We’ve been using office resources and our grants budget to support a range of local community projects as a response to climate change, the pandemic shutdown, and other crises that undermine secure access to nutritious food.
We have supported 3 seedling hubs around the Gabba Ward where residents can swap locally-germinated seedlings and seeds without having to go through big commercial plant suppliers. These seedling hubs have been set up by residents in West End and Highgate Hill.
Community seedling hubs are spaces where residents can source and swap seedlings, seeds & cuttings.
Germinating and swapping heirloom plant varieties helps preserve genetic diversity and prevents the homogenisation and monopolisation of seed stock by big companies that patent seed species for profit.
In times of crisis, it's important to network with other people who live nearby and also foster a connection to plants and growing our own food.
There are three publicly accessible hubs in the Gabba Ward so far:
- Corner of Crowther & Victoria St, West End
- 15 Gertrude St, Highgate Hill
- Rosebery St, Highgate Hill
Seedling hubs are spaces for sharing and connecting. Seedlings are free, but everyone is encouraged to bring their excess to share with those around them!
Label any plants you bring along and please return pots and labels so we can minimise costs and keep putting plants out!
Everyone's welcome to come and participate! (Facebook page available at this link: Community Seedling Hubs - Brisbane)
We’ve also partnered with Jane St Community Garden to plant dozens of free fruit trees and edible plants along local streets.
We'll be updating this page soon with photos from our successful verge planting day on 30 May.
New urban farming projects have been established on Boundary St (southern end) and the Dutton Park hilltop (near the basketball court). If you'd like to volunteer with either of these projects but you're having trouble tracking down the organisers, send my office an email and we'll put you in touch!
West End organisation boosting food security in the pandemic
A West End organisation is working to boost food security during the pandemic. Ruby Thorburn and Alice Wicks are planting vegetables on unused state government land to give to those in need. Find out more: https://7news.link/3c3ddC0 www.7NEWS.com.au #7NEWSPosted by 7NEWS Brisbane on Saturday, May 2, 2020
We’re supporting residents to set up new communal compost hubs to divert more waste from landfill. We’re also lobbying council to introduce a citywide rebate scheme for compost bins and worm farms.
We already have about 16 households in the Gabba Ward open to receiving food scraps. We have just surveyed them all and they are really happy with the ShareWaste system, but they need more people delivering their food scraps. So get on the website and register.
Our office is now supporting more households willing to have a compost listed on the Sharewaste website. Your food scraps collector should be easily accessible in a front yard so neighbours can easily drop off their scraps whenever they want.
To set up a compost hub, we can support you with vouchers for free compost bins. Simply email our office on email@example.com.
Once your compost system is set up, you can register with ShareWaste. Your address is only given out by you individually to neighbours who message you directly through the site - so you can control how many people are delivering food scraps.
If you don't have space to compost at home but you have food waste that you don't want to sent to landfill, just go to the Sharewaste website to register and send a message to your closest composter. They'll give you their address and info.
BCC are also providing free kitchen compost tubs to collect your food scraps at home. We have them available in The Gabba Ward office now. Just jump online and register for one via this link. (The council registration system is only set up for larger composting hubs, but we only have one in our Ward - West End - Jane St Community Garden - so when you register via the website, just indicate that Jane St is where you will be dropping off your scraps. You'll be right to use it as part of the ShareWaste program at any of the other small compost hubs.)
More and more residents have been asking for the stretch of Riverside Drive Parkland north of Jane St to become car-free. Riverside Drive is designated as public parkland, and it's unusual for so much space in a public park to be used for free car parking.
Based on previous consultation, we have already asked council to remove all street parking to the north of the boat ramp, and are now exploring whether to remove the rest of the parking between Jane St and the boat ramp. Further consultation about the long-term future of the boat-ramp is also required, as the need for vehicles to access the boat ramp is in direct conflict with pedestrian safety.
For now, we're asking whether residents support removing all parking (including boat ramp parking) or if you only support removing street parking on Riverside Drive but would like the boat ramp parking retained for now.
If parking on Riverside Drive itself is removed, residents with limited mobility would still be able park at the end of Jane St or Hockings St in order to access the park. We can explore converting some of the parking on Jane and Hockings Streets into priority parking for people with a disability if necessary. If boat ramp parking is retained, this could also remain available for people with impaired mobility.
The results of this survey will be published via Councillor Sri's website, email list and social media accounts. This survey is not a binding community vote, but will be heavily influential to the decision-making of the Gabba Ward Office (the more people who respond, the more weight the survey results will carry).
For more info on our broader vision and strategy for transport in the inner-south side, check out this page.
Data Use: We are collecting your name and contact details to help guard against duplicate responses and to inform you of the results of the survey. Collecting address details also helps us understand trends regarding whether people living in different neighbourhoods have different views about the survey question. Your data is stored in the dedicated database of Greens Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri. Your name and contact details will not be shared with Brisbane City Council directly or with other third parties without your express permission.
Here’s another innovative yet common-sense solution to create more public green space in the inner-city…
Let’s cover over the stretch of train line near Gloucester St and Frith St in Highgate Hill to create a new public park!
There are many inner-city neighbourhoods where a train line runs through a suburb at slightly below ground level. We now have the technology, the resources and the engineering skills to cover over these stretches of train line with precast tunnels to create more public space.
The presence of very shallow tunnels would make it difficult to use these sites for buildings that require deep foundations, but they’re a great opportunity to create public green spaces.
The broad area of exposed train line next to Gloucester St was once a train station. It was closed decades ago, mainly because its close proximity to the newer South Bank train station made it a little redundant. But as a result, there's a much wider stretch of public land in this area than along most other train lines.
Some of the major benefits of covering over this stretch of track and converting it to public parkland include:
- Reduced noise pollution for surrounding residents
- Reduced air pollution for surrounding residents
- Turns a major barrier to wildlife movement into a wildlife corridor
- Provides a more direct pedestrian and bikeway link that reduces the need to climb up and down hills
- Depending on where they’re travelling, gives some local pedestrians an alternative route to avoid the difficult crossing at the intersection of Gloucester St and Stephens Rd
- And most importantly: creates over 11 500m2 of new public green space in an area where local parkland is in short supply
The precinct around Stephens Rd and Gloucester St doesn’t have any local parks that you can easily walk to without crossing a main road. Covering over the train line would create a 1.1-hectare public park, with sections that are flat enough to kick a ball or play some cricket. 1.1 hectares is roughly the same size as the main football field at Davies Park, West End. The park could feature a massive all-ages playground with different elements targeted at different age groups.
Creating a green spine through this neighbourhood on the edge of Highgate Hill and South Brisbane could be the first step in a series of linked parks and pathways following the alignment of the train line through to South Brisbane, to dramatically improve pedestrian connectivity.
This idea has been suggested by local resident and environmental engineer, Associate Professor Peter Pollard, who has also proposed that some of the material used to fill up the space above the new tunnels could come from the nearby Cross River Rail excavation. This would potentially reduce the cost and environmental impact of trucking out and disposing of all that excavated fill material.
Of course, you would also want a few metres' depth of decent-quality soil over the top, so that some of the land could be used for fruit trees and a community garden.
This is an amazing opportunity to turn a noisy barrier within the urban landscape into a green community hub. This space would be twice the size of the park at the top of Highgate Hill, and would have room for a whole range of activities and facilities.
I imagine it primarily serving as a well-vegetated quieter park for local residents to walk the dog, hold a picnic, or hang out with friends to escape the hustle and bustle down along the main roads.
It could also serve as a quiet green retreat for patients, family members and staff from the nearby hospital precinct who want to avoid the higher-intensity vibe down at South Bank and the riverside parklands.
Everyone I’ve shared this idea with so far has said something along the lines of: “That’s brilliant! And it seems so logical. Why hasn’t this happened already?”
The main reason is that even if you use precast tunnel segments that you drop in and connect up, it would still probably cost at least $3 million dollars, and the train line is actually State Government land. So it would require a bit of collaboration between State Government and Brisbane City Council. But although $3 million sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually very good value considering that it would create roughly $20 million worth of public parkland.
If we can successfully implement this approach of cut-and-cover train tunnels with parkland above, there are many other neighbourhoods where we could roll out this model. There are other stretches of low-lying train line running through many inner-city suburbs where green space is in short supply.
Obviously we also need council and the State Government to buy back more land to create new public green spaces, but covering over train lines also offers the extra benefits mentioned above. Reducing noise pollution and air pollution from these busy train lines would dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of residents living within several hundred metres of the train tracks, and direct pedestrian pathways avoids residents having to walk the long way around to get across the tracks.
If you support this idea, please share it around, and tell your friends to vote for the Greens!
We've had some important wins with the Brisbane Metro project, including convincing council to make sure the new vehicles run on electricity rather than diesel. As I've explained previously, Brisbane Metro isn't perfect, but overall it does seem like a step in the right direction.
But the Metro project presents another great opportunity that we don't want the city to miss out on...
Grey St at South Bank is gradually becoming noisier and more dangerous because it's being used as a through-corridor for traffic heading to and from other parts of the city.
This is placing additional strain on the badly congested intersection of Vulture St and Grey St, and is making it harder to support Grey St to become a vibrant, active transport-friendly precinct.
A lot of commuter cyclists continue to ride along the South Bank riverfront because Grey St doesn't feel like a safe riding environment, and local residents living along Grey St have to deal with noisy trucks and faster-moving traffic.
One of the major costs and complications of the Brisbane Metro project is how to redesign the intersection of Melbourne St and Grey St to accommodate high volumes of buses and metro vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Anyone who has tried to walk along Melbourne St to South Bank, QPAC or the museum knows how uncomfortable this intersection is for pedestrians.
But what if we were to close Grey Street to through-traffic as part of the Brisbane Metro redevelopment of the Cultural Centre Station ?
We could maintain local vehicle access for residents, businesses and the major South Bank carparks, but close it off just before the intersection with Melbourne Street, to keep through-traffic on Merivale St and Cordelia St where it belongs. This would reinforce Grey St as an active travel precinct, encouraging more walking and cycling, and improving connectivity through to South Bank.
There's another added benefit of closing off Grey Street near Melbourne Street...
We could convert roadway into green space to create a large new public park!
By closing off Grey St to cars just after the QPAC loading dock driveway, we could maintain a turnaround and drop-off zone to access the South Brisbane train station, while preventing cars from travelling through the Grey St-Melbourne St intersection.
A small park or plaza could also be created on the north side of the intersection between Melbourne St and Fish Lane. This plaza would allow for pop-up markets and public events in front of Fish Lane, while retaining a turning lane for buses to get onto the Victoria Bridge if necessary.
All up, we could create almost 5000m2 of new public parkland, right in front of the South Brisbane train station.
As South Brisbane develops and densifies, we need to create new public green space for apartment residents who don't have their own backyards. Converting road space into bikeways, pedestrian boulevards and public parks is a cost-effective and sustainable way to improve inner-city quality of life.
Creating a park on Grey St would bring some much-needed greenery to this hot and heavily concreted precinct, while also offering a much more appealing introduction to South Bank than visitors currently confront when they step out of the South Brisbane train station.
From an active transport perspective, there are so many advantages to this approach, as pedestrians would be able to flow freely from South Brisbane train station to the new Metro station to QPAC, the museum and the South Bank riverfront, without having to wait for cars.
This would also improve the efficiency of other intersections at both ends of Grey St - particularly the intersection of Peel St and Grey St, which could have a greater focus on moving through-traffic travelling via Merivale and Cordelia.
We're not saying this proposal definitely HAS to happen, or is the only way to redesign South Bank. But we wanted to put it out there as another possibility to broaden the parameters of debate and make sure all options are on the table when council and the state government are debating options for redesigning the Culture Centre station as part of the Brisbane Metro project.
The opportunity to create 5000m2 of additional public parkland is not something we should be passing up too hastily.
If you like this idea, please send an email to the mayor via firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know you support closing Grey St, and also email our State MP at South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au to get her on board too!
The Davies Park Upgrade Project has been in the works for a couple of years now.
It started because I was advocating for more green space around West End.
Instead of actually buying more land for new green spaces, the LNP decided to put a few million dollars into improving Davies Park (which wasn't quite the same, but is still a lot better than nothing).
I topped that up with a few hundred thousand dollars from my local parks budget so that the project would include a full-size basketball court and a small skate facility.
A crucial part of the project is improving drainage. This whole area of West End used to be very swampy, and water naturally pools around various parts of the park, including the sections of the ring road that get very muddy and eroded.
But what BCC didn't tell residents at any stage of the consultation process was that they were planning to run the underground drainage pipe right through the middle of Jane St Community Garden. It seems the Liberals made a decision that they wouldn't tell the public about this until the last minute.
This diagram shows the alignment of the proposed drain. The BCC wasn't going to release this document publicly. My office had to go through a formal Request for Information process to get hold of it.
Just this week, BCC have told Jane St Community Garden that they intend to start construction this November!
Digging a trench for the drainage pipe is going to involve closing off and digging up a significant chunk of the garden and excavating a lot of soil.
Thousands of volunteer hours have gone into creating and caring for this garden space, and it's not yet clear how council intends to compensate the community for this. If you put a dollar value on all the work that's gone into the garden, it would be pretty huge.
What frustrates me is the lack of openness and transparency from council. Instead of keeping the community in the loop and explaining why this is the only option, the council has tried to keep it a secret until after the construction tender was allocated and work is about to start.
If digging up the garden really is the only option, council should at least explain publicly why other options weren't feasible.
These are the questions I've asked the LNP to answer...
- Approximately how much does the drainage component of the project cost based on the current alignment through the garden?
- Approximately how much would it cost to instead run drainage through the football field and out to Jane St via the ring road driveway?
- Approximately how much would it cost to deepen the drain on Montague Rd and run drainage directly to Montague as opposed to out to Jane St? (Council said this wasn't feasible because Montague Rd is higher than the lowest parts of Davies Park)
- Why isn’t it possible to design a drainage system involving on-site retention via natural pools/mini-wetland and dry creek beds as opposed to large underground concrete pipes? How much would this cost?
If you want to support Jane Street Community Garden, the best thing you can do at this stage is to email the Lord Mayor at email@example.com and ask him to publish detailed answers to the above questions on the council website.
To proceed, this project also needs environmental sign-off from the State Government because it's on contaminated land.
I don't want to hold up the entire Davies Park Upgrade. I'm still open to being convinced that this drainage tunnel alignment is the only feasible option, but if I'm going to support the project, I want answers to the above questions.
Maybe instead of spending huge amounts of money on a concrete tunnel to carry rainwater straight out to the river, we could turn a small part of Davies Park into a more natural stormwater retention basin, and drain water into a series of shallow ponds which the community garden could use for irrigation...
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As some of you will be aware, a while back, one of the two large fig trees outside Koko Apartments along Riverside Drive fell down somewhat unexpectedly. It seems this was due to a combination of factors including root rot/various parasitic fungi, and the close proximity of the apartments (which limits the amount of space for the tree roots to expand).
BCC started investigating the health and structural integrity of the remaining fig tree, and after a lot of detailed investigation and trialling different temporary measures, has decided the tree has to be removed because there’s a high risk it will fall over soon.
This is not a decision I have any direct control over (I’ve essentially been told that it doesn’t matter what I think – the safety concerns are too high so the tree has to go). But I’ve asked for the detailed arborist reports to be published. You can view them at these links:
Council has released the final concept design for the expanded park at the corner of Carl St and Tottenham St in Woolloongabba.
After council recently acquired neighbouring properties, we've expanded this park by almost 1000m2. The next step will be to finalise the detailed design and start construction.
I'm reasonably pleased with this design, as it's a pretty close match to the community concept design that we developed through our participatory design process last year.
The project includes an all-ages play area for which the details are still being fleshed out. This will be less like a conventional playground, and more reminiscent of spaces like the Fremantle Parkour Park, encouraging adults and children to play, climb and exercise together.
The park also includes a small community fruit orchard and space for a future community garden (we've included a small storage shed as part of the toilet block design to support the community garden when it eventually gets up and running).
There's a windy secondary path through the park which will eventually be concreted, which improves disability access and provides a circuit connecting to the main path for younger kids to learn to ride their bikes on.
A fair chunk of the park is being maintained as a 'natural' green space with native trees and a denser understorey to provide habitat for native wildlife.
There's also a picnic shelter and BBQ near the toilet block, plus enough open space to kick a ball around or throw a frisbee.
The two main differences between this park layout and the design that came out of our community workshop are:
1. We'd also suggested a covered stage area near the toilet block to support community events and festivals. The layout has retained enough open space so that we can add in the stage later if we want to.
2. We asked council to include a nature play area immediately to the west of the all-ages active play area. One of the main reasons this wasn't formally included on the design is that council's 'nature play' design standards are quite restrictive due to health and safety concerns.
However there's still plenty of space available, and I'm hopeful that as the local community takes more ownership of the park, we'll be able to create an informal nature play space between the community orchard and the all-ages play area. Kids need to be able to get their hands dirty and climb trees from time to time, and I think there will be plenty of opportunities for that in this park.
We still need to decide on a name for the park, so suggestions are welcome.
Council's park design team will be hanging out in the park tomorrow morning (27 July) from 9am to 11am to share the design and answer questions from locals. Stop by if you'd like to ask any questions...
In February and March 2019, we held a public meeting followed by a community design workshop to facilitate local residents to decide what improvements they wanted to the unnamed park at the southern end of Queen Bess St.
The meetings were widely advertised via printed letters to the local area, as well as via social media and email newsletters. The meetings were attended primarily by residents of Queen Bess St, Church Avenue, Arrow St and the surrounding neighbourhood. We also incorporated feedback from residents who couldn't attend the meetings in person.
We've produced a rough mud map of where additional features might be located in the park, which we will present to council's parks team to investigate, formalise and implement. Some features, such as improved lighting or installation of rubbish bins - will need further detailed discussion with the relevant teams in council. Down the track, further improvements such as flower gardens or a community garden maintained by residents can be explored once the physical equipment has been installed.
The features we will ask council to install include play/exercise equipment, new trees, a water tap and a large picnic shelter (6x3m), with 2 picnic tables that can comfortably seat 8 people each (see pink area on map) at the south-eastern end of the park - this is at the highest point of the slope. The position of the shelter should maintain a clear view towards the city.
On the eastern side between the path and the fence, the residents (including immediate neighbours) support the installation of play equipment for children, as well as monkey bars that can be used as exercise equipment for adults. This equipment is on the eastern side of the path to avoid impacting the open grassy space, but should still be set back from the property boundary.
On the northwest corner, residents supported planting a larger tree species that will eventually provide more shade, with extra seating underneath. We agreed that the positioning of additional trees should leave a large area in the middle of the park for ball games. We will also ask council to explore planting more trees or climbing vines along the motorway sound barrier, but council arborists have expressed concern that the drainage channel and the barrier foundations might make it difficult to find space for tree roots, and that the sun-exposed aspect of the wall makes it less likely that climbing plants or screening vegetation will survive the hot summers.
Residents have also requested for the metallic benches to be replaced with timber ones as the metal ones get too hot to sit on.
Below are examples of the type of play equipment that could be installed:
We had a good discussion about the merits of some kind of public art installation along the wall to the motorway. After a few years, part of this wall will hopefully be screened by trees, but some of the wall will still be visible, particularly next to the shelter where there won't be room for screening vegetation. Although there were a couple of vocal objections, the vast majority of attendees who participated in the workshop discussions were supportive of some kind of art along the wall.
There are many kinds of public murals, ranging from community projects where local residents get together to paint a single large artwork or a series of smaller pieces, to commissioned projects where one or more professional mural artists is paid to paint the wall. It's also possible to have rotating spaces where a local artist is invited to paint a new mural every six or twelves months. I'm keen to have further discussions among residents about what kind of artwork would best suit this particular park, and will obviously engage in further discussions before any decisions are made.
A few residents also asked about the feasibility of installing an electric BBQ. Unfortunately, public BBQs are very very expensive, not only because they are built to be virtually bomb-proof, but because of the need to dig long trenches to connect high-voltage mains power. After I explained the high costs involved, workshop participants agreed that it would be simpler to just bring their own BBQs or borrow a BBQ from my office when holding community events in the park.
The process going forward
We have provided all of the above information (with a bit more detail) to council's parks team, and will ask them to provide quotes for the installation of the equipment. When the quotes come back, I will then sign off on allocating funding towards this project from my local park upgrades budget. Council will then either complete the work in-house, or go out to tender for a private company to do the work. It will be a slow process, so I don't expect to see the work finished in a hurry, but I'll obviously keep you updated as the project progresses.
In response to residents' requests, we're considering establishing a community garden on the western side of the Kangaroo Point Peninsula.
The best available location is at the northern end of James Warner Park. We'd like to know what you think of this proposal, and also whether you're interested in getting involved in the garden.
While many of us would like to see council buy more land to use for a garden, that's not likely to happen anytime soon under the current LNP administration, so it would have to be established in an existing council park.
The garden will only go ahead if there is sufficient volunteer interest to ensure it is well-maintained on an ongoing basis. No trees will be removed to make room for the garden.
The northern end of James Warner Park (immediately to the south of the carpark) is considered the most suitable location, as it gets good sunlight, already has a water tap, and is close to an existing community facility (the jazz club).
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The State Government is just beginning its next round of ‘consultation’ regarding the Cross River Rail project, with a particular focus on future options for the new station in Woolloongabba, immediately to the west of the Gabba Stadium. If you haven’t heard much about the Cross River Rail project before, you can find more info at this link.
The new Gabba train station and the redevelopment of the government-owned GoPrint site is a massive opportunity to transform the central part of Woolloongabba for the better. As I’ve outlined in previous statements, there’s a strong local need for more public green space, more community facilities and more public housing. Unfortunately, there’s not much sign of that in the initial documentation and concept designs released by the government.
The government’s initial concept design:
Sadly, the State Government is even less consultative than Brisbane City Council when it comes to planning big new development projects. They tend to survey a small proportion of people to get a rough (often unbalanced) idea of what the public wants, but will generally only pay lip service to public opinion and instead defer to the priorities identified by the public service and the private sector. In the case of the Gabba station, the main question the government is interested in hearing from the public about is what should happen above ground. The more input people provide via the government’s various engagement channels (such as consultation stalls at community events, or by emailing in feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org) the better chance residents will have of influencing the final outcome.
Other stakeholders, such as the Gabba Stadium and major commercial interests, will be advancing their own agendas via detailed submissions and private meetings, so it’s important that residents and local businesses also speak up as loudly and as often as possible, not only by engaging with the proscribed consultation channels, but by directly contacting your State MP, Jackie Trad, at South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au.
We don’t know exactly how much money the government is planning to spend redeveloping the land above the Gabba Station and the surrounding public realm. We think it’ll be around 100 million dollars . This will largely depend on how much political pressure residents apply. We do know that generally speaking, the State Government is pretty cash-strapped, in large part because they waste so much of their money on supporting unethical industries (e.g. coal mining, horse racing) and flawed infrastructure projects (e.g. building expensive new prisons). This means the government will be considering options to sell development rights to private developers, and won’t be able to deliver everything the community needs and wants. So residents will basically have two things to push for:
- As much public funding as possible, to ensure the whole site isn’t just sold off to private developers
- Ensuring that the elements that residents consider priorities are at the top of the list to receive whatever funding IS available
Site Development Options and Constraints
There are some crucial traffic factors influencing how the GoPrint site can be redeveloped. The underground station will make it very difficult to provide much underground carparking. And the busway station along the southern edge of the site will make it almost impossible to have cars exiting directly onto Stanley Street. The land is bounded on all sides by very busy main roads which are heavily congested. This road network simply doesn’t have capacity to handle hundreds of additional car movements that might be associated with a new development. It would be impractical to include much carparking on this site, as this would encourage more people to drive to this location, clogging already-congested roads.
Happily, this location will have some of the public transport coverage in the entire country, with both a train station and busway station. Key destinations like South Bank, Kangaroo Point cliffs, the hospital precinct and even the local primary school are all within easy walking distance, and the Woolloongabba Bikeway project running along Stanley Street will provide great cycling connectivity to major universities and high schools. So this site is the perfect candidate to be redeveloped as a car-free development. With the exception of a small amount of disability accessible parking, carshare parking, loading zones and service vehicle parking, this should be a completely car-free development. People who live or work on the site should be expected to travel by active transport or public transport, rather than driving.
The complicated traffic environment will also tend to increase construction costs and logistical challenges. Even smaller highrise development sites can have dozens of truck movements a day, so to redevelop this whole site in one hit would likely cause huge local traffic disruption, suggesting that construction should instead occur in stages.
A car-free development would suggest that certain kinds of land use options (such as luxury highrise residential) are less likely to be commercially viable for private developers. Mega-rich residents tend to want space for their own cars even when there are good public transport and carshare alternatives available.
On the flipside, building lots of public housing for low-income residents right on top of a train station and busway makes a huge amount of sense. It’s much better to provide affordable housing for low-income residents in the inner-city, close to public transport, than forcing them to the outer suburbs where land is cheaper but they have to spend much more of their income on car ownership and petrol costs.
Structural engineers have also suggested that building extremely tall buildings will be more complicated than normal, as the deep footings needed for skyscrapers might be harder to construct due to the underground station. This doesn’t mean very tall highrises are impossible, but simply that there might be additional challenges and costs.
Public Green Space
Green space is one of the biggest needs in central Woolloongabba. The immediate surrounding neighbourhood is already very under-served by public parks, and is experiencing even more rapid densification with multiple residential and commercial developments under construction. Public green space is especially important for residents in high-density housing who don’t have access to private backyards or large internal entertaining areas. Brisbane City Council’s ‘Desired Standards of Service’ for parks identifies that within an immediate local area, there should ideally be 0.8 hectares of general recreation green space per 1000 residents and 0.6 hectares of more natural vegetated green space. Woolloongabba currently falls a long way short of these targets, so even if no new residential development was included on the Gabba station site, it would still be necessary for the State Government to include a large public park to cater for all the residents in nearby apartments. Adding more residential apartments to the site will necessitate also providing more green space to cater for them.
There’s already almost 8000m2 of green space to the west of the GoPrint site around the Motorway (between Allen St and Leopard St) which would be extremely expensive and difficult to construct buildings on. Spending a bit of money to improve pedestrian access to these green pockets, shield them acoustically from the noisy roads, and vegetate them more heavily as a dense bush reserve with a network of short walking tracks might be one way to provide additional useable natural green space for current and future residents of the precinct. But whether that happens or not, it seems crucial to me that at least one quarter of the GoPrint site (approximately 1 hectare) needs to be redesigned as public parkland for the benefit of residents and workers in the area. (For comparison, the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, which is quite close to the site of the Albert St Cross River Rail Station, is about 18 hectares) You can’t cram people into highrise apartments and office blocks without also giving them somewhere to stretch their legs or sit under a tree.
With many more residents living in highrise apartments, there’s a growing need in Woolloongabba for a range of community facilities and services – public libraries, tool libraries, bookable meeting spaces, halls and venues for parties and community concerts, crisis support services for vulnerable people, workshop spaces, and rehearsal rooms and studios for artists and musicians. So it will be important for the land above the Gabba station to include a large, general-purpose community centre which can fill many of these roles, acting as an anchor for the neighbourhood and helping the precinct flourish.
Right now, there are lots of empty shopfronts around Woolloongabba, so simply building more ground-level retail and commercial spaces in the hopes of ‘activating’ the precinct might not be the best strategy. Instead of cramming heaps of restaurants and shops onto the GoPrint site, it might make sense to have only a modest amount of ground-level commercial uses, and focus on improving connections through to the businesses on Stanley St and Logan Rd. This would free up more space for the kinds of community uses mentioned above, creating a more diverse precinct that doesn’t just feel like all the other restaurant and café destinations around Brisbane.
In recent media releases, the State Government has floated the concept of a big pedestrian overpass linking the new train station to the Gabba Stadium. I do see the logic of such a proposal. And if the government had a blank cheque for this project and was willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the above-ground embellishments, maybe it would be worthwhile. But before we get all excited about the benefits of a pedestrian overpass at this location, let’s take a step back and consider our priorities.
Councils and governments resort to pedestrian overpasses because they don’t want to slow down cars. It would be cheaper and easier to simply change pedestrian crossing signal times to give greater priority to pedestrians to cross at ground-level, but apparently cars are more important.
A pedestrian overpass of the kind shown in this artist’s impression would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, with added costs associated with the complexities of constructing it over a very busy road corridor. It has to be tall enough to allow large trucks to pass underneath, it has to be strong enough to carry high volumes of pedestrians and to resist extreme weather events, and it will probably require elevators and long ramps in order to meet accessibility standards. It’s also worth noting that the big beautiful trees currently growing next to the stadium in Woolloongabba Place Park would have to be removed to make way for the tiered seating showed in the image.
But apart from major event days, an overpass to the stadium might not get much use. Activating the proposed tiered seating and green space next to the stadium is going to be difficult with the noise and air pollution from Ipswich Rd/Main St. Very few people are going to want to hang out on those steps to watch trucks roar past.
Have a look at the large public space in front of Lang Park stadium at Milton. It too has a pedestrian overpass connecting to the train station, and is much better shielded from passing traffic, but most days of the year, it’s just a big empty lonely patch of concrete, because very few people want to visit the stadium precinct except on game days. The Gabba is a slightly different story to Milton as it has a larger local population and more local businesses, but it’s worth being a bit sceptical of these shiny-looking artist impressions.
The central part of Woolloongabba struggles due to the poor pedestrian connectivity across different sides of the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St intersection. Shops along the southern side of Stanley St struggle to attract customers, and the cul de sac of Logan Rd (the old antiques precinct) also feels a bit dead at times.
When we think about connectivity priorities to the new station on the GoPrint site, on most days of the year, there will be many more people seeking to travel in other directions for work and leisure, but comparatively few heading to/from the stadium.
From the future Gabba station, lots of people will be heading northwest to get to the Kangaroo Point cliffs and apartment blocks, north across Vulture St towards residential and commercial properties, northeast towards residences and businesses, southwest towards the Mater Hospital precinct, south across Stanley St to more high-density apartments and office blocks, and southeast to the Logan Road businesses and apartments. Comparatively few people will be heading east across Main St to and from the stadium on an average work day.
A pedestrian overpass directly to the stadium is not likely to give much of a boost to businesses along Stanley Street or help activate the wider Gabba precinct.
So it’s worth querying whether spending millions of dollars on an overpass to connect to a stadium is the best use of money. An alternative approach would be to create scramble crossings at the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St and Vulture St-Main St intersections to improve pedestrian connectivity to the train station, and on major event days, simply close Main St to through-traffic, diverting vehicles via Wellington Road.
Attendance at major sporting events is dropping consistently, and shows no sign of increasing again in the near future. Even if the Gabba Stadium is used more frequently for other big events like live music concerts, I’m not sure that the very high cost of building an overpass is the best use of money.
I’m open to being convinced otherwise on this, but I think I’d rather see the money spent on more public housing.
Selling off Development Rights to the Private Sector?
My general view is that in inner-city areas, where land values are likely to continue increasing long-term, it is short-sighted to hand government-owned land to the private sector, whether on a 99-year lease, as a permanent sale, or in exchange for a developer paying for other works (e.g. a pedestrian overpass). It’s rare for the State Government to have control over such a large inner-city site (particularly one that’s immediately above a train station), so we should not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions and bringing in private developers to build office towers and residential highrises.
Rather than selling off development rights, the government should retain ownership of all future residential and commercial properties built on the site. Well-located commercial properties on a major train station will likely generate significant rental revenue for the government over the long-term. While some residential homes will be rented out at low rents to the most vulnerable members of society, other apartments could remain under public ownership while being rented out at market rates to key workers. There’s a strong and growing need for more public housing in Brisbane’s inner south side, and it makes sense to co-locate public housing with a commercial hub where those low-income residents will have better access to job opportunities and transport services.
If the government feels it does not have enough money available to completely redevelop the whole site immediately, it would be better to stage the project, leaving some parts of the site undeveloped as open green space for a few years until money is available to build more public housing. Retaining ownership of the land and developing it gradually using public funds is preferable to selling it off to the private sector, particularly if the land can be put to other valuable short-term uses in the interim.
Broadway Hotel and Urban Realm Improvements
The Broadway Hotel site, at the intersection of Logan Rd and Wellington Rd, is the southeast gateway to central Woolloongabba. It’s also a key linkage between the massive South City Square mega-development and the Gabba stadium and future Gabba station.
The fire-damaged State Heritage-listed hotel takes up around 900m2 of the 2300m2 site. As discussed elsewhere on my website, due to the requirement to rebuild and restore the hotel, the local oversupply of commercial spaces and the shaky and uncertain inner-city apartment market, it is extremely unlikely that any profit-driven private developer would consider it commercially viable to redevelop the site anytime soon. The hotel has already been sitting vacant since 2010. If this building remains in private ownership, the most likely outcome is that it will sit empty and abandoned for several years to come. This is a poor outcome for the community and a bad look for the neighbourhood.
However, I believe there’s a strong case that as part of the redevelopment of the GoPrint site, the State Government could take a small proportion of the total budget and spend it on urban realm upgrades along key corridors that link to the station.
The Broadway Hotel site is worth somewhere between $3 to $5 million in its current state, which is a comparatively small figure in the context of the Cross River Rail project’s $5.4 billion total budget. As part of the station development, the State Government should be improving footpaths, planting street trees and making other targeted improvements to the public realm (such as better lighting, seating and public art).
The pedestrian routes that need the greatest attention are Ipswich Rd, Leopard St, Stanley and of course Logan Rd. By acquiring this site on Logan Rd, and combining it with the adjoining 800m2 triangle of council-owned land (currently used as a carpark), BCC and the State Government could create a new community centre next to a small public park, which would serve as a significant landmark and point of interest along this corridor. Developing the Broadway Hotel as a civic space halfway between Gabba Station and South City Square would help activate this whole corridor, supporting this stretch of Logan Rd to transform into a vibrant, cosmopolitan mixed neighbourhood, rather than a series of carparks and underutilised warehouses.
If you would like to see the government allocate resources towards acquiring and restoring the Broadway Hotel, please mention this in any opportunities you have to give feedback on the Cross River Rail project.
A possible short-term use of undeveloped land
If, as mentioned above, the State Government does not have the funds immediately available to develop higher-density residential or commercial buildings on some parts of the site, there are a range of options available to make use of this land in the short-term.
One common challenge of new mega-developments is the fostering of connected communities and organic local character. Too often, mega-developments in Brisbane lack soul, and feel just like all the other big shiny new development projects in cities around the world, without interesting or distinctive features. Ground-level retail tenancies often sit empty for several months, and new businesses struggle to attract tenants until there are enough new residents and workers nearby.
One strategy to create an instant community, bring life to an area, and make productive use of inner-city land until it’s redeveloped would be to temporarily designate a small proportion of the GoPrint site as a caravan park, with the intention of creating a neighbourhood of tiny houses and portable dwellings. Small sites could be leased out to long-term tenants for a fixed period of 5 years, or on a short-term basis to tourists in caravans and campervans who are travelling through the city.
Tiny homes can be designed on trailers as off-grid dwellings, with solar panels, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting to reduce the need for expensive mains infrastructure. These homes can either have off-grid compost toilets, or share access to a common toilet and laundry block as is common with other caravan parks in Brisbane. This kind of short-term, temporary activation of a site can bring more people into an area, offering the necessary population base to bring life to local community facilities and customers to local small businesses.
Another obvious alternative use of the land would be to leave a significant proportion of the site available as publicly accessible open green space until the State Government has the funds to develop it. In the long-term, both the State Government and BCC are looking at acquiring large industrial sites to provide more green space for residents of the inner-south side, but until that happens, providing a significantly larger temporary public park on the GoPrint site would make a lot of sense.
There are many potential temporary uses for land on the GoPrint site and I think local residents should be given more input into what happens here over the next few years. What’s important though, is that the State Government doesn’t just go for the short-sighted option of selling off development rights to the private sector. It’s better to hold on to land and develop it later for the public benefit, rather than selling it off to the private sector and losing future flexibility.
There’s so much to think about with this project, but what’s crucial is that residents speak up loudly and clearly at every opportunity. The government’s instinct will be to ignore or pay lip service to residents and local businesses, but we mustn’t allow them to do this.
As mentioned above, if you’d like to provide feedback on the redevelopment of the Gabba station and the surrounding neighbourhood, please send an email to South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au and email@example.com (and CC in my office at firstname.lastname@example.org because I’d like to know what you think too).