There is still no date for when cars may once again roll down Bridge Mall - but we now know who will draw up the plans.
The City of Ballarat today announced details of the design firm that will scope out the changes to the Bridge Mall - as part of the Bakery Hill rejuvenation project - which will potentially include opening up the pedestrian precinct to traffic.
Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor announced that Hassell, an architecture, design and urban planning practice with an office in Melbourne, would lead the process after winning a tender.
The firm has already begun work to come up with a range of possible designs, and will be consulting Bridge Mall traders and the wider community over a preferred option.
Local companies involved will include PLOT Landscape Architecture as well as town planning and surveying company Cardno TGM.
We were absolutely deliberate in not coming forward with a concept as such; we came forward with a series of strategies that would underpin the narrativeMark Haycox, Hassell
Cr Taylor said there would definitely be physical work underway this calendar year once the community consultation takes place in July.
He said no ideas were locked in, with Hassell putting forward several possibilities including a one-way system, two-way traffic and Bridge Mall continuing to be traffic free.
Cr Taylor said: "All those designs have been put on the table and will be working [on] them with Hassell, the project team and the community to come up with the best concepts so we can get and deliver."
Mark Haycox, a principal in landscape architecture at Hassell, said: "We were absolutely deliberate in not coming forward with a concept as such; we came forward with a series of strategies that would underpin the narrative, the dialogue that we would have with the community."
"We don't shy away from difficult conversations and difficult projects. Our job as designers is to push the boundaries on this."
The possibility of reopening up Bridge Mall to traffic was raised for the first time in recent years in May 2019. Officers announced a plan to inject $15 million over three years into the project, in a statement of intent to attract wider development of an area that has suffered from years of decline.
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Attempts to re-introduce traffic to the street, most of which has been pedestrian-only since 1981, have previously been put forward but then set aside after meeting community resistance.
However, with many closed shops in the mall, council officers reported a greater appetite for change this time.
Councillors adopted the Bakery Hill Urban Renewal Plan in October last year, a wide-ranging document designed to help rejuvenate around 70-hectares of the CBD, including one of the key entrances to the city. The Bakery Hill area runs from Eastwood Street in the south to the railway precinct in the north.
The work allocated to Hassell is mostly focused on changes to Bridge Mall.
The draft budget for 2020/21 outlined changes in the allocation of that budget for Bakery Hill, with $4 million instead of $10 million proposed for the next financial year, then $10 million set aside for 2021/22.
Cr Taylor said he hoped for state and federal funding to help with the rejuvenation plans.
He added he hoped to push forward plans for much of the council-controlled land in the Bakery Hill precinct.
"It is a bit of a combination of council, who manage some of the land, which is state government land as well.
"I know at the moment, we are looking at expressions of interest to some land to developing that, we're working with the state government with their $14 million for car parking as well.
Concept designs from last year show a big change in the area currently occupied by the car park around Coles and Woolworths. Cr Taylor said: "We're working through how to make that a reality."
He said council was also currently having conversations about Norwich Plaza.
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