Acland Street has always distinguished itself as one of Melbourne's more divergent strips.
It is also the starting point for Tram 96, which sees in excess of 30,000 individuals utilising Acland Street each week. Despite concerns from traders and local residents regarding the strip's overhaul, regeneration works were carried out over the course of 2016.
Tram 96's high patronage required that Public Transport Victoria carry out necessary infrastructure works, thus prompting Council to initiate the mass overhaul of Acland Street. Encapsulating the stretch between Carlisle and Barkly Streets, the overhaul's main aim was to "become an exemplar of innovative place and transport integrated urban design."
City of Port Phillip, Public Transport Victoria and Yarra Trams went about creating a new and inviting integrated streetscape.
Multi-disciplinary design studio McGregor Coxall and BKK Architects were installed by City of Port Phillip as design leads only seven months prior to the targeted (and achieved) opening of the terminus. According to McGregor Coxall, "a team-based approach was applied to design, spearheading a multi-disciplinary team of consultants and stakeholders including Northrop Engineers, Relume Lighting, Morris Accessibility Consultant’s, PTV, Yarra Trams and the City of Port Phillip."
At the heart of the design was the desire to create a best-practice and more adhesive urban outcome, with the integration of transport infrastructure and a new public realm critical.
‘Kerb to kerb’ thinking was replaced with a ‘façade to façade’ approach that ensured a seamless and fully integrated design of the terminus into its public surrounds, blurring the boundaries between street and infrastructure. By relocating the terminus a new plaza was created, designed as an open community canvas, robust and flexible to offer a wide range of community and arts events.
Overall, a net gain of 30% additional pedestrian space has been reclaimed by the proposal.McGregor Coxall
The design was closely developed and tested with suppliers in an attempt to de-risk the delivery of the project on all levels. Ongoing community consultation, short tracked approval processes with all authorities and stakeholders ensured the development of a streetscape that met all demands and expectations, while maintaining a holistic design approach right to the end.
This included the customisation of standard PTV approved furniture and platform processes in an attempt to de clutter and de-barrier the streetscape resulting in a seamless and border free urban environment.McGregor Coxall
Large bluestone circles set across the streetscape are designed to evoke the idea of bubbles, "tying the street conceptually to St Kilda beach - the foam of the sea, sparkling sand crystals, the rising bubbles in your drink on the beach." The circular pattern also affirms the area's individual identity and provides a contrast to City of Melbourne and its rectangular geometry.
Yarra Trams CEO Nicolas Gindt said: "Yarra Trams is proud to work in partnership to create places for people. This plaza project offers new vitality and accessibility to an urban space, and we are happy to see it already being used by its community."
It is perhaps the constant and varied use of the new space as a result of the development that is Acland Street redevelopment's best aspect.
McGregor Coxall maintain the new Acland Street is a genuine public space which invites local residents and visitors to enjoy, showcase local art, culture, performances and pop-up events. To that end the strip has and become a focal point for community activity within St Kilda, with music events, yoga classes and art installations featuring since its completion.
‘Vibrant Acland Seed Grants’ provides funding to those wanting to initiate activities in the new plaza across a programme that will span 2017.
Over recent months Acland Street has been home to Regenesis, a public art work consisting of a woven bamboo chamber coupled with a light and sound installation which intends to draw attention to climate change. Its tenure was elongated due to positive public feedback.
The prompt delivery and continuing diversity of Acland Street's regeneration is a benchmark for other similar projects across Melbourne. Here's hoping they are delivered in a similarly timely manner.