New bid to make the CBD ‘vibrant’

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

The space between the Todd Mall’s Uniting Church and the Yeperenye shopping centre, between the post office and the old Hartley Street School, may become a public park including a big screen area for events, a cafe, water play jets, climbing equipment, trampolines, a half basketball court, lots of grass and bushes (generated image at top).

But the trade-off may be a two or a four-storey carpark on corner Gregory Terrace and Hartley Street, opposite the Diplomat Hotel and Yeperenye.

The suggestions come from an Adelaide consultancy, Jensen Plus, hired by the town council for a fee of nearly $300,000.

The costs of the carparks are pegged at $19.5m (two level, 236 spaces) or $27.4m (four level, 351 spaces). Jensen suggests the council may like to seek a partner and investor.

The proposed car parks are illustrated in very small images in Jensen’s report, up for public comment until March 22, possibly because of their outstanding ugliness that would become a feature smack bang in the middle of the town, competing with that other monstrosity, as the Supreme Court building is frequently described.

The public may also seek an explanation why so much car parking is needed in a town that can be traversed in a bicycle in 15 minutes. The images are only examples but hands up anyone who’s ever seen a beautiful multi storey carpark.

Another proposal is allowing cars and bicycles in the Mall.

Historian Alex Nelson says: “If the remaining section of the Mall changes to a shared space with traffic, it’s basically gone full circle.”

Some locations invite a “spot the difference” competition. Take the southern end of the Mall. Today it looks a lot like this generated image (above), except there are people in it. Jensen makes no reference to what is clearly the background for the report: The shuttered windows, the closed stores, vandalism, the frequent anti-social behaviour accompanied by shouted profanities – and locals as well as tourists staying away from the place.

But the people in the Jensen images are strolling smugly through the town, peaceful, neat. Jensen does not explain in what way the suggestions it is making will deal with the town’s persistent problems.

A council spokesman, when asked for comment, says the report was largely based on “feedback from community consultation held in 2023″. The News has asked for records of that consultation.

Meanwhile the council assures the public: “No decisions have been made regarding the future of these locations with all stakeholder input informing the final concept designs [including] placemaking and accessibility proposals … and so the overall plan … is indicative and does not represent a preferred design approach.

Social and economic troubles seem to be taking a back seat to street pavers. They’ve got to go, it seems.

“The Todd Mall One concept is using contemporary brick pavers in an organic pattern, referencing the landscape and hills of Alice Springs,” the report says.

“Paver renewal has the opportunity to be completed in stages along the mall, to reduce disruption for business.

“It may also be possible to reuse existing pavers in other landscaping projects around Alice Springs.”

The report troubles itself to suggest Littlehampton Long Brick clay paver 320 x 50 x 100 mm Milan Series Storm Brown Colour 2 or Blizzard Blend Colour 3 or Shadow.

The report has unusual solutions for The Centre’s fierce sun, an “artistic overhead shading structure with a combination of solid and transparent cells(above). Trouble is, it has lots of holes in it and covers only part of of the Mall.

Says Mr Nelson: “I note raised garden beds feature in the plan. Just over two decades ago they were removed by the town council because inebriated people treated them as urinals. Aldermen Michael Jones and Samih Habib were prominent in their criticism of these structures.”

However, Mr Nelson says the apparent intention to retain existing trees “is a good thing – the tall eucalyptus trees (sugar gums) were planted for the first semi-mall opened in 1978.

“No major quibbles about the plants depicted [on pages 52 and 53] but there are a few exceptions: Striped Mint-bush is a beautiful local species common in hill country but under severe pressure from buffel grass. Lovely if they can grow it but notoriously difficult to propagate and tends to be short-lived.
• Purple Plume Grass” Triraphis mollis are misidentified, as the photo depicts Purple Fountain Grass, an introduced species (and close relative of buffel grass). This cultivar is harmless and produces non-viable seed.
• Various wildflowers – they are likely to struggle in this environment as they require a lot of exposure to sunlight. The shade from structures and trees will impede their growth; also, many native plant species are susceptible to infestation of red (or two-spotted) spider-mite, a troublesome pest in the urban area (much less so out of town).

The report mentions “River activation” as well as “streetscape and shade structures” are “nearby projects” of the NT Government in Gregory Terrace, Hartley Street, Bath Street and the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.

And of course the word “vibrant” – the adjective used over decades for what the Mall should be, during the frequent and expensive Mall reviews – has enjoyed a rebirth: The current council project is called A Vibrant Alice Springs CBD.

7 COMMENTS

  1. As a participant at the “public consultation” sessions run by consultants Jensen Plus last year, I was not surprised to learn that the Alice Springs Town Council had laid out the parameters for the project, limiting it to Leichhardt Terrace; the southern end of Todd Mall; and a multi-storey carpark right next to the heritage-listed Hartley Street School.
    At a question and answer session, the consultants confirmed for me that Council had stipulated that opening up the mall to vehicular traffic had to be included in the options to be presented by the consultants, from which Council would select their “preferred” option.
    Despite the participants’ loudly voiced objections to the re-opening of the mall to traffic, I certainly won’t be surprised to see the re-introduction of cars ruin the only part of our town’s centre where one can wander freely without having to look over your shoulders to avoid being run over.
    Opening up the mall to traffic will be the last nail in the coffin for our town’s heart.
    As they say: “If it ain’t broke …”

  2. Being in Alice since 1974 I will quote Edmund Spenser: “From good to bad, and from bad to worse. From worse unto that is worst of all. And then return to his former fall.”

  3. Alex, how many times have we had a mall makeover?
    In 35 years I can recall three or four.
    Closed.
    Half open.
    Half half open.
    Partly closed.
    At a cost to the ratepayers of tens of millions.
    Evelyne summed it up pretty well.
    And a four storey car park?
    I can only say in the strongest possible terms: [Expletive deleted] off!
    And please return the 300 thousand.

  4. Yes Charlie, do you remember when Todd Street was vibrant with a pub-hotel where now is the Plaza?
    Restaurants, nightclub, music, folklorico etc …?
    Slowly Alice was killed by developers not knowing that too often the better is the enemy of the good.

  5. @ Charlie Carter: Check out my comments on this report here and my articles here and here.
    These were published just over a decade ago when the north end of Todd Mall was re-opened to traffic.
    In regard to the proposed multi-storey car park on the corner of Hartley Street and Gregory Terrace, this is at least the third such concept for that site since the early 1980s.
    Of all the blocks in the town’s CBD, this location has perhaps the oddest history – it was where the Capitol Theatre once used to be, owned and operated by the Underdown family which was opposite their Hotel Alice Springs, until it burned down in 1963.
    Aside from car parking, this site has not been used for anything else ever since the Capitol Theatre was destroyed.
    However, it was the need for additional car parking to compensate for the loss of space in the Todd Street semi-mall that nearly caused the demolition of the decrepit old Hartley Street School in the early 1980s.
    This triggered the long-running campaign to “Save Our School” during that decade, the first major heritage controversy in Alice Springs that came to characterise much of the local politics of the time.
    Finally, aside from the number of mall makeovers that have occurred within the last half century, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there have been as many (if not more) grand plans for the revitalization of the town centre, of which the current report out for public consultation is just the latest treading a very well-worn path.

  6. Will we see any real benefits from our big spending Town Council that we fund with our rates?
    Meanwhile, there are small but important projects that they pay lip service to but ignore year after year.
    For example, our local animal shelter is a vital service but when it rains heavily the car park turns into a muddy swamp.
    The council has the equipment and manpower to seal it inexpensively to ensure the shelter can stay open and be accessible all year round but despite many requests they have not.

  7. Regardless of what the public may say, in true bureaucratic style the heavies will do what they want and ensure every cent of available money is spent.
    They then say “what a wonderful job we have done” as they pat themselves on the back.

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