Macaulay canyons

Simon Harvey

For many years some members of the Kensington Association have been talking about “the Macaulay canyons”.

I report that they are well under way – Macaulay Rd is fast becoming an asphalt avenue bordered on both sides by a canyon-like drop (no set-back it seems) from imposing eight-storey apartments.

When you walk between them near the Stubbs/Macaulay St corner, you understand what the daily excursion of an ant must feel like.

There are currently more than 1600 dwellings approved for the area, most for rental, and a few in the build-to-rent scheme. The biggest development is yet to begin – a Greystar project (covering the industrial estate on the north side of Macaulay Rd) of 447 apartments.

There is one more large land holding within this block bordered by Macaulay Rd, Stubbs, Robertson, and Barnett streets, owned by the Australian Wool Testing Authority. The prospect of this property being developed in a similar manner is horrible. I want to shirt-front the Minister of Planning Sonya Kilkenny, and shout “STOP! ENOUGH! OPEN SPACE!”

It’s important to reflect on the real-life consequences for both new and current residents in the area. In the frenetic push of the “Big Build”, I often wonder how much in-depth reflection of this kind is done by planners.

It’s a new era for Kensington. Apartments are not new to Kensington, but residents in the new apartments will have a new economic profile and have a different living experience from those who have moved into the area in earlier decades.

New residents will mainly have their property managed by the developers themselves (Assemble, Local, and Greystar). My expectation (or hope) is that the apartments are well constructed, well appointed, and will be well managed, with longer term rental to provide predictability, continuity, and, most importantly, a sense of belonging.

Many – or probably most – current residents of Kensington have their own block of land and may have never lived in an apartment. The experiences, priorities, and feelings between the two home “styles” are very different. Moving from one to another requires time to adjust, especially if experiencing the change for the first time.

This unprecedented build of 1600-plus apartments probably equates to around 5000 new residents. Such a significant influx over a relatively short period requires planners to pay special attention to supporting infrastructure.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that there is evidence this has happened. I hope I’m wrong.

Planning ahead for schools, childcare, health services, parking, traffic, open space is critical. Sure, some of these things are canvassed and covered in planning documents, but I muse over compromises and corners cut under the tracks of the “Big Build bulldozer”.

To conclude on a brighter note, our redoubtable local councillor Rohan Leppert will move a motion at the City of Melbourne’s next Future Melbourne Meeting to further facilitate development of the strip of land bordered by (between) Stubbs St and Moonee Ponds Creek from Robertson St to Macaulay Rd, as public open space – as per the Macaulay Structure Plan. •

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