A park for COVID conditions

By Rhonda Dredge

A new park has opened in the CBD during COVID without much fanfare, giving residents and examinees a much-needed outdoor place to have lunch in the sunshine.

The park, on the corner of Market and Collins streets, is narrow and runs in a north-south direction.

A gap in the skyline to the north creates a sun trap in the middle of the day, even if it’s short and sweet.

Local resident Sasha Wilmoth was sitting in the park, eating her takeaway, while listening to the Premier’s press conference.

“I hope he’s going to allow picnics,” the PhD student said. She calls the park her front yard.

Small wins are the name of the game as the sun moves higher in the sky and residents of the surrounding buildings rush out to take advantage.

“I eat my lunch here every day,” 29-year-old Joe Karakatsanis said – a neighbour who is a musician and has learned how to live out of a suitcase.

Great rent deals have attracted a younger crew to the nearby residential conversions of this precinct and the towers surrounding the park.

Sasha is living on a PhD stipend from the University of Melbourne. She’s poor but there’s not much to spend money on and she welcomes the thinking space.

The park is the first created by the City of Melbourne in the CBD since the City Square in the 1980s. It was completed during COVID, ahead of schedule.

The 1900 sqm urban space gracefully abuts a new, empty W Hotel with a water wall as a boundary, native plants and even a creek.

The park is hidden from the north and rewards those approaching from Queens Bridge.

Seating is tiered among plantings and water features, with room for plenty of picnickers to space out at one per four square metres, give or take a sculpture or two.

As the city once again laboriously moves out of lockdown, the numbers are preoccupying everyone, with five adults from two vaccinated families allowed to meet.

This permutation must make single residents feel like they’re living in the most micro-managed place on earth.

“At least the government cares about you,” said Jemi Joy, one of 60 Indian dentists who spread out during a lunch break from a registration exam at the Australian Dental Council across Collins St.  

“In India, people die and end up in a ditch.”

All of the dentists were educated in India but want to set up practice in Australia and are sitting the exam, which also went ahead under COVID conditions. •

Caption 1: Local resident Sasha Wilmoth in her “front yard”.

Caption 2: Indian dentist Jemi Joy on a break from a registration exam.

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