A proposal to allocate $15 million towards stage one Bakery Hill and Bridge Mall precinct works will be considered at the May 15 Ballarat City Council meeting.
The project will include the re-opening of Bridge Mall to sensitively and safely designed vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The community will have input into the design and key elements to make it a safer, vibrant precinct we can all be proud of.
The plan is to return the Bakery Hill/Bridge Mall precinct to a thriving city centre offering a unique mix of shopping, business, living and entertainment options.
The funding would be spread over the three financial years, starting in 2019/20.
It follows strong community feedback requesting a major investment in the Bakery Hill/Bridge Mall precinct, following a gradual decline in commercial and retail activity in the area.
Retaining the status quo in the Bridge Mall is not an option and action is urgently required now.
Directly responding to community and business requests for action, the works would include green and community spaces, business and property development partnerships, and the creation of a new arrival experience to the CBD worthy of Ballarat’s iconic heritage buildings – including vehicles and pedestrians through the Bridge Mall.
The exact scope and design of the spaces has not yet been decided and would be developed in partnership with the community over the coming months.
It is part of significant investment for the entire Bakery Hill/Bridge Mall precinct over the next two to five years, including Little Bridge Street and Curtis Street.
The master planning work is currently being supported by the Victorian Planning Authority.
- An economically thriving precinct which has a strong and unique identity
- A thriving business village with investment in key sites and strong investor confidence
- Tourism destination which tells the richness of Ballarat’s story through a tourist route
- A place that celebrates history and the people who made that history, from our indigenous origins, through the gold rushes and beyond.
- Abundance of linked green spaces
- An adaptable, premium mixed-use, safe, accessible and environmentally sustainable area which can be enjoyed by all, all year round
- An urban village which is responsive and resilient to climate change
- Improve pedestrian, bicycle and public transport connections through the precinct
- Re-introduce movement and vehicular traffic but at a scale and pace that allows people to see the beauty of Bridge Street and the heart of Ballarat.
Community feedback – We’ve heard what you said
Substantial community feedback so far has highlighted a strong desire for:
- A greater variety of commercial/retail offerings, including more eating and drinking areas to encourage more foot traffic in the precinct
- Creation of a night time economy in the area
- Improved safety and security
- A reversal of the physical disconnect with the rest of the CBD
- An enhancement of the connectivity with Main Road and Sturt Street
- Pedestrian laneway improvements
- More green spaces
Community consultation on the precinct has included:
- Two rounds of community engagement in November 2018 and April 2019
- 200 face-to-face conversations in three community pop-up spaces
- Two community visioning workshops
- One student workshop
- Nine advisory committee meetings/stakeholder meetings including with the Bridge Mall Business Association, the Heritage Management Sub-Committee, the Koorie Engagement Action Group, the Intercultural Advisory Committee and the Disability Advisory Committee
- 80 trader conversations
- Engagement on the City of Ballarat’s mySay page showed 150 people did the online survey and the project page was visited by 470 people
Problems it solves
Commercial and retail activity declining rapidly
Over the past seven years, there has been a significant vacancy rate downturn within the Bridge Mall. Of the 199 shops in the Bridge Mall, there was a 17.6 per cent vacancy rate in January this year, which has nearly tripled since the 2012 5.8 per cent vacancy rate.
With the opening of other retail activity centres, such as the Delacombe Town Centre and Coltman Plaza in Lucas, the Bakery Hill and Bridge Mall precinct also needs to establish its own identity to ensure it can thrive long-term.
Heritage and the history of Bakery Hill is a significant element of this project. Council is investigating different ways in which the precinct’s history and story can be integrated into public spaces and some of council’s investment will go into enhancing and improving heritage buildings.
Safety and security
The City of Ballarat’s Right to the Night project has highlighted the Bakery Hill and Bridge Mall precinct as one of the areas women feel least safe in Ballarat. Having a night time economy based around hospitality venues would help alleviate these concerns, along with significantly increased pedestrian traffic.
Lack of open space and green spaces
The community told us they want to see more open and green spaces in the precinct.
As part of the future they vision for the precinct, council is hoping to achieve a minimum of one hectare of green space across the precinct. This will include redesigning and building a playground which is safe and accessible for all children to use. The location and design of this play space will be subject to further consultation.
The way forward (if the recommendation is adopted)
Design proposals will be put out for community consultation during the next stage of consultation which begins in June.
Decisions on the larger Bakery Hill/CBD Urban Renewal Project, including car parks to the south and north of the Bridge Mall, will be discussed later in the year.
The CEO’s view
City of Ballarat CEO Justine Linley said: “This proposal solves a lot of problems the community and business has asked us to address when it comes to this precinct.
“This will be about creating a very special place within our CBD and within our city, not just about reopening the mall. It is about embracing the vision of a bigger, better, bolder - and beautiful – Ballarat.
“The $15 million investment is not about taking the area back to the way it was before it became a mall – it is not a return to a highway through town - but rather we aim to structurally set up the entire area to thrive well into the future.
“If approved, this will be a massive investment into one of the most significant entry points to Ballarat and will create a beautiful space for everyone in our community to enjoy.
“The Bridge Mall has traditionally been Ballarat’s commercial and retail core but there is no denying there has been a decline in activity and we need to do something now to not only help those traders currently in the area, but also encourage re-investment into the heritage buildings and landscape.
“Business as usual is not an option as the decline can’t be reversed without major intervention.
“This significant investment will not only boost commercial and retail activity in the precinct but also provide us with the opportunity to create a special space that will be uniquely linked to Ballarat and celebrate its heritage as well.
“We are committed to working in partnership with the community, business and stakeholders to make a place that the whole of Ballarat will be proud of.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Some people have suggested covering over the mall instead for weather protection – has this been considered?
A. Weather protection is a key element. Council acknowledges the need to ensure shopper comfort throughout the year as another way to increase foot traffic.
The different ways to provide weather protection, particularly through the winter and summer months will also be part of the next phase of consultation.
However, putting a dome or roof over the entirety of the area is not an option – it would not be possible in terms of cost or planning approvals in such an important heritage precinct with all of the current heritage controls – but reinstatement of verandas and the reintroduction of trees and landscaping are viable options.
Q. How will the road configurations work if the Bridge Mall is partially or fully reopened with three roads so close together (Little Bridge Street, Bridge Mall and Curtis Street)?
A. Details of how the road configuration will work will be subject to the next stage of community engagement and traffic surveys.
Reopening the mall will require further consideration of the role and function of surrounding streets, including Curtis Street and Little Bridge Street.
Q. What will happen with car parking in the area?
A. Car parking will form a critical element to the urban renewal plan.
The location, type and number of car parking will be part of the next phase of community engagement. There will also be a focus on improved walking and cycling facilities.
Q. What will happen to the popular Bridge Mall playground?
A. As part of the future vision for the precinct, Council is hoping to achieve a minimum of one hectare of green space across the precinct.
This will include redesigning and building a playground which is safe and accessible for all children to use. This play space’s location and design will be subject to further consultation.
Q. What “big name” businesses would you expect to be attracted to the Bridge Mall?
A. The urban renewal project identifies the benefits of attracting a commercial anchor tenant.
This will likely be a medium to longer term outcome for the precinct.
Q. How much say will the community get in how it will look and work?
A. The design and urban renewal plan will be developed with extensive community input through the next two phases of community consultation that will be undertaken later this year.
The Consultation@16 Bridge Hub is also open for community members to meet and chat with Council staff – opening hours each week can found at mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au/bakery-hill
There have already been two phases of consultation, and two more are planned.
The urban renewal plan sets a high-level vision for the precinct’s future and will guide future development and investment.
The plan will identify a list of short, medium and longer-term future implementation actions where the community will have further opportunity for consultation.
An example of a future action which might be identified within the urban renewal plan is how a play or open space area might be designed.
Q. How would a pedestrian space that vehicles share potentially work?
A. There are excellent examples from around the world showing how shared spaces can work successfully.
Details of how the street might be designed is part of the next phase of the consultation.
There are several options which will be included as part of the next phase of consultation.
Q. A lot of Bridge Mall/CBD business are struggling – how do you know this will improve things for them?
A. The Bridge Mall is currently viewed by the community as a ‘hidden gem’, passing foot traffic is declining and there is very limited visibility of the mall from key points within the city.
Additional movement through the precinct will add to the visibility of businesses within the Mall.
Opening the Bridge Mall to vehicles is not the only action which will improve business.
It is one element within the broader plan which will guide revitalisation of the precinct.
Q. Will any of the $15 million be used to improve the Coles car park and the bus stop?
A. Council is committed to transforming this precinct over the short, medium and long term, guided by the urban renewal plan.
There will be short, medium and long-term future actions which will gradually transform this part of the precinct.
Have your say today
We are now in Stage 2 of consultation for the Bakery Hill and Bridge Mall Urban Renewal Project.
Head to mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au/bakery-hill to provide your feedback today.