Currently before Melbourne City Council is a plan to create a weekly market with ACCA's forecourt nominated as the preferred site. Supported by marketing/communications firm Communicado and design studio Racket, the weekly event will be known as The Upmarket.
The marketing spiel via the events website reads as follows:
Reinventing Melbourne's weekly market scene forever, creating a permanent hub for weekly design. The Upmarket is a carefully curated & truly local Melbourne design market.
The Upmarket recognises true talent and offers a platform for unique, innovative and emerging designers, artists, artisans & musicians to showcase fine wares, made here and elsewhere.
Visitors can buy direct from inspired & creative talent, whilst sipping on great coffee, eating gorgeous treats and enjoying the lively atmosphere. A local, relaxed and vibrant feel with great tunes, entertainment for kids and something for everyone. The Upmarket is lively, fun and uniquely Melbourne.
After ridding myself of the sudden urge to sip coffee and hug every person within the vicinity whilst extolling the virtues of Melbourne, The Upmarket does seem to be a worthwhile initiative for a number of reasons.
Southbank has been derided seemingly forever and a day as lacking general street level character - beyond the banks of the Yarra little effort has been vested into humanising the public realm with the JH Boyd School redevelopment a notable exception. In this regard any push to bring pedestrian activity to Southbank is a plus.
Sustainability is key to The Upmarket, with the promoters pushing green transport options. In addition to an iPhone app tracking local transport links to and from the site, incentives will be on offer for those who catch public transport or cycle. These include market offers, discounts and even a bike valet service - drawing people to Southbank without bringing additional vehicles into the area is a worthwhile pursuit.
ACCA itself is a prime example of Southbank's hostile street environment; granted ACCA's facade serves its purpose and would be otherwise compromised if altered, but it is externally inactive and features a large forecourt with only the 'Yellow Peril' as a focal point, yeah....! Activating the forecourt, if only on Saturdays, helps to maintain and more importantly draw in additional people to the area. The majority of Southbank foot trips would be from apartment door to CBD, anything reversing this trend is a bonus. With 80 stalls trading regardless of weather, The Upmarket may well turn the area into a hub of human activity from 7am to 6pm over an otherwise quiet weekend.
Small step The Upmarket may be in correcting Southbank's street level misfortunes, but it would have been helped no end if the proposed redevelopment of Sturt Street materialised. Floated simultaneously with the redevelopment of Hamer Hall, the rejuvenation of Sturt Street as a pedestrian friendly spine through the arts precinct would have acted as a funnel. The above option conceived by FJMT would have channeled foot traffic from Melbourne's heart via a grand thoroughfare down Sturt Street and into arguably Melbourne's cultural heart.
Ultimately the above was not to be but The Upmarket may succeed where other Southbank initiatives have failed - here's hoping!