News / Council

Park opening pushed back until mid-year

Reconstruction of unstable wall cause of latest delay

Work has resumed at the park following a fourth month hiatus. 

Mark Phillips

BRUNSWICK’S newest park will not open to the public until June, a year later than originally planned.

The park on reclaimed industrial land in Frith Street in central Brunswick has been plagued by delays and cost blowouts since work first began two years ago.

The latest setback has been caused by structural faults in a brick wall that was to have been retained as part of the park design.

The wall facing Lobb Street on the park’s southern side has been declared unsafe and has needed to be demolished and then rebuilt.

This meant that construction work was put on hold for four months before resuming in March, extending the timetable for opening the park to June.

Despite the delays, Merri-bek Council is pushing ahead with naming the park, with the late furniture retailer and cult figure Franco Cozzo among the five names under consideration.

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The park is being built on the site of the former Fletcher Jones offices in Frith Street, behind the Duke of Edinburgh hotel car park. The site combines the façade of the Fletcher Jones building on the Howarth Street corner, and a steel foundry on the Lobb Street corner.

The council bought the 2700 square metre site in 2019 as part of its A Park Close To Home initiative to create more open space in built up areas of the city.

Originally costed at $4.9 million, the project’s budget has had to be increased twice. In February 2022, the council approved a revised budget of $6 million because of higher construction and materials costs caused by COVID-19. Contaminated soil removal added another $715,831 to the budget in May last year.

Then the budget was increased again in August last year to $7.1 million following the discovery of more contamination and structural issues with the brick wall on Lobb Steet.

Despite these cost blowouts, the council was still hoping the park would be open to the public by the end of 2023. But that deadline has proved wildly off the mark.

Artist impression of the new building, looking West from park entry off Howarth St.

In a statement to Brunswick Voice, Merri-bek Council said construction work has been put on hold due to complications with the existing brick walls and their footings in the southern part of the park.

“The need for additional engineering design on the walls was identified during the initial phase of the project,” the council said.

“Due to structural instability, extensive demolition and re-building works were required, leading to amendments needing to be made to the planning permit.

“The updated planning permit has now been approved and work has resumed on site. The existing walls on Lobb and Frith street are now being removed, with excavation works making way for new, stable footings. Reconstruction will commence once this work is completed.”

The engineering works are within the $7.1 million budget approved last August.

Other works in the park are progressing in the interim, including landscaping and construction of a café space.

The council expects the project to be completed and the park opened by June, subject to unforeseen conditions, including weather.

The delays have not prevented the council from going ahead with a process to name the park.

The five options are:

•  Fabbrica Park, meaning factory in Italian;
•  Fletcher Jones Park, after the former clothing company that operated on the site;
•  Foundry Park, after the former steel factory on the Lobb Street corner;
•  Franco Cozzo park, after the Italian migrant who ran a furniture store nearby on Sydney Road;
•  Yubup Park, meaning parrakeet in Woi-wurrung language.

Public voting for the preferred name closes on April 16.

Optiions for names for the new cultural and community hub in Saxon Street are also now open for public voting.

The six choices are:

• Balam Balam Arts Centre, meaning butterfly in Woi-wurrung language;
• Brunswick Arts Hub;
• Brunswick Arts Precinct;
• Doleen Arts Hub, meaning pride in Woi-wurrung;
• Dorrong Arts Precinct, meaning heart in Woi-wurrung;
• Leonard French Arts Hub, after the Brunswick-born and educated artist best known for the stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Voting on these names is open until April 14.

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