Beau needs more than token space

“Broken Beaufort needs more thought than just another ‘community space’ to bring it back,” long time Beaufort Street advocate JOSHUA O’KEEFE writes. 

I’VE thought long and hard over the last few days about the request by the City of Vincent for the community to provide comments on the future of the Barlee Street Carpark.

The language used in the consultation promotion has an obvious persuasion to end up with a ‘green, leafy space’ built here (with concept plans even being produced). 

All things considered I have come to the conclusion that my response will be … ‘thanks but no thanks’. And I encourage yours to be the same. 

The last thing we need is to spend a rare million dollar windfall on another underperforming glamour project.

Here are my reasons: 

• In 2020, the city’s financial health rating was one of the worst in WA. A ‘green, leafy space/town square/piazza’ will cost at least $1 million. Mary Street Piazza, built in 2014 was around $300K and View Street, North Perth was upward of $700K in 2019 for some paving and a light. The City can’t afford it. Plain and simple. And don’t forget there’s already a piazza 300m south (left mostly unactivated by both the City and the local town team) and one proposed just north of Walcott Street by City of Stirling.  

• The current state of the public realm of Beaufort Street is an atrocious mess and is frankly embarrassing for the brand and competitiveness of Beaufort Street (see attached pics). Clearly replacement and/or maintenance through ‘annual operational costs’ isn’t a real thing because those kerbs and traffic islands are remnants from decades ago and the laneways are falling to bits. There’s only so far a reputation of being quirky and grimy will get us when the street is unsafe in parts. How are we ever going to compete with Inglewood and the various public spaces in Perth city with such a degraded place when shopping centres are already succeeding at killing the main streets that aren’t keeping up. 

• We should be working smarter not harder with our public spaces. Another formal space/square/piazza will not fix the problem. It’s not even been defined what problem we are fixing, actually. Street corners are left empty or with dying shrubs which are total opportunities for invigoration and out of the box thinking as places designed by and for our local teens or kids (for example). Street corners could become a deconstructed town centre and mini destinations in themselves and all within the current unused public verge area and would add way more value than ‘green spaces’ we are apparently in such short supply of. Don’t forget there is Hyde Park less than 400m west of the street and the huge Forrest Park 400m in the other direction. We also have the leafy front yard of St Albans church, which I understand is open to the community and giant Birdwood Square opposite the Brisbane Hotel. The recently named local laneways could be reimagined to be channels of activity, creative hubs and value adds to adjoining businesses in ways which haven’t even been dreamt up yet because they haven’t been given the opportunity. Instead they are rotting and unsafe. The Beaufort Street Network worked in partnership with landscape architecture students of UWA to reimagine Beaufort Street with big and small interventions some time ago. These resources and ideas could inform a total rethink of the streets design and interactivity at a fraction of the cost. 

• The car parking site should absolutely be redeveloped by a private developer but the City should be fighting hard for integrated community outcomes if the land is sold to fund other initiatives. Unfortunately, we cant have it both ways. Although I will always advocate to not ‘save’ car parks they do play a role in the function of the town centre and will have to be negotiated /stipulated on this site whether that be through Planning Policy or by putting caveats on the title before sale or as a condition of sale. Others will have a better idea how to broker this better than me.

IGA up the road in Mt Lawley seemed to develop a good model of public private parking arrangements. 

Councillors have a responsibility to set businesses and residents up for success by making the right decisions at the right time using a number of informing factors. 

Unfortunately positive feedback from ‘a few folks’ and another ribbon cutting is none of these things while the rest of the place is literally crumbling around it. 

You won’t find many people more passionate than me when it comes to this street and where the investment is needed. I walk up and down it multiple times per day using the street and talking with businesses so I feel like I have a little bit of insight on the issue.

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