Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline

Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline
Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline

Having now lived in Prahran for the better part of 6 months, I've developed a greater appreciation for the area, in particular the public spaces which I pass on my walk to and from Prahran Station on my way to walk and those I pass on my daily evening runs.

One space which has always stood out, because I pass it multiple times a day and is rather unique in terms of the provision of both active and passive recreation areas, is Princes Gardens. 

With basketball courts, playgrounds, skating half pipe, a mix of hard and soft scape areas, the Prahran Aquatic Centre and the Chapel off Chapel events and function space, Princes Gardens appeals to a number of demographics and users.

It is, however, looking a bit tired and could do with a bit of love. Which brings us to the topic of today's piece; the City of Stonnington's Master Plan for the Gardens.

A draft Master Plan - which will be finalised by the middle of the year - was developed by Hansen Partnership to "ensure Princes Gardens continues to offer open space and facilities that are safe, accessible and contribute to maintaining a healthy and vibrant community", according to the City of Stonnington.

Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline
Princes Gardens Draft Master Plan. Image: Hansen Partnership

Among the key objectives sought through the draft Master Plan are;

Short-Term Objectives

  • Establish a central pedestrian avenue as a key north-south axis, connecting Malvern Road in the north with Princes Close in the south. This pedestrian avenue will comprise a generously-dimensioned walkway, with opportunities for feature paving, street and park furniture, lighting and wayfinding. The pedestrian avenue will provide clear and open sightlines, improving amenity and safety for all users. Avenue planting of large, deciduous canopy trees along either side of the avenue will assist in making it a strong visual element of the Gardens.
  • Remove the easternmost tennis court and create more green space.
  • Reconfigure the forecourt area to the east of Chapel off Chapel such that this space is a plaza integrated into the central pedestrian avenue, with improved access and sightlines. The intention is to establish a more prominent address for Chapel off Chapel as a key attraction within Princes Gardens. The plaza will act as a key meeting space within the Gardens in a central location which is readily accessible from all surrounding streets.
  • Establish a generous formal entry to Princes Gardens from Princes Close, at the southern end of the proposed pedestrian avenue. The northern entry on Malvern Road is already accessed via historic entry gates, and an opportunity exists at the southern end for a contemporary entry treatment.
  • Remove the majority of the existing under-utilised pavement between Chapel off Chapel and Malvern Road and replace it with grass and trees, as means of providing more 'green space' in the northern part of the Gardens and improving the frontage to Malvern Road
  • Demolish 22 Little Chapel Street and relocate Council services elsewhere. Reconfigure car park further north to allow for an entryway/forecourt and event space to the entrance of Chapel off Chapel.
  • Demolish the majority of the existing car park to create a new civic space to include expanded green space and a central footpath connecting Chapel off Chapel to Little Chapel Street. The space can be utilised for events associated with Chapel off Chapel, as well as other complementary activities associated with arts & culture.
  • Retain two existing tennis courts and reconfigure to become multi-use courts.
  • Formalise and enhance the east-west connection from Little Chapel Street into the Gardens by replacing the existing goat track through the grass with a paved pathway and lighting.
  • Establish a new picnic/bbq area in a highly visible, central location close to main pedestrian thoroughfares and the existing playground. The bbq/picnic area should comprise all facilities required  for such a use, including shelter structures, seating, tables and bbq.
  • Retain the existing basketball courts.
  • Retain the existing Prahran Aquatic Centre.
  • Retain the existing passive recreation spaces in the southern part of the Gardens, including the sunken lawn.
  • Retain the existing playground.
  • Retain existing heritage tree    

Long-Term Objectives

  • Retain the existing 50-metre outdoor pool, with an expanded and improved pool deck, complete with custom-designed shade structures and expansive areas of usable recreation space. Replace the existing utilitarian fence at the perimeter of the Aquatic Centre with a new fence which is more architecturally-sensitive and complements the public domain of Princes Gardens.
  • Provide a signalised pedestrian crossing on Malvern Road, on the alignment of the central pedestrian avenue, in anticipation of the redevelopment of the Horace Petty Housing Estate.   

The project builds on the City of Stonnington's pipeline of public realm improvement projects for Prahran including a significant upgrade of iconic Greville Street which is being completed in stages.

The new public space on Greville Street includes a cobblestone shared zone, wide bluestone footpaths, more greenery and more space for the local community and visitors to enjoy. Greville Street’s popularity has survived various trends and economic changes and the current upgrade will ensure its popularity for on-street trading and dining grow.

Greville Street is a unique destination within Stonnington thanks to its historic and artistic past and we want to make sure it continues to be a great hub for creatives, professionals, artists, small boutique businesses and locals

- Cr Steve Stefanopoulos, City of Stonnington Mayor via City of Stonnington website

The next stage of the revitalisation project includes a new Porter Street/Prahran Railway Station shared zone currently under construction. Once completed, the works will include a new cobblestone shared pedestrian and vehicle zone at Prahran train station, footpaths, a pedestrian crossing, new lighting, trees and street furniture.

Construction of these works is estimated to be three months.

Future stages will see part of King Street currently with a temporary pop-up trial, redesigned into a pedestrian zone, the completion of works to the East End of Greville Street adjacent to the Town Hall and the Town Hall forecourt along Chapel Street.

Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline
The future upgrade plan for Greville Street east. Image: Rush Wright Associates

Meanwhile, City of Stonnington's largest and most ambitious project, Cato Square project is progressing following the completion of an archeological investigation, which was undertaken on the basement connected to the Big Store last month.

The +$60m project will create a 10,000 sqm multi-functional urban park with over 500 spaces of underground car parking with a target completion date of 2019.

Princes Gardens upgrade adds to Prahran's Public Realm Project Pipeline
Webcam photo of construction progress at Cato Square. Image: City of Stonnington

Head contractor Kane Constructions are planning to erect the first crane onsite in coming weeks, which will require closure of Izett St with local off-street car park access available. The erection will take place over one day and will be during the week on a non-market day.

Lead Image: City of Stonnington

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.

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