Much-loved laneway to be given new lease on life

By Brendan Rees

Melbourne’s iconic Hardware Lane could undergo a transformation including pedestrian safety improvements under plans being considered by the City of Melbourne.  

A proposed streetscape design has been released for the much-loved destination to ensure it remains a “vibrant, safe, and accessible laneway”.

Under the plans, the current road surface would be upgraded by replacing the current red bricks with bluestone paving.

New lighting would be installed, along with 14 trees planted. Pedestrians and diners would be separated from a private car park driveway with bluestone safety barriers. 

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the proposal would provide “a safer, more enjoyable experience” for all visitors.

“Hardware Lane’s red bricks were installed more than 35 years ago and have deteriorated over time, becoming slippery and uneven,” she said.

“We want to ensure Hardware Lane continues to be a top city destination for years to come, which is why we need to undertake this work to protect its future.”

While COVID-19 restrictions were in place last year, the council fast-tracked its disruptive drainage works between Bourke and Lonsdale streets in order to reduce the impact on traders when restrictions eased. 

It has now developed a proposed design for stage one of the Hardware Lane streetscape upgrade (between Bourke and Little Bourke streets) with public consultation open online until August 22.

Further proposed upgrades include installing wheelchair ramps and tactile ground surfaces to improve accessibility as well as upgrading bollards used for intermittent road closures, and installing new street furniture such as tree guards and grates.

CBD residents’ group EastEnders president Stan Capp said while he welcomed the plan, a concern had been raised about the proposed height of the lighting as it may exceed the tree line.

“I would be keen to make sure there’s no conflict between the lights and the trees so there was no deterioration in the lighting within the laneway,” he said.

“It’s an important part of Melbourne. I think it’s good that we’re looking to upgrade our lanes without losing their heritage integrity.”

Athena Velonis, who has been running her business Orchid Day Spa & Beauty Therapy for 35 years in Hardware Lane, said she believed the plan had not been well thought-out.

“Could you imagine women with heels on bluestone pavers? They’re not thinking about it,” she told CBD News.

“They should be actually sitting us down and saying ‘what do you think we should be doing?’”

“I‘m going to be screaming my head off if they’re making noise. They can’t be jackhammering during the day.”

Ms Velonis said she believed Hardware Lane should be transformed into a tourist precinct similar to The Rocks in Sydney, which is famous for its street food and homemade fashions.

“Hardware Lane used to be booming … not like that way now. Of course, since COVID hit, it’s disastrous.”  •

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