I’ve written before about lack of detail made available when planning transport projects in Victoria, but the latest revelation at Ormond station takes the cake – halfway through removing the level crossing, the government has announced plans to build a residential tower up to 13 storeys high above the Frankston railway line. So what the hell is going on?
Back in May 2014 the story starts, when the then-Liberal government announced a $457 million package of works to remove level crossings at Burke Road in Glen Iris, Blackburn Road in Blackburn and North Road in Ormond. The scope then expanded in early May 2015 when the new Labor government announced they would consider the removal of the Centre Road, Bentleigh and McKinnon Road, McKinnon level crossings, with contracts being signed a week or two later to complete the work.
Initially the information made available was very sparse – diagrams such as this one of Bentleigh station wee all the public had to go on, with local resident and transport blogger Daniel Bowen had to fill in the gaps.
Fast forward to May 2016 when initial construction was well underway, and detail was still sparse – again Daniel Bowen had to visit a public information session to see plans of what was being built.
July 2016 saw work kick up a gear, with train services shut down for a month to allow all three stations to be demolished and the new railway cutting to be dug.
But there was a new feature at Ormond station that wasn’t in the previous published plans – a extra concrete deck over the tracks. @Xtrackka noticed it a week ago.
— Michael Bell (@Xtrackka) July 18, 2016
But it took until today for the reason for the deck to be made public – the government is planning to build a 13 storey apartment block on the top. Melbourne newspaper The Age published a piece on July 26 detailing the proposal:
Labor flagged in Opposition that it would develop land as part of some level crossing removals to help pay for other transport upgrades, including extra station car parking and yet more level crossing removals.
Ormond marks the first example by the Andrews government of this “value capture” approach.
At up to 13 storeys high, the development would be much taller than any other building in that part of Melbourne, which is low-rise in character.
The building, which the government said would also include ground level shops and restaurants, would have to pass the usual planning hurdles before being approved.
Just south of Ormond, Bentleigh and McKinnon stations are also being rebuilt as their level crossings are removed, and land has also been set aside there for future development.
The government said developments at those two stations would be smaller in scale, in keeping with the village atmosphere.
Luke Donnellan, the acting public transport minister, said the Ormond station site on North Road was well suited to larger-scale residential development, given North Road was a busy six-lane arterial.
“This location is ideally suited to new homes and businesses – in the heart of a vibrant community, directly connected to transport, shops and opportunities,” Mr Donnellan said.
The government estimates the development will create 250 construction jobs and 300 ongoing local jobs at businesses that would occupy the new building.
The government has plans to remove 50 level crossings by 2022, and these three in Ormond, McKinnon and Bentleigh are among the first.
There are also plans to build a new tower at Gardiner station in Glen Iris, where the Burke Road level crossing was recently removed, the government said.
My take – Ormond station is a perfect area for higher density development given the good transport links, and the lack of immediate neighbours to be overshadowed – the issue is they way that the government keeps on suddenly releases these plans to the public, amplifying the opposition from local residents.
The government is supposed to be planning for the future of the city – not organising a bloody surprise party!