By John Anderson
While we work through 2020 and the COVID-19 situation that has disrupted daily life, there is a project that is proceeding that will breathe new life into the heart of Shepparton.
Council resolved a resolution for the Maude St Mall redevelopment to undertake a logical and progressive design after consultation with key stakeholders and the Greater Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The original redevelopment plan had flaws that would see it dated in a very short time, but in its wisdom, the Council understood that and flipped the plan to rebuild the Mall precinct into a space that will fulfil the current and future needs of the community for the next 50 years.
Successful initially for a few years but progressively for many years, the Mall has failed to meet the expectations of traders and consumers alike.
The lack of accessibility for aged, disabled and parents with small children as well as safety concerns was a constant reason why people avoided the space.
It is a very wide-open area, and in summer could be extremely hot despite the canopy of trees that have grown to maturity.
In many ways it has been a Mall that from its origin, was larger than perhaps was required. Initially it included Fraser Street which may well have been the only street required as a Mall.
All that will become history in 2021 when the works commence to transform the area.
Currently, the selected architects are drawing up designs and plans for consideration and hopefully all going to plan, the design will be “shovel ready” for construction through 2021.
None of this fast tracking of the redevelopment could occur without the support of Damian Drum the Federal Member for Nicholls in the Federal Parliament who understood the vision of the plan preferred by stakeholders. Damian had access to federal grants money to assist communities rebuild when affected by drought.
Shepparton is one of these communities and Damian had the vision that Shepparton needs a ‘European Style Piazza’ in the centre of town.
Likewise, the financial commitment by the City of Shepparton staff and Council match the vision of Damian Drum which is why we as a community can look forward to the new design.
Post COVID-19, it is likely that people will want to shop, dine and recreate in spaces and places that have plenty of room to allow safe physical distancing.
People will be wanting to enjoy spaces that have fresh air rather than recycled and conditioned air.
In a world of climate change people will be looking for places that have natural tree canopies and not artificial shade structures.
People will be looking for accessibility for ‘click and collect’ requiring short term parking.
All these aspects can be achieved within the redevelopment of Maude Street as a Mall.
One lane of slow-moving traffic is planned to enter from Fryers Street and exit at High Street. The parking will be generous but not excessive. It will be in long parallel spaces between the trees which will mean easy access to drive into a park and drive out without the need to reverse into the park.
There will be parks to allow for “’click and collect’ at store such as Harris Scarfe and drop off zones for elderly and disabled.
The driving lane will be moved from the centre to slightly east which will provide a wonderful space on the western side which will benefit cafes and restaurants that can provide outdoor dining for a large number of people. (Think wind protection and overhead heating for all seasons outdoor dining.)
The fact that cars can move slowly through all hours of day and night will allow for better security as it is a proven fact that people movement inhibits creation of a ‘hangout’ space.
One of the most important aspects is the possibility of creating a car free, people friendly community space in Fraser Street under the Telstra tower.
This space can be so valuable as an entertainment and performance precinct and is well located to include a children’s playground safely away from traffic but close to the pubic convenience block.
In time, the Telstra tower could be upgraded to become much more a landmark right in the centre of our city.
The current plan being designed retains as many of the existing trees as possible. New ones planted will be suited to urban living but also capable of tolerating our summers.
As much of the existing paving and infrastructure as possible will be retained which will limit the disruption to business and people movement during construction.
Over time, the type of business and enterprise in the Maude Street area will change from purely retail to an exciting mix of retail, cafes, entertainment and community opportunities.
We are only limited by what we have seen before.
In the future, it may be possible that some council-based offices are located centre of town for better accessibility to the people.
A library right in the mix of cafes and shops?
Delicatessen and fruit and vegetable business?
Certainly, in the planning would be the possibility of above street apartment living.
The precinct is very close to the Latrobe University and GOTAFE and will benefit those students who can easily walk to Maude Street for a break, to study, for refreshments and to meet fellow students.
The reasons people come to a certain business area is residential living, retail and business shopping, dining both casual and formal and for pure entertainment.
The Maude Street redevelopment over time will provide all of these benefits which will make the space a wonderful location to come to as locals and to be a major drawcard for visitors as they come to Shepparton for sport, the SAM museum, the river, Kidstown, the lake, the MOVE Museum and the Botanic Gardens at Kialla.
The future possibilities are only limited by our own minds! (and the funds of some farsighted developers)
John Anderson is the president of the Greater Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry.