2017 Public Space and Streetscape Design Award Winner

Victor Harbor Mainstreet Project

This Mainstreet project is the culmination of four years in planning, consultation and design, transforming the heart of Victor Harbor into a public space which builds on the seaside town’s character and historical connections.

With a focus on functionality, accessibility, place and innovation, the design was inspired by the Southern Right Whale as a living icon for Victor Harbor and subsequently includes the creative use of paving, landscaping, drainage, art, lighting and furniture.

Implementation of the design delivers an adaptive, inspiring streetscape that encourages both congregation and, safer access for all, providing a centralised major urban plaza for Victor Harbor.

Key Partners Involved:

An initiative by the City of Victor Harbor to revitalise the heart of the town centre, Council engaged WAX Design to work collaboratively with InfraPlan (engineering), URPS (town planning), Graham Hopkins (micro-climate), Architecture and Access (DDA Audit), PT Design (engineering), BCA (electrical), CS Consulting (quantity survey), Hamish McMillan (art - wayfinding sign), Mosaic (art – light projection), Illuminart (art – light projection) and Outside Ideas (civil construction and delivery).

The construction phase was co-funded between Council and the State Government’s ‘Places for People’ grant funding program.

Ongoing and continuous community consultation was undertaken throughout the delivery phase of the entire project.

Situation/Background:

A 2013 survey found that 92% of respondents agreed that the Mainstreet Precinct is very important to the town’s economic and social fabric and, rated “Investment in maintenance and infrastructure” as the highest priority for the Precinct.

As a result, information sessions, workshops, exhibitions, surveys and art activation projects were conducted to engender interest and community participation in the planning/design process.

Research and community engagement highlighted several issues that required urgent resolution. Primarily, movement and accessibility were key considerations in relation to pedestrian and vehicular conflicts.

Other problem issues related to poor stormwater infrastructure, extensive hard surfacing, lighting and a sea of bollards. Above all, the street did not encourage people to stay, there by having an impact on the area’s economic prosperity.

It was resolved that the functional requirements of the street with the urban design responses become a scaffold on which ideation, innovation and narrative could be attached.

Kerb and bollards were removed, the road’s cross-section levelled and narrowed, a disability access audit was undertaken, the stormwater system upgraded, furniture replaced, landscaping increased, public art included and landmark features were introduced for the area.

The design team developed a new narrative for the Precinct which was built on the functionality of the Mainstreet while acknowledging the heritage and culture of the place. To this end, the Southern Right Whale was chosen as a living icon for Victor Harbor. This consistent theme was integrated into the final design via the creative use of paving, landscaping, drainage, public art, lighting and furniture.

Objectives/Strategies:

This project intended to transform the heart of the town centre, integrating planning/urban design techniques - ‘Link and Place, ‘Health by Design’, ‘Streets for People’, ‘Water Sensitive Urban Design’, heat island analysis and, a high level of accessibility compliance.

Consultation processes were essential to engender interest and community participation.

A theme for the Precinct was needed to build on the area’s functionality and design, whilst also acknowledging the heritage and culture of the place (Southern Right Whale was selected).

This project reflects ‘Stage 1’ of a visionary seven ‘Stage’ Master Plan, used to deliver short, medium and long term actions.

Implementation:

Working closely with the project team, the design was implemented by contractor Outside Ideas, over a four month period.

The construction phase involved a myriad of challenges requiring thoughtful project management techniques. It involved parts, sometimes whole, road closures of a local Mainstreet area, no small feat. As a result, extensive consultation with key stakeholders was applied throughout this stage.

Implementation of the final design and on-site development now accommodates the ebb and flow of the street effortlessly during busy times, providing seating, shade, cultural connection/interpretation and an aesthetically appealing urban landscape. At other times, the shared spaces and adaptive infrastructure allows the street to be filled with people, becoming a major ‘central’ urban plaza. Such adaption incorporated into the design includes new light poles to provide a well illuminated and safer urban environment after hours, capable of incorporating banners/signage, wifi, audio and external electricity within the Precinct for events. Projection art onto the Cinema building’s facade and providing a more levelled ‘shared urban space’ also encourages a variety of alternative uses to occur (there by building on the night time economy and Digital Economy Strategy).

The design and completed project represents a ‘best practice’approach in integrating planning and urban design techniques. Planning principles and design approaches around ‘Link and Place, ‘Health by Design’ and ‘Streets for People’ were used to inform the detailed design.

The result is a highly adaptive Mainstreet that allows pedestrians safe movement and congregation and, at the same time, maintains critical vehicular access to local businesses.

Resources/Budget:

This project reflects ‘Stage 1’ of a visionary seven ‘Stage’ Master Plan, representing a strategic road map to deliver future short, medium and long term actions (setting the example for future stages). It has been identified as the first priority to focus on improving the heart of the Mainstreet Precinct (intersection between Ocean/Coral Streets).

The $1million (approx.) construction phase was 50% co-funded between Council and the State Government’s ‘Places for People’ grant funding program, between May - August 2017.

The project team (comprised of thirteen ‘Key Partners’), landscape contractor and, the majority of the design, materials and resources necessary to deliver the project, are all of South Australian origin.

This represents a local sustainability benefit in supporting local businesses, thereby reducing the product miles necessary to source the goods and/or services.

The project has delivered on three core sustainability measures, as follows:

Economic - Previously, the street did not encourage people to stay, having an impact on the Mainstreet’s economic prosperity. An improvement of the public realm area now encourages adaptive use for events, people to congregate and, creates a higher level public amenity.

Environmental - WSUD principles; deciduous trees and evergreen palms to encourage air movement in the street and allow access to winter sun; biodiversity species; hard paving reduced and, LED lighting.

Social - Design has transformed the area by adopting a ‘best practice’ approach in applying a high standard of accessibility, whilst also respecting the heritage and cultural aspects of the area (providing urban themes and narratives).

Results/Outcome:

The project reflects a ‘best practice’approach in integrating planning/urban design techniques using principles involving - ‘Link and Place, ‘Health by Design’, ‘Streets for People’, ‘Water Sensitive Urban Design’, heat island analysis and, a Disability and Discrimination Act accessibility audit (as Victor Harbor has the oldest median age in Australia). The project team worked collaboratively with the community to deliver a design that has transformed the heart of Victor Harbor into a public space that embeds all of these collective principles.

Implementation of the final design and on-site development of the project now accommodates the ebb and flow of the street effortlessly during busy times, providing seating, shade, cultural connection/interpretation and an aesthetically appealing urban landscape. At other times, the shared spaces and adaptive integrated supporting infrastructure allows the street to be filled with people, becoming a major ‘central’ urban plaza for Victor Harbor. Such adaption is incorporated into the new street lights to provide a well illuminated and safer urban environment, also capable of incorporating banners/signage, wifi, audio and external electricity for events.

Projection art onto the Cinema building’s facade (ongoing after hours interest/activity) and providing a more levelled ‘shared urban space’ also encourages a variety of alternative uses to occur.

The implemented design delivers the highest level of social and environmental planning, creating an improved urban environment with increased pedestrian accessibility.

This project also reflects ‘Stage 1’ of a visionary seven ‘Stage’ Master Plan, representing an endorsed strategic road map to deliver future short, medium and long term actions.