After the Spirit
What’s next for Waterfront Place?
On Saturday 22nd October a crowd gathered along the Port Melbourne foreshore to bid farewell to the Spirit of Tasmania. The rain held off. A band, appropriately called Lost Port, played sad farewell songs and people waved their flags in time with the music as the Spirit departed with generous blasts of its familiar horn.
The farewell was a hastily assembled event and the great turnout reflected the strength of feeling about the role of the Spirit in Port Melbourne’s community life. ‘It was my alarm clock’, ‘it was the rhythm of Port’, ‘I felt reassured by the horn’, were just some of the thoughts expressed. The following day a welcoming celebration was held at at the newly named Spirit of Tasmania Quay at Corio Bay, the Spirit’s new home.
Logic and a cool head said that Station Pier was no match for the new facilities offered at Corio Bay. Given the critical importance of the ferries to the Tasmanian economy and with new and larger ferries being built, a terminal with more vehicle and freight parking was the obvious choice.
This week, the reality of Port with no Spirit of Tasmania dawned. There was no red to offset the drab and dreariness of Station Pier and surrounds.
Past planning decisions haunt the Waterfront Place precinct. Station Pier is disconnected from the tram terminus and the shore by the squareabout created to manage traffic circulation. The open spaces are fragmented and unattractive. The over large restaurants that were anticipated to bring life and vitality to the precinct have waxed and waned, but mostly waned. The large venues work for functions but not for local people. While operators have held the cost and amount of parking responsible for the failure of the restaurants to thrive, they have never generated loyalty and custom from local people.
People who grew up in Port in the 1950s have endless tales of a life led around Station Pier – swimming, fishing and hanging out with friends. The wave of post war migration so strongly associated with Station and Princes Pier is moving out of living memory. Now that Station Pier is largely off limits those daily associations and connections that add layers to a place are not being made.
The western finger pier is undergoing repairs as it was unsafe. The repairs may have made the pier safer, but it’s an unsightly patchwork, rather than an inviting, well cared for space.
The public realm is tacky. The precinct is a mess.
The Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network is advocating for Station Pier to become an immigration museum because of its significance as a site of immigration. They are appalled at the ‘deeply shabby’ appearance of the Pier. The MMHN would like to ‘re-imagine, re-purpose and to rescue this rapidly degenerating historically significant maritime infrastructure’.
Yet we know from Central Pier in Docklands and closer to home at Princes Pier that the renewal of timber piers is astronomically expensive.
The whole Waterfront Place precinct needs re-imagining in an integrated and wholistic way that includes and involves state and local government, Ports Victoria, community, the cruise ship industry and the developers of sites in the precinct.
Perhaps a process such as the Bayside Open Forum which kickstarted Beacon Cove thirty years ago is the way to go. However, people have grown weary from successive public consultations from which no result appears to be achieved. The repeated refusals of planning applications has also set back a reinvigoration of the precinct and deterred the substantial investment that will be needed to create a lively precinct. It’s not easy attracting investment into a precinct, and a coordinated, optimistic, solutions focused approach will be essential.
And while those conversations are underway, could the TT Lines freight yard be put to active use? Basketball courts, for example, suggested the Mayor of Port Phillip at the Spirt of Tasmania farewell.
Visit Waterfront Place – a 360o view.
On 6 October, VCAT approved the development at 1 – 7 Waterfront Place. The developer has said construction will begin next year.
Meanwhile, yet another planning amendment is being sought by Luxcon for 103 Beach St,1 following the Port Phillip Council’s refusal of their earlier amendment. Since the site already has a planning permit, it is the amendments to the permit, rather than the permit itself which remain to be decided.
1 former Beacon Cove Foodstore
MMHN Opportunity 7: Re-Imagining Station Pier Immigration Museum and Gateway to ‘Maritime Melbourne’