The Triangle…

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By Cr Serge Thomann

It is nice to be back home after a couple of weeks away with my family and friends in France. Alsace is a beautiful region of France, as my followers on Instagram have seen or discovered. Come and visit, by car, bike or walking. I had the immense pleasure to meet Miss France 2012 Delphine Wespiser, a local and also a local councillor. She told me how much she wanted to come and visit Australia. Of course, I invited her to St Kilda and hope she will come!

I did not have to wait for long for the St Kilda Triangle to become an item of interest. Council approved at the last Council meeting the interim masterplan for the site. Please check it out yourself. I am excited about this great opportunity to bring this part of our foreshore to life and to replace an ugly car park with a significant cultural destination. People love St Kilda, especially in summer, and this plan would help attract more visitors over the quieter winter months.

Having led the campaign in 2007 to get rid of the over –development proposed by the previous Council, I was asked by a journalist how the 2015 plan differs from that.

They could not be more different. The 2007 proposal , approved after zero consultation with the community, was a commercial centre (186 shops and a supermarket) and a nightclub precinct with licensed venues for up to 6000 people. The 2015 interim masterplan was developed over four years of consultation, including workshops and a co-design process, and is mainly a cultural institution with a boutique hotel and 16,000 m2 of open space. Yes, there are buildings on the site (about half of the 2007 proposal), but it complements Acland Street and Fitzroy Street and provides a new destination for St Kilda.

The Triangle is a once in a lifetime opportunity to “redorer le blason de St Kilda” as we say in French – literally enhance or improve what we have got in St Kilda. The NGV is looking for a third site for a contemporary gallery. I believe the Triangle would be the perfect place for the NGV to settle down. It would complement the Palais and be the third element of the trifecta after the Palais and Luna Park.

Council is developing a business case to demonstrate what a cultural institution would bring to Melbourne and Victoria, not just to us. Both new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and our Premier Daniel Andrews are talking about being creative and providing jobs, and future focussed, and I think we should embrace this concept.

The interim masterplan shows a building at the back of the Palais and around it. Most of the slopes will remain (we are changing 126 m of the 650 m of slopes). I chaired one of the workshops last year and our group came up with a draft cultural charter which will preclude over-commercialisation of the site. There is certainly no hidden agenda here or a Trojan horse, believe me.

Yes, the plans are quite simple, but we are on a journey and together will achieve something we can all be proud of. We want a place that is loved by locals and admired by the world. And we are aiming for that. It is not too late to show your interest and join in. There will be further conversations to come up with a more detailed plan, in particular what the green open space will look like. There is a co-design workshop on site on October 11 from 9am to 5 pm. I’ll see you there!

And yes, this has taken a while, but the City of Port Phillip has learnt from the past and it has always been our intention to develop a plan that will include a lot of community input along the way.

A project of this magnitude takes time. We believe a large majority of the community supports our proposal and we are addressing some of the concerns that have been raised –some rightly, some wrongly. We can’t please everyone but I think we have to be bold and to use the new PM’s word, we have got to be agile!

I would like to thank all the members of our community who have been part of our journey so far and invite others to join and have a say. The Triangle is one of the City’s priorities and with everyone’s input, I know we will get it right.

I am also looking forward to the building of the new St Kilda Live Saving Club we have just approved – to be open by summer 2016. The plans for the Stokehouse have now all been approved and work is about to start on the site. And the Espy’s planning permit is progressing with all the suggested inside works given the go-ahead. The planning application for the outside work is currently being advertised.

To finish off, I encourage you to drop by the Gallery at the St Kilda Town Hall to check out my friend Anna Griffiths’ exhibition SOFA – some great images printed on huge pieces of fabric.

Until next month.

Cr Serge Thomann

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