Public contributes its  own “new” open space

Artist's impression of "new" open space in Collins St.

By Shane Scanlan

The CBD is to get a new 1850sqm park, but the history of the site has muted the celebration.

The new park comprises 474sqm contributed by developer Cbus, with the remainder being taken from adjoining Market St, which is being closed to one lane.

The entire block bounded by Collins, William and Market streets and Flinders Lane used to be owned by the City of Melbourne.  It was the former site of the Western Market.

When the council leased the site for 99 years in 1960 to National Mutual, some 2500 sun-drenched square metres fronting Collins St was preserved for the public in perpetuity.

But in 1992 the council sold the freehold, extinguishing its right to insist on future public open space.

The building itself was later controversially denied heritage status and demolished.  Cbus is currently constructing the colloquially-dubbed $1 billion “pantscraper” on the site.

Cbus is contributing $4.3 million towards the $7.5 million park, which is yet to be given a name.

When voting to endorse the plan for display and construction at the September 18 Future Melbourne Committee, councillors were testy that some commentators did not share their enthusiasm for a “new park”.

Failing to acknowledge the council’s role in the demise of the former public open space, Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said: “What’s important to note that when we had the former development there and the big open space on Collins St, that most of that was in private hands.”

“Some of the commentary around the size of what that open space was. But, with most of that in private hands, it was up to the owner of that property to with that as they wished.”

Cr Rohan Leppert said: “There was a bit of commentary around this over the weekend where I think we were re-prosecuting the case from a few years ago.”

“Everyone realised almost immediately that the private open space was private and that government didn’t have any direct ability to decree that it was anything other than private space. Back then, council did an admirable job through Rob (Adams) and others, to negotiate the best possible outcome for us.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp was keen to dwell on the positives, saying: “This is the first new public part we’ve had in the Hoddle Grid since 1980, with the City Square.”

Cr Leppert said: “I’m really excited too.  I can’t wait for our first, brand new, city park in decades to be constructed and to be open to the public.”

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