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Footscray's little saigon finds its phoenix

Peruse the Urban Melbourne project database and Footscray has no fewer that 20 residential listings covering roughly 30 separate buildings yet to be built. There's little doubt that Footscray will be an apartment hotspot in the near future, but what of the associated infrastructure and amenity that should always accompany mass development?

Over the past decade the heart of Footscray has seen tremendous change for the better with both the State Government and Maribyrnong City Council doing their bit to regenerate the area, whether it be infrastructure such as a revamped Footscray Station or extensive civic works with an aim toward creating a more pleasant built form environment.

Footscray's possible Welcome Arch. Image courtesy MCR

In line with the latter, initial images for a Welcome Arch has been revealed as part of the Little Saigon Precinct Activation Plan. With the aim of mustering public opinion prior to settling upon a final design, the McBride Charles Ryan design has been encouraged by Council, with input from the Footscray Asian Business Association, Vietnamese Community Australia Victorian Chapter, Footscray Traders Association and the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Featuring two crane-like structures, the McBride Charles Ryan piece will carry both cultural and local references embossed on the internal walls of the sculpture. Environmentally Sustainable Design elements have also been incorporated which will see adaptable reuse (the building has been designed to ensure adaptable long term reuse); low energy lighting; passive ventilation; and high quality pedestrian and cycle environments included, according to the associated City Development Special Committee report.

A new Little Saigon. Image courtesy Group GSA

Forming part of the Little Saigon Precinct Activation Plan, the Welcome Arch is expected to join a raft of additional upgrades designed to enhance the immediate local environment. Further landscaping is earmarked within the precinct, as is an upgrade to Byron Street which will see new public facilities delivered.

According to consultancy Spiire, "The proposed development proposes a significant intensification of currently underutilised land through providing additional retail opportunities, car parking and informal community recreation space." Put before Council for consideration during December 2014, the existing at-grade public car park will be condensed into a multi-level structure in order to facilitate a public plaza complete with artworks.

Accordingly a planning permit has been issued for the building and plaza, with construction due to commence shortly.

Little Saigon Market. Image courtesy Atomic 3D

What remains ambiguous are the plans for Little Saigon Market, directly opposite the new Byron Street plaza. Architecture firm Techné have conceived a residential complex of 260 apartments over two towers which would consume the entire 5,000sqm site. The approved redevelopment would feature a market style retail centre at ground level.

The form allows for maximum natural light and visual outlook by splitting the volume into two towers, resulting in the creation of an internal podium of landscaped open space. The towers employ an additive method of articulation which reflects opposing functional aspects of the program and responds to the unique built form of the surrounding area.

Techné

Like so many other residential projects in Footscray, the Little Saigon Market development has yet to proceed. At least the civic infrastructure will be in place should it ever be delivered.

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The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

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