University Square goes ultra green

City of Melbourne intentions for a reimagined University Square are now available for viewing. The significant piece of public space at 190-192 Pelham Street is in line to receive a total makeover, bringing the green landscape into a 21st century.

With the surrounding area rapidly bulking up and receiving a new Metro line and station, City of Melbourne's long held plans for the site have taken on added impetus. This is doubly so given that 40% of Elms which form part of University Square have reached the end of their useful life expectancy.

In partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Government, the reworked University Square is now in its third phase of consultancy, which was submitted for consideration during September. They were promptly placed on public display.

Enhanced green spaces for University Square

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle's take on the project

To recognise the Square’s role and location as a gathering space for residents, students, visitors and workers, the University Square Master Plan has drawn on extensive community feedback to guide the design of this space; to craft a 21st century park.

We want to create a larger park and make the landscape more user friendly and engaging. Over time, many of the elm trees at University Square have declined; a legacy of the drought from 1998 to 2007.

In response we will increase the tree canopy and species diversity by planting more than 250 climate-appropriate trees and add a rich understorey, while preserving the Square’s existing trees during transition. In the years ahead we can look forward to a new urban forest and the new avenues that will emerge for future generations of Melburnians to enjoy.

In addition to creating vibrant social spaces that respond to the needs of our community, we will increase the size of University Square, create new plazas and activity areas, capture stormwater, install solar energy and WiFi.

An aerial of University Square's development zones

University Square's redevelopment can be broadly broken down into the following categories:

  • 1 - Planning for trees: Create a new urban forest at University Square, with the addition of almost 250 new trees
  • 2 - Barry Street new park spaces: Increase the size of the square by closing Barry Street to traffic and car parking
  • 3 - Leicester Street road within a park: Reduce the width of Leicester Street and maintain northbound traffic only to retain essential bus services, bicycles, and traffic while enlarging the square
  • 4 - Plaza and Grattan Street: Build a new heart for University Square in a re-designed plaza. New features include diverse trees and gardens, a recessed basketball half-court, table tennis and chess boards
  • 5 - Water Terrace A transition from the Plaza to The Green will be created with a Water Terrace. The new space will include trees, gardens and aquatic plantings with a focus on water
  • 6 - The Green: Expand and improve the square’s much-loved lawn area
  • 7 - Pelham Street park front and biodiversity corridor: Replace the current single central entrance with a new park entrance and address at Pelham Street. Pelham Street itself will be transformed into a green corridor linking University and Lincoln squares
  • Creating social spaces: Design and locate park elements that meet the needs of social, accessible and connected spaces in the new park including seating
  • Building a living laboratory: Provide opportunities and infrastructure that encourages research and prototyping in fields such as alternative energy sources, biodiversity, air quality and heat-island-effect
  • Integrated public art vision: Integrate art into University Square from the design phase through a strategic creative vision that enables art to be a fundamental component of the site’s design
The planned Water Terrace

Whilst the application for a planning permit plays out, City of Melbourne are preparing top implementation certain aspects of the Master Plan.

The first stage of University Square's redevelopment will see both Leicester Street and Pelham Street come in for some attention. Sections of Leicester Street adjacent to University Square will be demolished in favour of a new 5m wide north-bound lane and dedicated bicycle path/pedestrian thoroughfare.

Pelham Street, on the other hand, will receive a new park entrance and pedestrian crossings, plus new garden beds and seating, whilst also relocating the temperance fountain to the new Pelham Street entrance.


George D's picture

Do they still plan to cut down healthy living trees?

They should also narrow Grattan St in preparation for Parkville station.

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Aussie Steve's picture

This is indeed an exciting project, taking over under utilised streets and turning them into passive, green, pedestrian spaces. And also making the square more usable and contemporary and drought tolerant and suitable to the Australian climate.

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