By Sunny Liu
The CBD is home to Lady Primrose Potter AC, renowned Australian philanthropist and widow of businessman Sir Ian Potter.
Sir and Lady Potter bought their Spring St apartment back in 1982, when they grew tired of their high-maintenance Toorak house.
“We were overseas a great deal. We were probably out of the country more than we were in it. We had a large house in Toorak but it got really out of the control because we weren’t there,” Lady Potter said.
She encouraged Sir Ian, who was reluctant at first, to move to the CBD.
“When we moved here, nobody in our social circle was living in the city. But now I think a lot of the people are actually moving into the city,” she said.
“The first night we were here, my husband said ‘I don’t know why we didn’t do this years ago!’”
Lady Potter said she was amazed by the convenience of living in the heart of the city, even though three decades ago it was not yet an established residential area.
“It’s so convenient. But I also like the atmosphere here, where we’ve got the park around us. Everything that we seemed to need, whether it’s the hairdresser or the dentist, is all nearby,” she said. “There’s no way that I’m going to move.”
Lady Potter has a lifelong commitment to the Australian arts scene, especially ballet, orchestra and opera.
She is the life governor of the Ian Potter Foundation, founded by her late husband in 1964, that supports Australian arts, education, environment, health and medical research.
The Australian Ballet named its Southbank headquarters the Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre in recognition of Lady Potter’s long-standing contribution to the organisation.
In 2003, Lady Potter received Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for leadership and support in community growth through philanthropy in arts, sciences, social welfare and education.
She said her passion for all things arts sprouted from a very young age and she would continue to support them for as long as she could.
“If you don’t support the things you love, you don’t have them. Getting to know all the people who work and perform there makes life interesting. And I always think that if you are not busy, you grow old,” Lady Potter said.
Lady Potter said she believed arts helped strengthen the community bond.
“I’m very supportive of arts organisations like the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra going out to the local community with free concerts. Everyone should have the opportunity to access arts and events,” she said.
And living in the CBD also makes it easy for Lady Potter to commit to her charitable work.
“I’m out regularly, with all the charitable things I do. I like to support them and be seen to be supporting. The day always seems to be busy. I live central so it’s easy to get to places,” she said.
Gardening is another one of Lady Potter’s lifelong passions.
“When we just moved here, the balcony was just bare concrete. But I’ve turned it into a sky garden and get a lot of pleasure out of it. When you come home tired and cross and you do some weeding and hosing, you come in smiling,” she said.
“My garden gets a lot of tender care. I’m always out there, fiddling around.”
Having lived in the CBD for more than three decades, Lady Potter has also observed many changes to this city.
“Melbourne has preserved its heritage and this part of the CBD has kept its spacious feel,” she said.
“But there are also a lot more skyscrapers now. The city is getting quite crowded. And high-rise developments like 95 Spring St next door, which digs four stories underground and rises really high, is really going to impact how the city looks,” she said.