By David Schout
Works on the southern end of Elizabeth St have finally begun, almost four years later than first planned.
One of the Melbourne’s busiest areas, which serves as a gateway to the CBD, Elizabeth St south has long been earmarked for upgrades and was once described by former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle as “grotty” and the “ugly duckling of Melbourne”.
But after a series of delays, Lord Mayor Sally Capp announced that works had finally begun in late January to widen pedestrian space and create a “more appealing streetscape”.
“After a number of hurdles on this project last year we are pleased to announce the start of works on the southern end of Elizabeth St,” Cr Capp said.
“We are creating an enhanced space for our city residents, workers and visitors to safely access nearby public transport and shops while maintaining physical distance. There will be new trees and greenery, new street furniture, lights and bluestone paving.
“The project team is working closely with local businesses to maintain pedestrian access and ensure access for deliveries and waste removal.”
The street’s southern end is primarily made up of fast-food outlets and convenience stores.
Before COVID-19, the intersection with Flinders St saw up to 10,000 people cross every hour during the morning, making it one of the city’s busiest spots.
The project will expand pedestrian space by the rough size of a basketball court and to achieve this, the southbound motorist lane between Flinders St and Flinders Lane will close permanently.
A key pillar of the council’s 10-year transport strategy involves widening space for those on foot who have reported feeling “cramped” in certain areas within the Hoddle Grid, and the council has long forecast a revamp of Elizabeth St south area.
The beginning of works marks the end of an extended period of delays.
The project was first flagged to begin in June 2017 but was pushed back to 2019 due to construction at 276 Flinders St.
In mid-2019 the council again pushed it back to “early 2020”, which was eventually delayed to late 2020.
But as of late January, works were finally underway.
Workers have already begun removing street furniture to make way for construction and, as part of the project, fences will be installed on the eastern side of the street’s southern end.