Whittlesea’s intergenerational heart underway

Whittlesea’s intergenerational heart underway

Whittlesea Public Gardens is set to emerge as a significant community asset as preparations for Stage One construction works begin.

Located in Melbourne’s north, the 12.4ha intergenerational heart of Lalor and Thomastown will undergo transformative works in support of current and future needs of residents while significantly enhancing local ecological values.

McGregor Coxall was engaged by City of Whittlesea Council in 2019 to establish a shared vision and masterplan for the site, undertaking community consultation to inform a design approach that seeks to protect, enhance, and support – strategically repositioning the park as a cornerstone for regional recreation and resilience. “Our intent was to create a park for all, a liberal community space that the people of Whittlesea and beyond can be proud of,” said Project Manager and Senior Landscape Architect at McGregor Coxall’s Melbourne Studio, Michael Polifrone. Additional to a modernised, generous greenspace offering and amenities, Whittlesea Public Gardens will be home to a reenergised site programme that encourages community wellbeing, connectivity, and quality engagement with the outdoors. A new learn-to-ride area and playground catalyse a hub of youthful energy, equipped with a large play tower, double flying fox, rope climbing unit, swings, slides, in-ground trampolines, rockers, nature play and more.

“A unique narrative of play is informed by the site’s character on the interface between suburban critical open space and waterways. Adapting and improving site features including the former lake and wetlands, nature play elements offer a safe way to nurture maturity – catering to all ages and abilities with a wealth of educational, sensory-led experiences,” said Polifrone.

“An elegant amenity pavilion paired with community facilities along the park’s central spine builds upon the site’s design foundation, accounting for greater access with improved sight lines to ensure safety for families and park-goers.”

A site-wide planting strategy employs resilient indigenous vegetation, featuring 130 new trees and plants that will enhance biodiversity and provide natural shade coverage.

“The playground and learn-to-ride areas adopt a planting palette suited to enhancing the programme and forging a connection between children and the environment. The playground is home to a series of flowering and textural plants for kids to explore, while the learn-to-ride space is conceived as an experience reminiscent of the surrounding grasslands in the area, using species which were once commonplace in the area,” said Polifrone.

The Gardens will serve as the main eastern visitor access point into the 650ha Marran Baba (Merri Creek) Parklands, doubling as the start/end point of the Merri Creek Trail – a 21km pedestrian and cyclist network extending from Melbourne CBD.

“The site’s water system forms a significant part of the next stage of works, where water play will link to the wetlands and an underperforming constructed lake will be converted to a sprawling civic lawn,” said Polifrone.

Stage One works are earmarked for completion by mid-2022.

Future Stage Two works will provide the completed amenities spine, a new carpark, a youth and skate space, and water play area with direct connections to upgraded wetlands which complete the play offering.

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