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“I love them”: businesses express support for Errol St greening

Spencer Fowler Steen

Many Errol St retailers support new street greening and seating measures recently introduced to North Melbourne, with some suggesting possible improvements and additional initiatives to enhance Errol St’s “village” feel.

The City of Melbourne (CoM) in partnership with the North and West Melbourne Precinct Association (NWMPA) is trialling 25 native trees with understorey grasses in 1.3-metre moveable, concrete planter boxes, as well as four bench seating areas.

The council and NWMPA will collect feedback and consider permanent greening and activation solutions for Errol St.

Asked what she thought of the new plantar boxes and seats, which add to Errol St’s outdoor dining parklets, Casa Verde Flowers owner Sarah Mellier said they improved the street.

“I love them! she said.

“It adds to the feel of Errol St being a village and everyone loves plants. It just makes a scungy street look better.”

“This is a good suburb with a busy shopping strip. There’s nothing flash done here, so to put something like that here looks like finally someone’s made some effort, and I’m devastated to learn that they’re not permanent.”

Snax Café owner Kim Tran said the planter boxes and the seats were “very good”.

“They make the street better and add more safety,” she said.

“I think Errol St needs more trees, because in North Melbourne it’s very empty at the moment. We need things that will bring people back.”

Auction Rooms supervisor Gryphon Davidson said he was a “massive advocate” for less cars and more cyclists.

“Anything that reduces car traffic is good in my eyes. I don’t know whether they do or not, but they look good. They increase the oxygen,” he said.

“Logically it’s a smart decision, really. I think not painting them leaves the possibility of graffiti, if you didn’t want people graffitiing them you could paint some art on them.”

Auction Rooms venue manager and artist Natalite Edge agreed, noting that artists had suffered during COVID because many were freelancers with transient work.

 

So, paying local artists to paint really nice designs [on the planter boxes] would be really beautiful.

 

While supportive of the greening measures and seats, Judy Steel, manager of the Errol St Merchant, formerly the Melbourne Merchant, said the decision seemed to have been made without consultation with retailers.

“I think the initiative is fantastic, but it seems to have been implemented very quickly and it doesn’t seem retailers were asked what they thought,” she said.

Ms Steel said she had done a lot of work in the car parking industry and was aware of the potential effects of taking carparks away from Errol St on customers and businesses.

“If you can’t park in a retail precinct, shoppers won’t come to you. If the council is thinking ‘we only want people to come in on bikes or on foot or public transport’, they’re [shoppers] limited as to what they can take home,” she said.

Ms Steele suggested that the council could potentially bring back heritage style verandas to the central area of Errol St, after they were removed during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, to cool the street and to allow retailers to operate without getting wet.

“If the council were to approach this from a historical and energy efficiency climate perspective, you’d be killing two birds with one fantastic stone,” she said.

Echoing this idea of having retail and business on the street under verandas, Ms Mellier said she would like to operate on the street under the veranda of her shop.

“There’s a potential of it [Errol St] being like Yarraville and Seddon – given the demographics of this area – for it to be a village thing. People sit on that island down the road all the time,” she said.

Barber on Errol St manager Arthur Michaels said the trees were “nice” but questioned whether the concrete planter boxes were right.

“Timber boxes would be good. They’re okay where they are out the front, the footpaths are wide enough,” he said.

“The council needs to spruce the street up a little bit, the awning across road needs to be fixed. We need ore footpath cleaning too.”

Metta Chai owner Charlotte Clarke expressed concern that the planter boxes did not offer much in terms of shade or beauty, and said many people unfortunately used the one outside her shop as a rubbish bin.

“They’re not really bringing anything; I have to go out every day and pick up rubbish from them,” she said.

“People dump their coffee cups in them every day and rubbish blows into them and collects at the bottom.”

Ms Clarke suggested that larger, permanent trees planted in the ground that provide more shade could be better for Errol St.

“Lots of people in the area have little apartment dogs, so I t would be cool if they could fence off an area either in Errol St or close by for dog walking.”

The council’s environment portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert said street greening projects were essential to support a diverse urban forest, increase canopy cover and to keep Melbourne cool in a warming climate.

“We will determine how effective these changes are based on community feedback and consider delivering more permanent greening and activation solutions along Errol St,” he said.

North West City News understands that following community consultation with the CoM, the majority of people supported the reallocation of public road space to greener, landscaping uses.

The temporary greening trial will continue until mid-2022.

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