Princess Street Transformation

Design Feature
Type of Project
Local Government Initiative
State
Victoria
Location
Urban

Errington Reserve is in the heart of St Albans Activity Centre and contains an array of community buildings and sporting facilities. The reserve was gifted to the people of St Albans by Alice Errington in 1910 and became a key destination for the community throughout most of the 20th century.  

Putting pedestrians first 

Princess Street forms a crucial link for pedestrians in the Errington Precinct, between St Albans Train Station, the revamped St Albans Community Centre and The Bowery Theatre which opened in February 2017. The Princess Street Transformation, completed in 2019, forms part of Brimbank City Council’s ongoing implementation of the Errington Precent Master Plan that seeks to make Errington Reserve a key destination once again. 

Princess Street before the Transformation initiative was implemented

In 2012, Council adopted the Errington Precinct Master Plan, a century after it was gifted by Alice Errington, to re-establish it as a key destination for the community. The Master Plan sets the direction for an attractive, highly accessible and welcoming place that meets a wide range of current and future needs for the residents of the St Albans. The aim is to encourage greater activity within the precinct. 

Alice’s Playspace was Stage One of the Master Plan, and was opened in 2013, which began the re-emergence of Errington Reserve as a key destination again. Stage Two saw St Albans Community Centre opened in 2016 and included The Bowery Theatre named after the late artist and provocateur Leigh Bowery, who was born and raised in Sunshine, and went on to become one of the most influential arts figures in London and New York during the 1980s and 1990s. The design for Princess Street was inspired by the application of bold colours that Bowery used to create his various persona’s in his performance art. 

Princess Street after the Transformation initiative
The space has been transformed into an appealing destination
The space has been transformed into an appealing destination

The Princess Street Transformation is the first “Shared Zone” in Brimbank, facilitating a flow of large and small vehicles, while prioritising active transport. Shared Zones, where pedestrians have right-of way, are usually reserved for areas with low traffic volumes, generally not through roads, and with consistently high pedestrian volumes. Princess Street did not meet these criteria. The decision to implement the Shared Zone in Princess Street was the result of gathering data and observations about how the space is used – where people of all ages and abilities negotiate with cars, delivery trucks and forklifts; with inconsistent peaks based on occasional events as well as shopping; and where pedestrian movements along and across the street is not concentrated to any single point.  

Art has been used to activate the street and create a sense of place in the area
Art has been used to activate the street and create a sense of place in the area

Prioritising pedestrian movements was the starting point for the design, which eliminated kerbs to ensure equitable access for pedestrians, wheelchairs and shopping carts along the whole street. Seating blocks were arranged to define the space, guide vehicle movements, add character, provide resting places and protect soft landscaping elements, including 27 new street trees. The non-standard approach to the street design was initially cause for concern from traffic engineers, but acknowledging the unique context and conceding that “standard” road safety measures would not suffice, opened the project to an innovative and creative response. 

Under the guidance of Brimbank Council’s Urban Design Team, realising this innovative project required support from Traffic and Engineering Services, the Local Business Association and various community groups engaged in the Errington Precinct Project.  A significant financial contribution from the Department of Justice enabled the design team to include lighting elements to the project, which added a theatrical theme and sense of safety. This partnership also enabled new solar-powered lighting to be installed along an existing laneway to connect the space into the broader pedestrian and cycle network. 

Leigh Bowery Performance Artist - photo credit Fergus Greer

Embraced and celebrated by the local community, the creation of the shared zone and flexible streetscape has prompted conversation around the future of St Albans and a push for Creating Better Streets, where pedestrian movement and social interaction is prioritised. The design process for the Princess Street Transformation has set a benchmark and direction for future roadworks in Brimbank that see more responsive and responsible streets that reflect the community’s aspirations and cultural values.      

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