We have to talk about the Flemington Community Hub: a $40M ‘Highpoint’ hub

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Moonee Valley City Council is seeking $20M from the state or federal government to build a $40M community hub in Flemington. It’s the number one ticket item in their Advocacy Strategy.

This sounds big, expensive and potentially fantastic. Young people, families and older residents could benefit from a ‘hub’ of services and facilities.

Except there are some problems:

  • Council seems to want to squeeze a massive built form between significant trees and the oval – while also maintaining there will be no net loss of open space.
  • The objective is for the hub to be and do everything with:
    • space for education and learning
    • health and social services
    • recreation and sports
    • two highball courts – multi-purpose and indoors
    • social entreprise
    • employment
    • business support
    • cultural events
    • arts spaces and
    • youth friendly spaces.
  • Access and parking for the hub would need to be provided – potentially impacting parkland or estate residents’ amenity.
  • There has been no open, transparent community discussion or consultation on this project.

When I raised these concerns with Council last week, I was told:

  • Community consultation on the hub is coming.
  • There are myths about access and location.
  • The centre will be accessible.
  • The hub should be close to the action of the neighbourhood.
  • More consideration can be given to the siting of the hub.
  • The trees will not be impacted.

But it seems the hub has already been visualised by Council. It is included as a ‘big idea’ for Flemington in MV2040. It is included in the long term capital works plan for the budget, and is being advocated for by MVCC – before we have any real discussion as a community about the project.

Before accepting a $20M cheque from another level of government, some thinking and talking needs to take place on the following:

Size

Two indoor highball courts plus all the other rooms for services listed above makes for a large building. Multiple levels would mean working on top of highball games – which may or may not be feasible.

Accommodating all of these activities and uses will result in a massive building footprint. Given almost every inch of land on the estate is soon to be built on, another multi-storey building will add to the intensive built form.

Does it need to be this big? Do all these services really need to be in the one building? If the estate is being redeveloped, could smaller buildings, rooms, spaces be made available throughout the estate for different purposes?

Do we need a Highpoint style Hub? Or are local spaces just as valuable and useful?

Location

Here is an aerial view of Debneys’ Park:

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Where would you fit something that big? I would be looking at the current community centre site and the car park. There are some lovely trees and picnic areas, but the car park is a potential site and the tennis courts could do with an upgrade and replacement.

All of the pictures MVCC has published of a new Flemington Community Hub (FCH) locate the hub on a row of significant trees, and create a barrier from the estate to the open space parkland.

pic-1-dp.jpg

Pic 3 DP

These pictures were presented to the Advisory Committee for the Flemington Estate Renewal in September 2017.

At the time, I was advised these were concepts developed by Council officers that had not been seen by councillors, or community members.

This same ‘concept’ seems to have made its way into the draft MV2040.

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Locating a massive building is this location will necessarily impact trees. The Advisory Committee specifically recommended these trees be preserved.

trees 3

The Committee recommended locating a community facility along Racecourse Road for easier access and to avoid blocking estate residents from open space.

Here is another depiction of the potential footprint – assuming some of the many services are on an upper level. Each orange rectangle marks a potential location for the FCH.

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My strong preference is for a facility to be in the location of the current community centre to avoid impacting trees, open space and estate residents’ access to the park.

If the FCH were located along the estate boundary, it would cripple the current playing field which would need to be reoriented.

The idea of re-orienting the oval to accommodate the FCH ignores years of investment into fixing the playing surface and installing lights.

Physical access

Additionally, an FCH located adjacent to the estate would require vehicular access and parking. This would require a road from Mt Alexander Rd across parkland impacting open space and pedestrian walkways.

Access via the estate would add an additional traffic burden to the redevelopment which will already have an increase of traffic resulting from 1300 car spaces – up from approx. 750.

Impact on open space

Council has said there will be no net loss of open space. This is hard to believe given the size of the proposed FCH.

It is also a matter of the quality, not just quantity, of the open space.

Anyone who uses Debneys’ Park knows the path from the estate to the community centre and around the boundary of the oval is a much loved walking track for elderly residents – many from Vietnam or China.

Children, mainly from Horn of African families, ride and kick soccer balls and chase each other along the path and between the oval and the playground.

The area is alive with people enjoying the outdoors and relief from apartment life.

The space has magnificent trees offering pleasant shade and birdlife.

Siting a massive built form along the path to the north of the estate and replacing this with open space near Mt Road will detract considerably from the quality of open space for residents.

The picture below is a bit dark (it was a cold day and getting late) – everyone had gone home! But you can see the outlook onto the park from the estate.

Imagine the view for residents onto yet another building…

Purpose

The purpose of the building seems to be to replace the existing centre, co-locate services, bring people together from across Flemington, provide activity spaces for young people, and meet the needs of 30,000 people by 2036 from Flemington and Arden Macaulay.

Is this agenda realistic?

The idea of providing both arts and sports spaces together is, IMHO, misguided. A theatre looks like this:

Theatre

It is not a basketball court. And it cannot be created on a first floor above a basketball court. It won’t work.

It’s valuable to have many different spaces for multiple uses, but would it be better to think more strategically about different types of uses that might be better combined in smaller spaces – e.g. quiet spaces, eating spaces, creating spaces, family spaces, performing spaces etc.

Would it be better to consider the urgent needs – like replacing the virtually unusable pavilion and a young people’s space, and thinking about how other purposes and needs might be met in different ways.

Other facilities in Flemington

Which brings us to other spaces in Flemington. We have a range of places in Flemington that are important community facilities. Putting all our ‘eggs’ in the FCH may leave other spaces undervalued and underused.

The schools in Flemington have excellent community spaces that could be better shared by community groups.

Our library, Farnham St Neighbourhood House, the Flem/Ken town hall, the Travancore land, the Flem/Ken Bowls Club, Racecourse Road, the Newmarket power depot, the Crown St and Canterbury St stables, the Court House …

Fabulous Flemington has a range of places and spaces that can be further improved to meet community needs. The estate renewal should include the creation of spaces for residents for social, employment and recreational uses.

The Flemington Community Hub doesn’t have to do everything. By meeting more targeted¬† purposes, it would make a valuable contribution by doing a few things really well.

But … most importantly, none of this has been discussed yet by the broad and diverse Flemington community.

Council needs to stall its advocacy until it has meaningfully consulted with Flemington residents. Put away the preconceived ideas and drawings, and listen to Flemington residents first.

Postscript:¬†After writing this earlier today, I had a chance to see Debneys’ Park bathed in the late afternoon sunshine. Here is the view from the estate to the park – filled with young soccer players, wakers and families enjoying the green space.

dp sun

3 thoughts on “We have to talk about the Flemington Community Hub: a $40M ‘Highpoint’ hub

  1. I don’t see many of the current users of the park (the non-white types) in the artists’ impression. Surely they could have fixed that up. Or is that a nod to the ‘redevelopment’ of the estate? Also, as you have mentioned Rose, the ‘hub’ cuts through the bike path/walking track.

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