The season’s festivities now dissipating, life is beginning to return to routine. I caught up with my walking buddy, Jillian, and as we made our way down to the foreshore we stopped beside probably the ugliest of the many housing developments observable in the neighbourhood.
I can sympathise with one wit who suggests it is ‘Welcome to Hell‘ by the building surveyor ‘Satan Himself“!
People want to live here because Mordialloc has the historical reputation of a beautiful seaside village but at the rate of development, that persona may soon disappear. Another sign of the horrible development is laced with unintended irony!
A Growing City Needs Houses
Melbourne’s population has grown and continues to grow at an amazing rate and people need somewhere to live but density development should be sensible and evenly spread. Most planning permission is provided by councils and for many of them, multi-storey development means the multiplication of rates without worrying too much about the quality of life of the people confined to ‘pigeon coops’ which many apartments are unless you are fortunate to afford “luxury”.
These ‘luxury’ townhouses next to the railway line have a huge concrete wall as a noise buffer and whether occupants will be able to even smell the sea is doubtful because the area just behind is where the trains shunt and park, plus the train line hosts diesel as well as electric trains.
The land used to be a timber processing yard and later a hardware wholesaler – sometimes there is a good reason why land is zoned and used as industrial!
The Times They Are A’Changing
I realise the quarter-acre block like mine with a house and backyard is rapidly becoming obsolete and the demand for townhouses and apartments increases. However, despite the rising cost of electricity and gas, we still seem to be reluctant to move away from ‘McMansions’- with a lot of them built in Mordialloc in recent years.
A friend pointed out increased development brings jobs, cafes, services… and I know the ideal is to live, shop and work within a 20-30 minute commute.
I don’t disagree with this and it wasn’t luck that brought John and myself to Mordialloc to live within walking distance of Main Street, schools and the train station. (I’ve never driven or owned a car.)
Development, if managed properly and attached to a vision of a decent lifestyle is magnificent. This is how we progress as a community.
But the higgledy-piggledy mushrooming of private developments around what was considered ‘old Mordialloc’ has destroyed any neighbourhood character we can claim as well as a lot of our history.
The horse stables I wrote about in the 90s have disappeared, along with beach ‘cottages’, many Edwardian and Victorian homes, and Californian bungalows. (One of the last of those next door to me. Although it had been renovated it was bulldozed out of existence in 2009 and replaced with two double-storey townhouses. )
Not only houses are lost but trees too. Habitat for possums and birds who must relocate just like their human counterparts. Neighbourhood ambience forever changed.
Sounds Of Albert Street
Mairi Neil 1993
In the morning, at dawn break
in a dream-like state
I begin to wake…
some noises make my senses jar
the electric train’s whistle
the whine of car, after car.
In the distance, a noticeable rumble,
the roar of the sea
as the white caps tumble…
I can picture the waves crashing,
spewing debris on the beach
against pier and rocks splashing.
On the pavement, the horses make
a constant clip-clop
as daily exercise they take…
this familiar, steady tapping
announced in suburbia
by family dogs feverishly yapping.
The dawn chorus as birds begin to sing
curlews, blackbirds, thrushes
all heralding Spring…
twittering, screeching, whistling
magpies, sea-gulls and crows
their dewy feathers glistening…
Increased density living also brings increased traffic congestion and new people may decide to eschew public transport and still rely on their car. The assumption that increased buildings near transport hubs will take cars off the road is a big leap for a society that loves the car.
Permit and resident parking seems inevitable.
People may choose to shop, eat, and holiday locally but they might also go elsewhere and if visitors can’t find a park they may bypass the place too. There is not a lot of capacity for Main Street to expand and in the 34 years, I’ve lived here the variety of shops has shrunk.
In Europe, many places have learnt from the post-war building of Stalinist-type monoliths and there are some nice designs of apartments that don’t look like matchboxes or toilet blocks.
At the moment, in Mordialloc, it all seems haphazard or potluck – do Kingston Council or the State Government care about the plans they approve? We have two level crossings to be removed at a yet to be determined future date – hopefully there has been thought as to how current development will fit in.
Houses built since I arrived have been or are being replaced!
- Where are the functional and aesthetically pleasing design solutions?
- Who is safeguarding standards – not only of decent living quarters but ensuring a quality of life and a balance between buildings and nature?
- The development pictured above is not where I would choose to live and I haven’t heard one positive comment about it from friends, family or visitors.
- Why are councillors and politicians allowing dwellings to be built that I am sure they would not choose to live in?
- Is there enough attention paid to parking and the opinion of residents in nearby streets?
- What of access to Emergency Service vehicles – even general access to get in and out of the site?
We need trees to breathe, and flowers to please. We need communal courtyards or mini parks – areas where residents can meet, become neighbourly and grow a community. Yes, the foreshore is nearby but this can be an impersonal space used by residents and non-residents alike.
Since coming to live in Mordialloc I’ve lost count of how many consultations and council workshops I’ve attended over the direction development will take and protecting the Green Wedge. I went to a recent consultation on neighbourhood character just for my local ward and it was attended by hundreds of residents.
Councillors know the pace, style, and consequences of development is an important issue in more than Albert and Barkly Streets…
What is The Future?
This is the 21st century, architecture and design must always be inclusive of people living with a disability. It can also be sustainable and add to the rich cultural heritage of Melbourne that we see on Open House Melbourne weekends.
I discovered an old photograph I took and a poem I wrote in the 90s – another boom period for developers that soon turned to bust as happens in economic cycles when the pendulum swings. The Crown Casino was being built amid controversy but is now an established part of popular Southbank.
A young Irish girl living with us at the time and travelling into the city each day with John mentioned an incident on Kings Way and said,
‘It was near the bottle.’
‘Where?’ I said.
‘You know, that big building that looks like a bottle…’
The nickname stuck and as each decade rolls by, ‘the bottle’ experiences makeovers, the surroundings may change but it still looms large and makes me smile.
I took a picture last week and pointed it out to family visiting from the UK.
Developers Can Drive You To Drink!
Mairi Neil (August 1994)
In Melbourne there are buildings
stretching towards the sky.
Great towers of glass and concrete
swaying hundreds of feet on high.
The Rialto being the most famous,
eclipsing well-known Nauru House,
Twin Towers, Menzies on Collins and
the Exhibition Buildings so grouse.
But in 1994 a city development
caused lots of consternation,
when the Crown Casino expansion
exceeded all expectations.
Entering the city through King Street
used to be over a scenic bridge,
quiet Yarra waters muddily flowed,
Polly Woodside’s masts full rigged.
Now an ugly, solid concrete mass
blocks out views on either side,
a neon-lit concrete tunnel
provides a hideously boring ride.
I dread driving into Melbourne
and viewing the Casino folly
but thankfully enroute, King’s Way
still has buildings unique and jolly.
There’s one viewed from a distance,
a recognisable, imaginative shape,
tall and straight for fifteen floors
and topped by wonderful nape.
Grandiose developers like the Grollos
I often could cheerfully throttle
but 222 Kings Way makes me smile
it could be a giant’s bottle!
Perhaps someone will smile and write a poem about the development at the end of Albert Street when it’s finished – or maybe a horror story!
If you have nicknamed a building or have a special memory attached to a building, please share. I’d love to know I’m not alone in my ponderings.