreasonable to delay improving the Triangle site while waiting for never-never funding for the Palais (it’s already ten years later!).

With these simple actions, two of the biggest decisions to free up the site at an acceptable cost would be made, and at the same time it should be agreed there should be no commercial development except for a coffee and ice cream kiosk. We don’t need more shops, restaurants and bars to compete with Acland and Fitzroy streets!

Various unfunded cultural possibilities like a museum of aboriginal art have been suggested. Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens keeps on being mentioned but the site isn’t central or busy enough. The best and most affordable suggestion so far is to create a sophisticated, world class sculpture-garden.

The area behind the Palais should possibly be developed as a live music complex. Based on acceptable uses and a specified building envelope, expressions of interest should be invited to lease the site and develop entertainment spaces at no cost to residents. Yes or no, this would also narrow down the practical options.

A good designer should be selected as soon as possible and design options explored. To get to the next stage isn’t as complex or as time consuming as is being made out by the bureaucrats. All that’s required is for our citizen councillors to take over the Triangle and use their common-sense.

Come on, we elected you to be bold and independent; make Carlo Catani proud of you!

Don Gazzard LFAIA

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