On Wednesday 16 March, a group of coordinators, placemakers and Council representatives met at the Jewell Precinct in Brunswick to be part of the Mainstreet Australia bus tour, beginning in inner city Brunswick and ending in the “village” of Sunbury.

Partnerships in Placemaking and Activation

The Jewell Precinct is one of the most successful and colourful activation projects in Melbourne – once a grey, unsafe and under-used road space, it now comprises raised lawn, trees, seating and a series of decks. Rising from its centre, a 3.5m urban bouldering wall has introduced a playful heart to the Jewell Village.

The Brunswick Place manager, Will Cogan, took us through the process and significant hurdles the Council faced of reallocating road space to public space, which required closure of the road and removal of on-street car parking. As anyone involved in a shopping centre knows, the removal of parking is not an easy undertaking!

The project began in September 2013 with a one-day intervention called ‘Parking Day’. Council took over parking bays on Wilson Avenue and asked the community what their vision for the area might be. In December 2013, the ‘Better Block Brunswick’ one-day street party was undertaken.

Following a review of the community’s feedback, the Jewell of Brunswick ‘Pop-Up Park’ was launched in March 2014 to test the idea of permanent road closure for two months. An extensive activation program by Council and community groups helped activate the space and retain people in the area.

Fifty-six -days and 10,000 visitors later, Council received an unprecedented 356 submissions from the community, 94% of which explicitly stated that they wanted a public space in this location. A truly successful ‘placemaking’ outcome!

From here, the tour made its way to Sunbury, which is situated approximately 34 kilometres northwest of the Melbourne CBD. Sunbury is quite unique, with award-winning local food and wine, historic bluestone architecture, and credited with being as the ‘Birthplace of Cricket’s Ashes’.
The Sunbury Town Centre, with over 300 businesses, is the only major activity centre in Hume without any central management structure. In 2012, an attempt was made to introduce a Special Charge but for various reasons this was defeated.

The first stop in Sunbury was lunch at Vic’s Food and Wine on the newly revitalised O’Shanassy Street, where the group was joined by members of the Sunbury Business Association, Council Officers, the community organisation Home Grown Promotions, and a busload of delegates from Wyndham, including Councillor Heather Marcus and the CEO Kelly Grigsby.

This provided a great setting for Bruce Marshall (Sunbury Place Manger/Senior Economic Development Officer, Hume City Council) to talk about some of the initiatives that have helped to revitalise and redefine the Sunbury Town Centre.

These included the role of the Place Manager in Sunbury, the relationship with the Sunbury Business Association, the Streetscape revitalisation project, the outdoor dining guide, the smoke-free outdoor dining and the O’Shanassy Street fairy lights (and not just any old fairy lights about $80,000 worth of fairy lights!)

After lunch, Bruce took the group on a walking tour of Sunbury, showing and discussing some of the placemaking and urban renewal projects and activities that have been the catalyst for the changes taking place in Sunbury  including:
The stroll through Sunbury’s historical placemaking project: Featuring 30 historical images and paintings of Sunbury enlarged and installed on various walls around the town centre.

Laneway lighting: While Sunbury has a well-designed grid layout town centre with several laneways, the laneways were poorly lit at night. The installation of new lights has improved the laneways significantly.

CCTV camera project: In 2012, a State Government grant allowed Council to install 20 new CCTV cameras around the town centre. They have proven to be a good asset, and in addition to the lighting upgrades, have improved the perception of safety around town.

The tour finished at the Sunbury Village Green – a valuable piece of open space in the heart of the town centre, the green is often used for markets and events and will be getting a makeover in 2016.

Some of the themes that come through clearly throughout the tour were:

  • community engagement and involvement is critical when delivering placemaking and revitalisation projects
  • the place manager doesn’t need a big budget to be able to create positive change (but the more money made available, the better!)
  • sometimes your ugliest areas can become the catalyst for some of the most creative and positive change a community could imagine
    partnerships and positive relationships with community groups is critical

A fun and informative time was had by all!

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