The CAARP project immediately followed the redevelopment of Waterfront Geelong, another $30m major project that transformed Geelong’s landscape and built form. The fact that the opening of the final stage of the CAARP took place on the same day that Waterfront Geelong was officially opened in 2001 was not lost on the audience. In conjunction with a number of smaller projects, these two major projects have created a new look for Geelong adding around $60m of investment in city centre public realm works in the past decade. The focus of all recent projects has been high-quality urban design with a strong pedestrian bias.
Speakers praised the delivery of an ambitious program of streetscape works and specifically mentioned Moorabool Street for its design and management including:
- Relocating the dense congregation of buses and distributing them around the central city freeing up much needed footpath and road space for a range of other activities;
- Lowering the road by up to 800mm to reduce the visual impact of vehicles and provide a positive pavement fall away from shop entries thus preventing flooding and providing a wider footpath;
- Providing a central median (refuge) for safer pedestrian crossing;
- Removing overhead powerlines;
- Providing contemporary street lighting;
- Upgrading the major stormwater drain that protects much of the City centre from flooding;
- Linking the city centre to the waterfront by planting 130 mature palm trees that frame the view to the bay and the You Yangs beyond;
- Continuing the program of making the City attractive and safer at night by providing lighting to the new plantings along with faÁade lighting of heritage buildings;
- Providing city safe taxi areas;
- Providing permits for an additional on-street alfresco dining areas; and
- Managing a range of activities including a monthly farmers’ market, night market and other city centre promotions. Business investment by the Government and the private sector has been strong in rural Victoria recently. The Minister spoke of his Government’s desire to continue this investment, attracting people to move to and contribute to the sustainability of regional communities. A raft of new major projects is emerging for Geelong including the Cultural Precinct Study (the area around Johnstone Park), Transit Cities and Western Wedge. These projects provide an excellent platform for Geelong to showcase its natural and built assets. Challenges for the Future Urban Design in Geelong continues to face many challenges. Some of these challenges include:
- To continue positive cross-divisional involvement ensuring expertise and participation from a range of disciplines;
- To be rigorous and allow time for processes which will lead to a richness in the design and development of all works;
- To allow opportunities for risk taking, to test new ideas and push the possibilities for urban design; and
- To continue to engage Councillors and the broader community in the urban design conversation.
Waterfront Geelong and the CAARP were landmark urban design projects, unprecedented in regional Victoria and receiving major funding from the State Government and Council. Although this level of funding is unsustainable in the long term, Geelong needs to continue its urban renewal. Projects need to be undertaken strategically and incrementally, allowing Council to manage its capital budget within competing demands, while maximising community benefit and liveability.