Urban's CEO chats to the Mayor of Stonnington about the council's plans for 2020

Urban's CEO chats to the Mayor of Stonnington about the council's plans for 2020
Urban's CEO chats to the Mayor of Stonnington about the council's plans for 2020

Mayor of Stonnington, Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos, visited the Urban office to speak to Urban's CEO Mike Bird about new development planned for 2020, private investment and creation of a thriving community.

This interview follows Cr Steve Stefanopoulos' previous podcast with Laurence Dragomir back in 2018 where they discussed 'The Changing Face of Chapel Street'.

Mike Bird: Hi I’m Mike Bird, the CEO of urban.com.au and today I am very fortunate to have Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos, the Mayor of Stonnington City, coming down to see us and have a chat to us about all things that are happening in Stonnington. Thank you so much for coming and joining us. 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: My pleasure, it’s great to be here. It’s fantastic. I was delighted when I walked in here to see the setup and I was amazed at how many staff you have here. And I was saying to everyone how I feel old because everyone looks like under the age of 25 or at least under the age of 30. So that blew me away, I am very proud of you guys, well done. 

Mike Bird: Thanks so much, it means a lot for us, as a startup company to have the Mayor come and spend time with us and have a chat to us about, what are you thinking and how does that impact the people that both live in Stonnington and also the property developers looking at investing in the area. 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Excellent- Happy to.

Mike Bird: So tell me, what makes an LGA [Local Government Area] a great place to live?

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Well for me it's about community, it’s all about, you know, how can you engage the community and build a great environment for them to live and work and play in. So it’s not just about peoples homes but it’s about peoples places where they can experience the environment around them interact with their friends, family, invite guests over and it’s also about business development, so we’re keen to ensure that people have the capacity to open businesses in the city of Stonnington, develop businesses, smart setups, whatever, it might be we’re here to help in those people too. 

Mike Bird: So with that in mind, what kind of role does the council have to play in there? 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: So in terms of the City Of Stonnington, we’re delighted to partner with any property developer who’s out there, who can meet in the requirement of our municipalities. So at the moment, we’re looking for a great urban design, we’re looking for great apartment developments to be built in Stonnington, we’re also keen to see some hotel and especially some office development. And we’re seeing it come on board especially in the Chapel Street precinct but also in Toorak village as well. We’re seeing some great development there happening too. 

Mike Bird: Yeah, I think what we see in terms of with our audience data and also the feedback we get on projects, is that people find it quite tough to tell the difference between a developer that has been developing property for a long time and with a really experienced kind of team, and perhaps someones that’s less experienced. Do you guys find that as a challenge in council and how do you guys tackle that?  

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Yeah, it’s interesting because we do have some new developers coming in trying to do new things, but we also have those been in the system and in the planning stage for a very long time. For us, it’s about managing community expectation and developers expectation, so there are planning regulations and rules that everyone needs to abide by and those who are coming in you may not understand that and we have constituency or residents or those who live in Stonnington who expect a high level of respect and they want to be consulted all the time. So for us that it’s about ensuring that communication channel is there constantly if there are issues they need to approach us, approach council, let us know what they are, we will try and resolve them. 

Mike Bird: Yeah, I think one of the key things is the whole thing that’s about transparency as you see it I think when developments are coming into a new area, there are so many different stakeholders whether it is the people that are the neighbours of the development the council you've got the developers themselves and then also the people that are considering moving in and I think what's really important is that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard because often there are going to be people that disagree with certain developments but they're also those people that really are excited to move into a new place so we think that it's you know, as I know the council does think it's really important that everyone has an opportunity to speak and have their voices heard and then proceed with what's best for the broader community.  

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: And that's definitely true but it's also important to ensure that when you do have a development becomes on board that they look about their neighbours to ensure that they are consulted that everyone is consulted throughout the entire process not just before and during but whilst the construction is occurring, listen to their neighbours to think you know how can we help you know them manage this construction process so they're not inconvenienced either at all or as little as possible. And what we do see is that when we do get development happening and they are respectful of their neighbours we do see an uplift in businesses because of course, you've got these men and women who are working on-site you need to go and eat and relax for a little while and then actually use the businesses in the precinct so for us that's a good thing. 

Mike Bird: Yeah, I thought just before we started rolling the camera we're talking about what you've been up to today and I thought it was just so interesting that you mentioned you were working within like a and a big kind of group sitting with a large audience but you're also calling one person who had some small thing outside their house. I thought it was just so cool. Would you mind sharing?

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Yeah, the job varies so from day to day so one stage I could be you know with a large group of people taking a tour of the Malvern Town Hall to listen to a resident who's complaining about their bins not being collected or a portal-loo being set up in front of their home by a Water Authority or meeting someone who's coming from overseas who's going to a show of Chapel off Chapel venues. So it can vary from small community groups to major events that we are hosting what participating within Melbourne as well so it's great fun. 

Mike Bird: It's super cool. What projects are you working on what's the council doing to bring the high quality of living to the Stonnington residents?

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: So for us in the city of Stonnington, we're trying to ensure that we get some good quality development so we've just completed Prahran Square which is our largest ever Civic project it's about 65 - 60 million dollars which is great. We've just done or almost about to complete the new King Street Walk which is just opposite Prahran Town Hall on Chapel Street, redeveloped a street and closed it off to traffic and just pedestrianised that, that's almost completed.

Mike Bird: Cool.

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: We're about to open our brand new South Yarra maternal-child health centre so that's about a half a million dollar project in South Yarra. We're going to commence some new gravel Street works probably in the new year so in 2021 to the complete those works in gravel strip that we commenced about two years ago, where we narrowed the road why and the footpaths pedestrianised up a lot we also did the Grattan Gardens, we're looking at doing some more open space even around South Yarra, Prahan, we've done some works in Windsor at the moment spent about 3 or 4 million dollars in redeveloping some open space. We've acquired some new land in and around South Yarra and Prahan for additional open space. We're demolishing some existing council buildings that have gone to the end of their life especially in front of Chapel Off Chapel and the Princess Gardens to create some more open space. We're looking at a master plan for Prahan pool at the moment. Princes Close Children's Center [correction: Princes Close Childcare Centre], we're about to also do some works there and of course. Another major project at the moment is the Prahran Town Hall, so we've moved all our stuff out of the Prahran Town Hall centralizing them at Malvern which is great. We have the library there and customer service, we're about to close the entire town hall and spend over 30 million dollars on redeveloping restoring and creating a brand new community centre there and a new library so. 

Mike Bird: There's a lot!

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: There's a lot happening in Stonnington City we're doing ourselves.  

Mike Bird: That's amazing and so with all that in mind, there must be quite a bit of pressure coming through. What sort of pressures do you face? 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Well, this is all, in response to population growth so we're seeing about 4-5 thousand people who are going to be moving into mainly the western end of the City Of Stonningtonm that's around the chapel Street precinct over the next couple of years. So population growth is going to increase in and the demand for services are there, so hence why we're building more open space a new maternal-child health centre more children services, the Chapel Off Chapel Arts Precinct, the Prahran pool needs redevelopment the public realm so those streetscapes along Chapel Street, Gravel strip, Commercial Road, Toorak Road, they all need an upgrade and we're spending money on there because we're seeing a large increase in population and we're seeing some new businesses coming in so the new developments that are occurring with some more office spaces, also a cue to the demand but also the interest in more office development the precinct. 

Mike Bird: Very cool and so you know what the one that the private investment in the area because obviously, it sounds like the council's pretty busy and doing a lot how are you seeing the private investment landscape kind of playing out? 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: What's great is that we're seeing up to now a billion dollars that's a billion dollars being spent in this present and I challenge any mayor across this across Melbourne across Australia to see outside a capital city of course if they can find me an area that a billion dollars is being spent and that's both government and private sectors. So I’ve said all the stuff that we're doing but in the private sector, we're seeing some new hotels going up in Toorak Road as we speak now. We have a 25,000 square metre office building at about 30 stories going up in Chapel Street, we have a proposed Hotel in South Yarra, we have some more office space going in the jam factory which we hope will start construction this year. So we have a huge amount of that commercial aspect going into the Chapel Street precinct we also have still some residential coming in as well so in Windsor we have a large about I think there are about 500 new apartments going into the precinct as we speak throughout Windsor, Prahran, and South Yarra. So it's not just in the South Yarra end, it is going through the entire precinct so it's a lot of construction that's happening.

Mike Bird: Yeah, so even Capital Grand and South Yarra, you know that's one of the kinds of largest developments in the country right now and certainly an amazing addition for South Yarra. 

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Well Capital Grant is our tallest building outside the CBD and it's on the corner of Toorak Road in Chapel Street it has the largest David Jones food store that's just opened outside of the CBD which is fantastic and that's a great popular place at the moment of those residents. We're seeing some new cafes and restaurants, there'll be a gym that will open up in the next couple of months, so it is a great development lots of residents have moved in. It's almost complete at the top yeah so when those residents have moved into the lower levels and the retail is developing at the moment 

Mike Bird: And with all this, what's your message for people thinking of moving to Stonnington? Sound like there's plenty to like.

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: I say where else would you want to live but in the city of Stonnington, we have the great place we're close to the CBD lots of cafes, retail, bars, clubs are close to sporting precincts you can walk to the CBD lots of parks and open space and we have a great activity centre where. We're offering great initiative for new businesses to also open up in the Chapel Street precinct we have a new business concierge service where if you want to open a new business in the Chapel Street precinct or anywhere across the city of Stonnington and you want some assistance with that we can provide you with one-on-one connection with one of our staff from Stonnington and they will walk you through the process to open up your business from footpath training, to signage, to planning approval applications, to liquor licensing. whatever it might be we've got a service and staff there who will walk you through that process so if you want a new business and you want to open it up Chapel Street is where to go and at the moment we're seeing an upswing vacancy rates of now plateaued and so we're now seeing some new businesses opening up in Chapel Street and I would if I was to try and open up a business, I would come to Chapel Street right now.  

Mike Bird: Love it! We really appreciate you taking the time to come and see us, it's great to have the mayor of Stonnington to come on, you know a lot of startups, podcasts and video, so we're just super stoked. Steve, thank you so much.

Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos: Thank you very much. My pleasure. 

Mike Bird: For more videos subscribe and we'll have more coming up, see ya! 

Olivia Round

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of urban.com.au. Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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Stonnington Council Councillor Steve Stefanopoulos

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Mark Kozakiewicz's picture
Tripe! Stonnington had a "thriving community" before the 'development boom'. Development has been about 100% profit and 0% community. We have countless vacant properties but the council is still patting itself on the back for attracting more square metres of new space.
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