By KIERAN FINNANE
Traffic officially returned to the northern end of Todd Mall this morning for the first time in 28 years (apart from special occasions). But more importantly people came out in good number to enjoy the new public spaces created as part of the mall redesign. It will be the ongoing presence of people, locals and visitors alike, that will be critical to the hoped for revitalisation of the town’s premier ‘street’.
Removable bollards can also keep traffic out and the area can be reserved for pedestrians, as it was for most of the celebrations this morning and will be on market days.
In offering the Welcome to Country, Barbara Satour, traditional owner and member of the Liddle family, said in good humour that she wasn’t quite sure she liked what had been done. A bit too much cement, not enough bitumen and dust.
As for ‘statues’, there was one towering above her – The Grandfather Tree: “That’s our statue, it represents all us Arrernte people of Central Australia.” She hoped all the other surviving gum trees would be left, not knocked down in favour of something “in iron”. On the whole, the new look was a “good thing really, if you like city life”, she laughed, before expressing her delight in Carlton’s AFL win and wishing everyone well.
A key feature of the redesign has been to de-clutter the approach to the magnificent Grandfather Tree and to link it to another tree of significance on the banks of the Todd, reorienting the centre of town towards the river, as pointed out by Mayor Damien Ryan. From the tree on the bank, looking west along Parsons Street there is a clear sightline to a range in the west – “part of Dingo Dreaming,” said Mayor Ryan, “a very important line for the original inhabitants of Alice Springs.”
Central Australian Dreaming stories are also referenced in the Yeperenye moth shade structures, dotted along Parsons Street and the northern mall.
In front of the old tree, a depression in the paved surface creates a Pool of Reflection. In keeping with the natural rhythms of Central Australia it will normally fill only after rain. The bricks in its centre are made from Ooraminna sandstone, leftovers from the original Civic Centre construction.
Hidden away beneath the new works are also 70 cubic metres of crushed glass, lining the plumbing trenches, a good reuse of a resource that would once have gone straight to the landfill.
The stage in front of the Grandfather Tree today is a movable structure and Mayor Ryan said the view of last night’s sunset through the tree and reflected in the pool was a sight to behold.
Among the many thankyous he extended one to the traders for putting up with the noise and disruption and said council would be working with them now to ensure plenty of traffic along the strip. He hopes people will come into the area, drop off friends; he and Minister for Central Australia Matt Conlon both pointed to the relocated visitor information centre as a boon for the area. A parking bay for coaches has been provided opposite.
A good sign this morning was to see one of the Alice Plaza businesses, the pharmacy, opening its doors onto the mall and putting out goods for sale on the footpath. Further up Piccolo’s was taking advantage of the winter sun, serving its customers at al fresco tables.
Northern end of the mall reopens
By KIERAN FINNANE