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Fitzroy Street Dying


  • Fitzroy Street Dying

    Do You Prefer to Drive to St Kilda?

    The Street, as a local Melbourne icon has been incrementally destroyed by radical changes to the streetscape that have been implemented over the last 3 years and Fitzroy Street traders are at their wits end.

    So Wayne 'Mouse' Thompson and I decided to highlight the issues faced by the traders and to inform not only locals but all St Kilda visitors of the fact that Fitzroy Street, in fact the whole of OUR iconic beach suburb of St Kilda, is under a real threat of simply closing down for business.

    Tram Depot
    On top of the traffic conditions Yarra Trams intend to run 96 trams every 5 mins in the New Year and build another super stop at the end of Acland Street, restricting traffic to one way at Acland and Barkly Streets (I'm presuming exit only) being converted into a tram depot.

    We will also have restaurant trams, Route 16 and Route 3A trams running on weekends which adds up to a conga line of trams from the St Kilda Junction all the way to the Acland Street 'depot'.

    The 3A trams are a boon and was a much needed extension to bring better public transport to serve St Kilda, it clears the area and it opened up a successful way of getting Melburnians closer to their beaches.

    The general Melbourne population could also witness for us the destruction to their wheels, hubcaps, tyres, alignment, panels, undercarriages that would amount to many 100's of 1000's of dollars in repair bills, or should I call them 'despair bills' just another visitor or group of visitors that will think twice before coming back.

    Akram Helal, owner Leo's Spaghetti Bar...
    I don't know what the council is thinking, businesses can't survive here in Fitzroy Street any more. There is no parking. A regular customer came in and parked outside my restaurant to pick up a takeaway pizza, total cost $15 and walked out to find a $165 fine. She came back livid, not at me or my restaurant, but told me she can't come back...if the council thinks it change the Melbourne's people behaviour just because they make a decision they are crazy!
    There seems no commitment from our Council to ensure that new developments in our area have a requirement to provide adequate parking for tenants and customers let alone public parking for the many Melbourne motorists who wish to visit the area. In the meantime height restrictions are being disregarded to ensure as many residents around Fitzroy Street as possible in high density buildings that will exacerbate the situation.

    Site and Access Destruction
    Major changes to the streetscape and a number of other poor planning decisions such as,

    • Beach Connection
    • Bike Path
    • Raised Tramway
    • Poor traffic flow planning
    • Parking
    • Public Toilets
    • Use of Traders Rates

    have caused The Street to become strangled starting with the Beach Connection, to all intents and purposes seemed like a great idea and still looks fantastic. All was reasonably fine until further developments.

    Akram Helal - Leos
    It has to come to the council's mind to do a study on the traffic flow in the street. For the Tramways and Vicroads to build these things in Fitzroy Street and then not do an impact study on the effect it has on traffic flow and the community as a whole is almost criminal.
    Whilst stories like that of manager at Kyma Greek Restaurant, Stav Drakopoulos, explaining how the local residents had to help a local Police car from the ledge created by the raising of the tram tracks abound there is also the darker side of the equation for those businesses on the 'wrong' side of Fitzroy Street.

    John Drakopoulos - Owner Kyma
    As you know Mick, I have been here for 7 years and have fought to establish a successful business here in Fitzroy Street...but I am well and truly over being treated like a second class citizen. We pay our rates and we pay 10% of our rates to help promote the Street through the Trader's Association. Its a waste of money, our business keeps dropping off
    The street lighting outside Kyma and along that whole stretch has been out of action for the 7 years Kyma has been in business and it can get quite dark and unappealing for the more squeamish of the general public to venture at night. This has to fixed...finally! No more lame excuses to be then buried again.

    Every Trader I talk to has a tale of quite significant financial losses due to the street closures during the bike path and then the tramway build.

    Fitzroy Street needed a roast chicken shop and we finally got Lilydale Chickens, owned by Minh Nguyen and run by himself and his family. Their quality of service and products won them instant success from locals but since the tramway has stopped customers from the south from doing a u turn his business turnover plummeted.

    Minh Nguyen - Lilydale Chickens
    They have destroyed my business, my customers tell me sadly that they can't come to my shop anymore because it is just too hard and with the landlord increasing the rent all the time I was on the edge of losing my business. I am staying and we are moving down the road to where my customers can access me again. It is an unforeseen expense I hope we can overcome and survive.
    One of the more vocal traders that has been suffering the wars, but with the extra weight of the dereliction of the Metropol precinct, is Silvana Iacobaccio, owner and chef at Pizza e Birra - one of st Kilda's most loved establishments. Last year her activism went a long way to getting the bluestone wall finished on Canterbury Road, another of the 7 year long two week jobs that never seem to get finished around our village.

    She pointed out to me the beginning of the concrete bike path road-separator which has been ground down to rubble from a constant stream of vehicles, turning both left and right, that hoisted upon it. In fact a not too close inspection of the whole north facing lanes and the concrete shows a litany of wrecks, almost akin to a Devil's Triangle of vehicular destruction.

    Silvana Iacobaccio - Pizza e Birra -
    It has been heart wrenching to see the effect that these street closures have had, especially here at The Metropol. Business after business has had to close.

    As much as I would like it all put back the way it was I don't think my business could survive another loss of those magnitudes if they were to close the street to remove it all then fix it! It would be just too much to bear financially.
    John Leever, owner/operator of The Grocery Bar, was able to highlight for us a very strange set of circumstances prevailing at The George Hotel car park. John's overwhelming message is simply - more parking!

    Whilst St Kilda, especially Fitzroy Street, starves for parking 100's of spaces at The George have been closed on weekends as they only had to open them if the cinema was operating. I have brought this to Serge Thomann's attention before the recent election and he assured me he would jump on the situation as soon as possible. Onya Serge, the traders friend!

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    Beach Connection

    The tram superstop between the Beach Connection and the Moreton bay Fig has turned this spot into St Kilda's 'The Eye of the Needle'. The only reason this would have been put in this spot is to choke and discourage traditional summer traffic to the Bayside and Port Phillip Beaches.

    Mikey Kanter - Laika Bar
    Although we could be considered a 'destination' venue in St Kilda we have been hit 3 times in 3 years with extended disruptions to our business which have cost us dearly. Most of my customers love their cars, it is far too hard to find a park.

    Where is the promotion for Fitzroy Street, why isn't there information about the parking and warnings at the entry to the street it is not for thru traffic to use. It's a paradise in jeopardy.

    All the work done down in our Precinct and there is nothing to support it. Once the spirit of the local traders is dead so will Fitzroy Street's spirit be dead also!
    It should never have been put in there and has to be removed. The removal of the Esplanade Hotel stop to be replaced by this 'plug' is a travesty. It was perfectly positioned so that visitors could amble across the pedestrian bridge (which has disabled access ramps) and perfectly positioned to service St Kilda's most popular live music venue's punters who cherished the convenience.

    Click image for larger version

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    The Eye of the Needle, misplaced and unwanted

    The whole area has been managed very poorly, and when you consider that pedestrians are the first priority in the planning pecking order the hurdles they have to jump to get to the beach is quite a danger.

    During any hot day Fitzroy Street has too many people trying to hop between safe little islands of concrete to be able to get to the beach; the traffic signals do not serve the conditions and lives are at risk, especially young ones.

    Pic A
    Pic B
    The pictures above are looking south and as you can see in Pic A the through lane lines up directly with the street plantation island and you can see the bike path to the right. Not so hard for the through traffic to manage for through traffic but when turning left from the beach this island gets hit by cars but the main danger for vehicles though is for those turning right from Acland Street who often find themselves drifting straight into the island curb. Pic B shows the empty middle right turn lane and a car in the left lane, which is the through traffic lane.
    Commercial Rates
    Mum and dad businesses that have been the heart of this suburban seaside mecca have been impinged through an unwillingness at council to recognise that they can't afford to compete with rates that multinationals are willing to pay.

    The Traders Association are given 10% of this revenue that is to be spent on promoting The Street. And what exactly do the traders get for their dollars?

    I'm sure it is equally devastating for the Traders's Association to have to do their best to manage the money and spend it appropriately when so few of the actual traders support them or bother to attend their meetings.

    Fact is though they are all very busy at work trying to save their businesses and few have little time to attend.

    One wonders? Obviously Fitzroy Street's businesses are mainly restaurants, cafes and bars and their total weekly waste allowance is 1 x 120 litre bin.

    Akram Helal - Leo's
    I don't know what I pay my rates for, where does the money go? I have to spend over $700 a week to have my waste removed because the council will not take it. My customers get fined for dining at my restaurant because of the eagerness of the parking officers.

    To watch this destruction of businesses going on around us is terrible. We, Leos, bring people to the street and have done for almost 60 years and our street, our brand and our business is being quickly damaged.
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    Channel of Doom
    Bike Path
    This diabolical channel of doom was probably THE worst thought out bit of infrastructure...ever! I have almost come to grief on the horns of a Malvern Star on several occasions. It is simply impossible for a pedestrian to safely cross the road keeping an eye on traffic one way to step onto a raised curb barrier to be almost hit by a silent assassin coming the other way.

    The 2nd pic tells the true story of its popularity, bugger all people use it (albiet they'll be noisy buggers!), commuter cyclists use the the bike path on the other side of Fitzroy Street, which quite honestly could do with a new lick of paint.

    Where to?
    Venues like Leo's Spaghetti Bar, Topolinos, Barney Allen's, Mirka and Laika Bar are destinations that draw people from all over Melbourne and even they are suffering badly with turnover slowly but inexorably decreasing every year now, down to 50% some report.

    If Fitzroy Street were the entrance to Luna Park it would look much like the British Book of Smiles, so many gaps in the shops, like missing teeth.

    St Kilda TV -
    Fitzroy St is much larger than Acland St and situated closer to the city
    filled with restaurants and bars there is a much larger variety on Fitzroy
    Street. The opening of Fitzroy St is Catani Gardens and a war memorial in
    respect to all the men and women who served their country. Named after Charles Fitzroy, Governor of St Kilda during its expansion Fitzroy has many mixed uses.

    From residential and office use it also houses a large backpacker population in
    its many hotels and is even home to Melbourne’s first Italian restaurant and
    gelateria “Leo’s Spaghetti Bar” proving Fitzroy St as the always hip place to
    I'm just wondering...seems to me that not only do St Kilda long term residents 'own' the suburb and its delights, but so does the whole of Melbourne to some degree. Locals also know to get the street back our voices are like farting against thunder, per se.

    There must be some sort of class action that can be brought to not only redress these mistakes but also at least compensate business this time for any disruption and financial loss. There must be thousands of drivers that have come to grief on these concrete metal crunchers called traffic management devices.

    Melbourne, help us bring OUR Fitzroy Street back to life and accessible again!

    - 2012/10/27 first published
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