News / Council

Work to start on new park, but at a cost

A new park in Frith Street will cost $1 million more than previously budgeted and come with fewer features

An artist’s impression of the Frith Street site, looking from the north-east corner back towards Sydney Road. Image source: City of Moreland.

Mark Phillips
Friday, February 18, 2022

THE cost of a new park in central Brunswick has blown out by $1 million before work has even started, forcing some a key features to be removed from the project.

Moreland Council plans to build a new park on the site of the former Fletcher Jones offices in Frith Street, behind the Duke of Edinburgh hotel car park.

But the impact of COVID-19 has increased the cost by almost a quarter above the budgeted $4.8 million, leaving the council with no choice but to abandon a water play feature.

The council bought the 2700 square metres industrial property, which is bordered by Frith, Lobb, Howarth and Beith streets, for an undisclosed amount in April 2019.

It will be redeveloped as part of the A Park Close to Home initiative to create more urban space in built-up areas of Moreland.

The council has allocated close to $30 million in total for the initiative, with six projects either underway or completed to date.

The Frith Street site combines both the former offices of the Fletcher Jones clothing company on the Howarth Street corner, and a steel foundry on the Lobb Street corner. The former City of Brunswick Electricity Supply Transformer Station occupies the north-eastern corner of the site.

The facade of the old Fletcher Jones offices will be retained for heritage reasons.

Plans have been developed to retain the heritage listed facades of the buildings, with the interior of the site providing open space for a range of passive and active uses.

But a key feature of the initial design, a water play area in the south-west corner, has had to be abandoned because of both cost and a new state government guidance on potentially contaminated land.

Other changes to the final plans include the removal of sun stairs on the northern boundary and a reduction to one public toilet rather than two.

Remaining features will include a climbing wall, a basketball half court, table tennis, and a picnic and barbecue area. Plans for the project show a commercial food business occupying the space behind the Fletcher Jones façade. The final plan will have 1520 square metres of green space, and 49 trees will be planted.

Even with these changes which have saved $440,950 , the final cost approved by the council at its February meeting will be just under $6 million. This compares to the original budget adopted by the council last year of $4.92 million.

In a report to the council meeting on February 9, the cost blow-out was blamed on COVID-19.

“The global pandemic has resulted in labour and material supply shortages in the market, contributing to the excessive construction cost increase,” the report by the council’s director of city infrastructure, Anita Curnow, said.

It said the prices of raw materials like concrete, steel and timber had in some cases increased by more than 30%.

A shortage of labour and delays to other projects caused by the pandemic have also had an impact, and the council received only one submission when it advertised the public tender for the project late last year.

However, the cost blow out is not solely due to materials. Professional fees and other non-building costs were also previously underestimated by $121,465 and will now total $596,465.

Part of the total $6 million cost will be met through a $1.3 million grant from the state government.

Moreland Mayor Cr Mark Riley said it was disappointing that some elements of the original design had to be dropped but the council had no choice to avoid further cost and time blow outs.

“Those elements … could be added back in at another stage if we ever become flush with money, so it’s trying to strike a reasonable balance,” he said. “It will be a great park.”

Under the project timeline, construction is due to start next month with the new park expected to be open to the public in mid-2023.