With the spectre of South Yarra Station's entrances and street interfaces remaining unchanged a real possibility in the near to medium term and with a booming high-density population centred around South Yarra's Forrest Hill Precinct, there remains a real likelihood that necessary infrastructure upgrades - such as a norther entry to the station - vital in meeting population increases in the area will not be delivered.
While South Yarra remains a prime example of infrastructure upgrades lagging behind population growth, there remains a broader opportunity to implement over a host of Melbourne railway stations a quality interface between these intensified places and surrounding neighbourhoods with the State Government's level crossing removal program. To that end, Urban Melbourne spoke with Hayball principal Sarah Buckeridge in order to garner her opinion on what factors are necessary in creating value for surrounding communities through integrated infrastructure upgrades, with rail at the heart of the discussion.
Having worked on proposals such as Proposition 3047 and with a current apartment tower under construction in South Yarra's Forrest Hill, Sarah Buckeridge and Hayball at large are qualified to offer considered opinion on the matter.
With an expanded South Yarra Station - adding two new platforms on the Melbourne Metro Rail tunnel - dismissed as too expensive, attention now is shifting toward making the current structure user friendly. While the potential removal of the Cranbourne-Pakenham line from the existing station once the Melbourne Metro Rail project is complete may reduce the numbers of people connecting between lines at South Yarra, Sarah notes that South Yarra Station is very much a single directional facility interfacing only with Toorak Road.
True success for the adjoining Forrest Hill Precinct is largely dependent upon meaningful integration with South Yarra Station and that requires at least another station entrance towards its northern end in order to better serve Melbourne High School and the surrounding apartment buildings. Quizzed as to Forrest Hill Precinct's overall success, Sarah notes that in the truest sense it has achieved what the original policy shift had intended: the transformation of a former industrial pocket into a high-density residential hub in a relatively short period of time.
While the towers may be new, Sarah Buckeridge also cautions on the need for public realm expenditure to mirror that of private investment. Hand in hand with South Yarra Station's increased functionality is the need for City of Stonnington to address key public realm needs within Forrest Hill Precinct such as footpaths, greenery and general amenity. Only then can Forrest Hill Precinct be judged in its entirety.
Switching from the microcosm of South Yarra to a broader Melbourne context, Urban Melbourne posed the question of whether existing rail lines and stations could/should be sunk with air rights above offered for development. Sarah explains that there is no 'one size fits all' solution, citing the $70m Ikon Glen Waverley development and pending transformation of Brunswick's Jewell Station as prime examples of public-private partnership which can bring an enhanced outcome to both a given station and its surrounds, without necessarily sinking rail infrastructure.
It's this cooperation between the public (Victrack) and private spheres which Sarah considers vital in producing exciting, integrated infrastructure nodes with long lasting community benefits. Asked if new technologies such as Cross Laminated Timber (which Hayball has used successfully elsewhere) has a place in the building of new railway stations, Sarah replied it remains a possibility owing to its many beneficial characteristics but ultimately the station must be first and foremost functional and integrated with its surrounds.
Overarching the discussion was Hayball's work on devising an integrated outcome for Broadmeadows Station and its surrounds. Initially devised during 2006 as part of Architectural Review Australia’s ‘Proposition’ competition, Proposition 3047 saw the redevelopment of the existing Broadmeadows train station with community, sustainability and accessibility at the crux of the design.
Winning the People’s Choice Award and the jury’s first prize at the time for the new inter-modal transit interchange and mixed-use development, it facilitated a new masterplan for a host of key sites within the greater Broadmeadows Transit City area. Prepared for the Department of Planning and Community Development, the 2011 Transit City plan also amounted to nothing, much to the disappointment of Sarah Buckeridge.
Sarah notes that rail station redevelopment can often act as a catalyst for further investment in the immediate area, as it's a central piece of infrastructure that naturally draws people toward it. The Broadmeadows plan was to have been a physical connector in an otherwise disjointed area, bringing with it a raft of community benefits such as increased, useable and engaging public spaces.
Described by Sarah as one of Hayball's best pieces of design, Proposition 3047 is nearly a decade old. Infrastructure investment by the State Government in Broadmeadows in particular has been limited to say the least over that period. As an stand alone design Proposition 3047 was valid then and still is now as an example of not simply redeveloping a given rail station, but taking it beyond to encapsulate a raft of features that can benefit the wider community.