The redevelopment of Elizabeth Street’s southern end could finally begin later this year after the City of Melbourne gave the green light to construction works.
Long earmarked for renewal and once called an “ugly duckling” of the city by former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, the works will create wider footpaths, an improved aesthetic and upgraded flood resilience on the stretch of road between Flinders St and Flinders Lane.
In total, pedestrians will see a basketball court-sized increase in space.
The project is part of a wider strategic shift at Town Hall for a merit-based approach to commuter space to better serve the nine in 10 people who navigate the city on foot.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the Elizabeth St intersection immediately outside Flinders Street Station was an important “gateway” to the CBD in need of renewal.
“Once COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, we’ll have more than 9300 people pounding the pavement at the Elizabeth St intersection during evening peak hour,” she said.
“We want to extend the footpath on the eastern side of Elizabeth St to double the amount of space for pedestrians. Congestion will be reduced and pedestrian access to tram stops and Flinders Street Station improved.”
The southbound traffic lane on Elizabeth St will permanently close at the conclusion of the project to make room for pedestrians, while streetscape works will include the installation of new street furniture, bluestone paving and greenery.
A new underground drain network will also be installed to alleviate the chance of flooding, the last of which occurred in 2011 when a severe rainstorm caused flash flooding and disruptions to transport.
The project will further disrupt an area of the CBD already undergoing significant works as part of the Metro Tunnel project.
Cr Capp said neither nearby works nor the current pandemic would impact on the council’s plans.
“We’ve had a few comments more recently suggesting that while we’re in COVID-19, is it appropriate to be considering projects like this. I would say that this is one of the projects that represents the transformation of areas in our city to where we want them to be; where they’re going to be safe because they can accommodate the enormous pedestrian flows that happen throughout the day.”
The council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece said the upgrades had been planned for some time.
“Undertaking works in such a popular and landmark city location was always going to require balancing the needs of city residents, workers, businesses as well as coordinating with other nearby developments and construction,” he said.
“We’re a step closer to starting this project and making changes to benefit thousands of Melburnians every day.” •