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Melbourne’s largest mixed-use urban park opens

Melbourne’s largest mixed-use urban park opens
December 3, 2019

Prahran Square, Melbourne’s largest urban parkland project, opened to the public on Sunday 1st December. Providing 10,000 metre² of public space, more than Federation Square, Prahran Square has been welcomed as one of Australia’s biggest and most innovative examples of mixed urban design - expanding community facilities while increasing parking and boosting business around the precinct.

The urban renewal project is one of the most significant additions to public space in inner-city Melbourne and the biggest building project ever undertaken by the City of Stonnington. Construction has taken only 22 months at a cost of just over $60 million.

The multi-functional urban parkland includes new lawns, terraced seating, an accessible forest walk, new commercial spaces and children’s water play area, with over 130 new trees and original public art.

The Council’s long-term vision is for the square to become an artistic, creative and community-focused hub that engages the local community.

Created from the conversion of the former Cato street ground-level carpark into a 500 bay underground facility, Prahran Square provides essential public space and will help to drive the economic renewal of the Chapel Street precinct.

An impact study predicts the square will attract 112,500 visitors a year and increase retail spending by $32 million.

Victoria’s chief architect said Prahran Square demonstrated how designers can help solve problems of parking and traffic, by creating “gathering places, breathing places”.

Jill Garner, Victorian Government Architect noted “the design for Prahran Square is a great model for change - it puts pedestrians first by locating cars underground, returning valuable open space to people.

“Imagine the open space Melburnians could gain if this model was more prevalent.”

Project architect, Adrian Stanic, Director of Lyons Architecture, said it transformed a car park into a series of accessible areas and addressed a “desperate need for outdoor space in Prahran”.

The scope of the square was large, even by international standards, with Stanic commenting “It’s quite unique, enabling the expansion of car parking while enhancing public space.”

Urban designer Kirsten Bauer, Adjunct Professor RMIT and Director from ASPECT Studios said the square was the largest of its type in Melbourne, if not Australia, and was at the forefront of a global multi-functional approach in densifying cities.

“A diversity of spaces will provide a variety of experiences for the community. It’s not a one size fits all square, it’s responding to the diversity of Prahran.”

Mayor Stefanopoulos said Prahran Square would provide much-needed public open space as Melbourne’s population continued to grow. The City of Stonnington had the second-lowest amount of public open space per capita in Victoria, and the suburbs surrounding the square are expected to grow by around 12,500 new residents by 2036.

“Through the redevelopment of this new square, Council is working to address Stonnington’s urgent need for more open public space and to create accessible, welcoming areas for the community to enjoy.

“Prahran Square will be an iconic cultural and recreational destination for residents and visitors to Stonnington. It will also provide facilities and parking to attract shoppers and benefit local businesses.

Mayor Stefanopoulos added “the square will drive the cultural and economic revitalisation of the area, hosting community events and attracting visitors from far and wide. We are delighted to be able to invite the community to come and enjoy their Prahran Square.”

General Manager of the Chapel Street Precinct Association Chrissie Maus said Prahran Square would make a huge contribution to the local community and businesses, concluding "this represents a boost to the Chapel Street precinct and is a major step forward in Prahan’s revitalisation. We are planning for it to host a series of world-class events with the star power to capture the attention of Melbourne and beyond.

“Prahran Square’s facilities, events and new car parks will attract more people to the area. A projected increase in retail spending of more than $30 million a year will be a shot in the arm for local traders.”

Project Information

● Prahran Square creates 10,000 metre² of new public space for the community.
● Facilities include:
- A 1,000 metre² lawn
- Terraced seating
- Accessible forest walk amongst established trees
- A sensory garden nestled below a grove of palms
- Huge planters frame the entry to the square
- A central water fountain adds an attractive feature and fun water playground
● The urban parkland contains over 130 new trees and more than 7,200 plants throughout the site
● Victorian State Government Architect Jill Garner was on the jury panel to select the architect for Prahran Square

Commercial spaces
The design includes several commercial spaces:
● The square will provide a temporary home for the Prahran Library and Customer Service Centre when the Prahran Town Hall is renovated in 2020
● The square will contain tenancies focussed on activating the square and attracting people to the area

Public Art
The Square will be home to several public art projects, including:
● Internationally acclaimed light and sound artists, Melbourne-based Bruce Ramus’ captivating light and sound installation, The Pipes, will draw visitors into the square and will be visible at both day and night.
● Sculptures by Sydney-based artist Jamie North that blend architectural remnants with Australian native plants
● Leading contemporary Aboriginal artist Dr Fiona Foley’s ‘Murnalong’ features three native honey bees suspended above the square.

Sustainable design elements are incorporated across the site, including:
● State of the art energy-efficiency measures including LED lighting
● High performance thermal, eco-friendly building fabric and glazing
● Many leading urban ecology features
● Charge station for electric vehicles in the car park
● Rooftop solar panels
● Rainwater will be captured and used for watering the lawn and garden beds
● Bike racks around the site support sustainable transport and the waste and recycling stations encourage effective recycling.

Surrounding area
Alongside the Prahran Square development, over the past two years, Council has also conducted works in surrounding areas including:
● Rebuilt with new roadways
● Wider footpaths
● Improved lighting
● Contemporary street furniture
● New street trees
● Conversion of the Wattle Street end of the Square to pedestrian-only zone
● Redesignation of a large section of Cato Street to pedestrian priority zone.

Related Articles

8th September 2019 - City of Perth Urban Forest program acknowledged for role in improving public health

30th July 2019 - World Urban Parks looks to offer increased member opportunities

15th July 2019 - Conference to explore the development of urban Entertainment Precincts

12th July 2019 - Environmental and urban designs among 2019 Australian Design Industry Award recipients

5th July 2019 - World Urban Parks awards Auckland’s Shakespear Regional Park

8th April 2019 - Community-led urban development recognised at New Zealand planning awards

13th February 2019 - The City of Perth invites creative and cultural concepts to revitalise its urban spaces

17th January 2019 - Yeerongpilly Green urban renewal project moves ahead 

6th November 2018 - Darling Harbour Precinct Transformation Receives Urban Design Award

15th October 2018 - International Parks Congress highlights the value of green urban spaces

8th October 2018 - International Parks Congress presentation to share findings on global report on urban parks to 2030

5th October 2018 - Urban Land Institute event explores multiple elements of ‘the business of wellness’

7th September 2018 - Melbourne to host Australia’s first urban forestry school

16th July 2018 - World Urban Parks awards international gold star of approval to Sydney’s Centennial Parklands

2nd May 2018 - World Parks Week showcases the value of urban green space

23rd March 2018 - Campbelltown Council launches green plan to counter urban heat islands

7th April 2017 - Melbourne car park to be transformed into a public park

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