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The grass can be greener on the cityside

There has been a noticeable shift towards providing quality green public amenity in major cities, leading to more resilient cities which are capable of addressing future challenges such as population growth, increased density, climate change and the desire for more communal recreational spaces.

The benefits of providing these spaces are considerable in improving the quality of urban environments; from reducing temperatures in cities (the heat island effect) to providing shade and habitats for local fauna.

The City of Melbourne through its Urban Forest Strategy seeks to increase canopy cover from 22 per cent to 40 per cent, increase forest diversity and improve biodiversity by 2040. In parallel to the Urban Forest Strategy, City of Melbourne also has a number of other initiatives which seek to improve and add to Melbourne's wealth of green spaces.

These include the Greening Laneways project and Rooftop Project, which investigate maximising the potential of some underutilised assets within the CBD for the betterment of the city and its population.

A visualisation of the possible future ‘greening’ of Melbourne. Source: City of Melbourne

We can add another layer by making them green and therefore more efficient at cooling the city, intercepting and cleaning stormwater, and improving air quality. There are more than 200 lanes in our central city but only a small number of these feature greenery.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle

A further opportunity identified is a new Market Square as part of the Queen Victoria Market Renewal Project, providing a green oasis within City North. This new space combined with enhancements to the existing sheds will create a unique indoor/outdoor facility which:

  • Supports large-scale programmed markets and events with appropriately scaled open space.
  • Creates spill-out areas and outdoor facilities for uses in the Queen’s Corner building.
  • Provides recreational opportunities that complement Flagstaff Gardens and cater to market patrons and the local community, including students and families with children.
  • Provides spaces for health and wellbeing activities, informal recreation and casual use, with public seating and shade.
  • Develops an integrated design for the new open space and New Franklin Street.
  • Supports environmental objectives including management of stormwater runoff, and increased tree canopy cover and shading.
Queen Victoria Market Renewal Map 2021. Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Mixed-use precincts which offer retail services, work and transport options in one central location are essential to improving the quality of the urban environment, and play a critical role in providing environmental, aesthetic, well-being and recreational benefits not just to residents but to the general public at large.

Developers such as Cbus Property and Lendlease have committed to creating more green public amenities as part of their developments in a bid to create better places which foster vibrant communities. Their respective projects, Collins Arch and Melbourne Quarter, aim to contribute to the public realm via the introduction of significant and diverse green spaces which compliment their respective built form.

Collins Arch's 5,926sqm island site will introduce 3,500sqm of public realm, primarily by way of a 1,500sqm park along Market Street that will result in the partial closure of Market Street itself. Further to this, residents will have access to the 3-storey sky garden bridging the dual towers on level 39. The provision of a green space within the heart of the city with a Collins Street address is a rare opportunity that has seen the City of Melbourne throw its support behind it.

What we found is we don’t need Market St for smooth traffic flow in the city. If we don’t need it, is it possible to return that to public open space? And I love the idea of a new pocket park right on Collins St that leads you down to the river.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle
Collins Arch's new 1,500sqm park. Source: Cbus Property

Further down Collins Street, Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter will dedicate more than half of its 2.5ha site to open space, and has been registered for a green star communities rating. Landscape architects Aspect|Oculus have designed 10,000sqm of public and private domain at Melbourne Quarter, including the precinct’s Skypark and Neighbourhood park which have been designed to contribute to enriching the experience of city life.

The precinct will be a mix of both green vertical and horizontal layers, with over 40 storeys of planter boxes and vertical green trellis designed to run along the northern and eastern façades of the first residential building, East Tower.

Elevated above Collins Street, Skypark will give distinct views down into the square, onto Collins Street and out to the city, offering a variety of opportunities for people to linger with benches, landscaped rooms, shelters and moveable furniture.

Bob Earl, Director, Aspect|Oculus

The provision of green space and amenity in cities will continue to become a sought after commodity in line with increased density and population growth. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Melbourne Quarter's Neighbourhood Park. Source: Lendlease

3 comments

Bilby's picture

I am a big fan of green spaces, including green roofs in the city, but one thing that is often overlooked is the fact that the cooling effect of green space is derived almost entirely from water.
Rooftop gardens and street-side parks alike require artificial watering to survive in warm weather. Without a stable and sustainable water supply, green space is Melbourne may prove unsustainable in any future drought event. If the whole city is "greened" in this way, we need to think about more than mitigating and managing excess storm water runoff, and actually find ways to capture storm water for the purposes of watering green space in the long term.
If this infrastructure can be provided, then the dream of a green city may well prove to be viable, but if not, then it would seem unlikely to be more than an intermittent phenomenon as climate and seasonal variation allows.

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zenith's picture

What makes you think that's not the case already?

The MCG for example is supplied with Class A recycled water which also irrigates the entire Yarra Park and the Punt Rd oval. Use of recycled water mitigates demand for potable. And these schemes are becoming more and more common.

Wouldn't want facts to get in the way of a good rant though.

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Bilby's picture

What rant and what "facts" are you referring to, Zenith?

The MCG is a single site and isn't even in the CBD - it is already surrounded by green space and open areas where rainwater collection is a bit easier than in the CBD grid. I don't really see the relevance of your comments to the discussion here.
Are you suggesting that the whole CBD is currently serviced with access to recycled storm water in this way? If so, where is this infrastructure located? Any "facts" in this regard that you can supply would be much appreciated - including other examples of these apparently "common" urban projects in the City of Melbourne.

Remember, the context of the discussion is urban - specifically green roofs, walls and city infrastructure - can you name a single project of scale in the context I was discussing?

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