Revealing the spirit of Parsons Street

By MIKE GILLAM

 

Extracts from the creative brief delivered by Mr Gillam to the design team in the CBD revitalisation process. The brief is to be used as a reference document for designers, architects and artists undertaking commissioned work in the future pedestrian zone.

 

Alice Springs has a poor record of delivering quality design, landscaping and art in the public domain. Too often, originality and quality are compromised by a political or ‘community arts’ agenda in favour of safe / vandal proof but ultimately forgettable public art. Equally damaging are the myriad small-scale actions of bureaucrats – referred to in urban design circles as “death by a thousand cuts”. In recent months roundabouts have been filled with concrete. And clay brick pavers are extending across the CBD giving the town an unfortunate uniformity and blurring, instead of highlighting the differences between retail, civic and heritage ‘precincts’.

This failure to draw on creative skills within our community must change if urban design and public art are going to truly benefit Alice Springs and make the town distinctive and ‘competitive’. In practical terms we live in an isolated regional centre, engaged in a daily bid to encourage locals to stay, newcomers to settle and tourists to visit. While we flippantly bestow the phrase ‘world class’ to all manner of projects, this standard will never be achieved if governments seek to control and micro manage artists and the content of public art projects. Small town committees and politics need to be set aside in favour of peer review and expert jury panels.

I was  commissioned  to provide creative direction for the eastern end of Parsons Street from the ‘ancient red gum’ to the Todd River, a distance of approximately 150 metres. While the expanded (7.8m) pedestrian zone proposed for the southern side of the street is the report’s focus, I am compelled to also mention the section of Parsons Street between the red gum and Hartley Street.

To my mind these ‘mirror’ sections of Parsons Street read as a definable and balanced entity with the red gum as a natural pivot point. The western portion has better amenity overall (focused on two heritage buildings) and enjoys greater use by residents. In time this pedestrian traffic is likely to flow into the eastern end of Parsons Street as amenity improves and purpose returns to the street.

Public art and design projects of the scale envisaged for Parsons Street provide a rare, perhaps once in a generation opportunity to define our sense of identity and place. The dramatic natural environment is regarded as the common ground that binds us all together and this is crystallised in the biodiversity corridor.

I’ve also highlighted the critical importance of distant landmarks and the availability of winter sun. Too often these public assets  are only valued and recognised, when they are lost to the streetscape: casualties of ‘progress’.

AIMS

• Develop a sublime refuge that protects and highlights the fundamentals of place and builds cross-cultural respect. Seek balance in the cultural order in preference to one culture being treated as an addendum of the other.

• Provide seamless integration between ground plane, aerial and subterranean spaces expressed through water harvesting, landscaping, furniture, educational aids and artworks to support storytellers, educators and parents.

• Acknowledge and highlight the authority of the natural landscape, the imperatives of biodiversity and the custodianship of sacred sites by Arrernte people. These elements link contemporary Alice Springs with the earliest human occupation, interpretation and responses to this landscape.

• Find the essence, the history and truth of this place but don’t overwhelm and burden the site with stories that are better told elsewhere. Highlight the existence of common ground and the community’s hopes for the future.

• Reinstate the diminished sightline that extends along Parsons Street and upgrade the pedestrian link to the Todd River in the east. By extension, enhance and highlight physical connections between Todd Mall and the Todd River.

• Infuse Parsons Street with spirit, beauty and purpose so that more LOCAL people return to the area and embattled retailers have reason to be optimistic about the future. Tourists conspicuously outnumber locals in the Mall especially in the afternoons. Many street savvy locals congregate in shopping centres, making brief forays into the mall to a bank or  favourite shop.

• Reinstate the primacy of the local population and its everyday recreational and commercial needs. Reduce the predominance of tourist-focused venues by careful mixing of local / visitor facilities.

• Create a gentler egalitarian space where ‘parallel communities’ are encouraged to interact and hopefully overcome their ignorance and distrust of one another but where large groups are unable to assert dominance at the exclusion of the wider community. Carefully establish firm yet permeable boundaries between diverse users and user groups which provide both security and autonomy of use and shared / collective occupation.

TWO-WAY CULTURAL ORDER

• Song-lines and sacred sites unify the physical space including the furthest limits of the 9km east-west sightline, the pivotal ancient gum tree and Lhere Mparntwe, Todd River – the town’s spiritual heart and our destination on a pedestrian walkway that guides us through examples of regional landscaping, history, art, science and design.

• Valuable and enduring partnerships between white and black were forged along the banks of the Todd River. The river is also the backdrop to catastrophic alcohol consumption, violence and despair that touches many families, especially but not only Aboriginal.

• Management of the river at almost every level and the quality of built and engineered structures that contact or intersect with it mostly faily to reflect its iconic importance as a sacred or natural landscape.

• We should highlight the presence of mountainous features to the west. At some 3.5 kms distance a low ridge is visible and behind this feature at 9 kms a distant bluff dominates the horizon; both are associated with journeys of the Arrernte creative ancestors.

• The ancient red gum equidistant between Hartley Street and Leichhardt Terrace has bi-cultural significance. This feature provides a connection to the fringing woodlands of the Todd River. Combined with the coolibah swamp on the eastern side of the river these ‘remnant’ trees provide a visual reference to the historical footprint of the river channel and floodplains.

• Parsons Street featured prominently in the early administration history of Stuart / Alice Springs and was named in honour of J. Langdon Parsons, a former Baptist Minister and SA Government Minister controlling the NT. He was Government Resident based in Darwin from 1884-90.  He became government resident at a time when an uprising of Aborigines was feared and his appointment coincides with massacres of Aboriginal people during ‘punitive expeditions’. He was greatly affected by the brutality of this conflict and changes in his thinking are reflected in his advocacy, albeit unsuccessful, for the establishment of reserves for Aboriginal people and fair payment and conditions for Aborigines in employment.

• The Wallis Fogarty Store on the south-west corner of the mall was built in 1939 and has been nominated for heritage listing. Much of the original building frontage remains intact beneath the more recent sheet metal facade.

• The YHA Hostel located at the heritage-listed Pioneer Walk-in Theatre is a critical feature of the eastern end of Parsons Street. This location provides opportunities for projection onto surfaces in the street and originating from the old walk-in theatre. While the adjacent lane creates  a problematic vehicle cross-over within the pedestrian zone, the lane-way walls could be readily modified for exhibition surfaces. Improvements in amenity such as shade and seating would entice backpackers into the public domain.

PUBLIC ART & DESIGN COMMISSIONS

• We need to find the key points of difference and integrity that will allow Alice Springs to shine nationally despite our small population and therefore, modest budgets.

• This is an opportunity to showcase our ingenuity, originality and resourcefulness, remembering that Parsons Street is a public space. From all artists and trades we need a generosity of spirit to help us illuminate the special qualities of the street and raise the morale of our community.

• Our collective sense of identity must prevail over artistic self-indulgence. We don’t need to be populist or banal but we must strike a chord with Alice Springs residents. Social development and bi-cultural collaboration are key issues. • Less is more. The first stage must establish a strong sense of identity while laying down quality foundations for the future growth of the site. Crucial elements should be delivered early and high standards maintained throughout.

• Projects should exhibit elegant design with a hint of frontier vernacular, combining whimsy, form and function, drawing upon some of our strengths as a creative community. Alice Springs sculptors and builders are especially accomplished in their under-stated use of recycled materials. We must avoid outback clichés and ‘moozeum’ humour.

• Within the constraints of public liability and engineering standards, off the shelf solutions to seating and street furniture must be avoided or at the very least, tempered, adapted or subverted to reflect regional design.

• As a rule of thumb we should avoid expensive materials and processes that are not practiced here. For instance, the large-scale use of bronze, a hallmark of public art and prosperity in major cities, represents an insufficient cost benefit to both the struggling arts sector and the impoverished public domain of Alice Springs. Alternatively, funding assistance to provide establishment of basic facilities for large-scale bronze or aluminium casting in Alice Springs could form part of future commissions on offer.

SOCIETY

Our primary audience is the local community. In the process of creating a beautiful, innovative and reflective public space we expect to project a strong regional identity that will attract and intrigue tourists. Increasingly, tourists are wary of contrived attractions, overtly presented for their consumption.

• We will reach people through their children, remembering that children need to be nurtured, encouraged and protected. Like adults they also need beauty and hope.

• This public thoroughfare will need to address day/night activity cycles, a multi-layered space for differing levels of use. For example, there could be a family recreation/early childhood discovery path, a street frontage for backpackers staying at the YHA, a thoroughfare to the river, access for police and security services at night.

• We can create social activity nodes with carefully designed and configured street furniture to support diverse social networking needs, future business potential and public safety within the street.

• Deteriorating amenity in the Mall and surrounds has contributed to anti social behaviour and long periods of vacancy for commercial properties.  Through improved public amenity and re-opening of the northern end of the Mall to traffic, we will take the first steps to reverse the current trend of dwindling patronage, failing businesses and plummeting morale amongst Todd Mall and Parsons Street property owners and traders.

SCOPE OF THE BIODIVERSITY CORRIDOR (not in any particular order)

• Landscaping elements inspired by desert rivers and arid zone design, eg grouped ‘dancing’ trees – river red gums and some coolibahs – connected by a ragged line of trees, becoming the dominant sculptural forms in the pedestrian zone. Some formal street tree planting, particularly along the ANZ car-park edge (widely spaced river red gums) and on the south-east corner of Parsons St, would help to frame the street and reinforce the sightline.

• Riparian (riverside) plants selected for biological and cultural values. • Landscaping and design features to attract birds and butterflies, eg water points and ‘perching’ trees.  For several months butterflies and moths ‘activate’ Capparis spinosa (native passionfruit). Hawk-moths are drawn to the spectacular white flowers that open at night and after sunrise the moths are replaced by clouds of butterflies. • Landscaping and design to highlight day / night cycles. For example, LED street lights could be used to project stencil shapes onto surfaces and create soft amenity lighting for walkways at night.

• Wind generator/sculpture and revolving information tower, which could be designed as an object of ‘exploration and play’.

• Light beam from setting sun passed through a simple prism to split wave-lengths (the last rays of light during mid winter bathe Parsons Street in spectacular light and spotlight red gums on the banks of the Todd River). • Early childhood discovery path, exploratory devices (old lenses and telescopes dismantled and reconfigured), cryptic and kinetic sculptures (avoiding literal representations of animals, powered by solar panels placed on a nearby verandah).

• Pavement treatment should be expressed simply through the use of widely spaced expansion joints to convey a bold abstract design.

• A covered walkway could use semi-transparent sheeting such as blue danpalon to ‘pull down’ the sky and provide a perfect ‘backdrop’ for textured organic elements set above and below.

• Sculptural fissure and water feature uniting elements of the pedestrian walkway – a narrow thread carrying the memories of this place, taking us from the ancient red gum on a walk of discovery to the river.

• Water could be integrated with soundscape media that could carry spoken language, incorporating water and water life-forms as part of a bi-lingual Arrernte-English  alphabet.

• Projection surfaces could be created when new shade structures are designed. Limited potential exists on various building frontages and in the lane-way behind YHA, where potential outdoor gallery walls exist on both sides.

• Examples of historical and contemporary literature are another option that would work well as a ‘side-bar’ in this lane-way. Every feature from the pavement to sub-surface drains and overhead cables, every piece of nondescript infrastructure should be re-imagined and re-assembled to showcase arid zone innovation, elegance and beauty. Artistic and design briefs should maximize opportunities for designers and arts practitioners who live and reside in central Australia. This must be balanced by rigorous peer review and may also require pairing local artists with highly experienced ‘outsiders’ who can help with the development of ideas and artistic practice. Water harvesting would evoke and connect the visual, sensory, cultural, creative and scientific dimensions of this public space. Existing buildings and the covered walkway would be connected by a system of roof gutters. Storm-water would be captured, stored, filtered and then used for display and irrigating gardens. Substantial storm-water drains run underneath Parsons Street to the river and present obvious opportunities for this project.

THE PAVEMENT CRACK AS SYMBOL AND METAPHOR

A vision for the Parsons Street water feature

Based on moulds taken from pavement cracks and dramatically up-scaled to form a simple linear sculpture and water feature, the proposed ‘fracture’ reads as a subtle uplift that changes and alternates in response to unseen forces. Opposing sides of the pavement are occasionally level but more often adopt a contrasting and alternating high-low position. Connecting some 40 metres of walkway elements, this narrow fracture line contracts and expands from a minimum diameter of just 12 mm to a maximum of 100mm.

Water emerges from a single source and enters the fracture, travelling down-slope through a series of small basins before disappearing and returning via a submersible pump to the starting point. At times the tendril of water is pumped to gain height and occasionally it disappears altogether and reappears further ‘down-stream’. A broad independent ‘channel’ hidden below the surface of the ground plane carries the flow of water that is visible through the narrow concrete fracture, not contained by it.

This subsurface channel would incorporate various major shifts in direction and be sufficiently deep and wide to ‘overlap’ the degrees of movement required by the pavement fracture directly above. This sculpture and water feature should not be branded with a single message but rather it will be up to those who use this place to decide what it means to them.

Over time different interpretations will be applied to this space. It may be helpful however to list some that occurred to me:-

• connection of the ground plane to an implied presence and force beneath the street;

• a human vein or viewed from the air, the arterial course of a desert river cutting across lowland plains;

• a dynamic rift in racial and community relationships that will ebb and flow over time. The fracture charts these possibilities. At times the two sides separate widely but occasionally they meet on level ground and the crack disappears for a while.

• the pulse of tears (a mixture of joy or sadness) coursing across a weathered landscape;

• in the manner of desert springs and seepages the fissure carries water through bare rock, delivering the constant moisture needed to sustain rare relict plants that provide a link with our pre-historical past.

• finally, the fissure celebrates the humble pavement crack, so often viewed as a failure of design; indicator of an invasive tree root, uplift, subsidence and fatigue; a feature that is more powerful and intriguing to small children (remember, jumping over the cracks) than adults. This simple, glistening, moving feature would unify the special features of the site and guide people along the biodiversity pathway and bi-lingual soundscape.

The fracture should not be presented with too much decoration or even a hint of contrivance. Hopefully it will evoke a mix of familiarity, intrigue and uncertainty among locals and visitors alike and some people may even believe it is a badly damaged pavement in need of repair. But it should not be gilt edged and architecturally transported beyond the humble under-stated character and form of a gigantic, zigzagging, rising and falling, pavement crack.

The fracture should be further accentuated with ‘sculptural’ plantings, primarily sedges and other fringing vegetation that allow close inspection of the fissure while preventing people from tripping over it. These linear plantings contained within a permeable substrate bed also act as eyelashes and catch some of the pavement dust and detritus that would otherwise enter the body of flowing water. Intermittent grates will provide regular pedestrian cross-overs and occasionally the fracture, water feature and fringe plantings will completely disappear from view returning the footpath to a normal walking surface.

The use of gradient, basins, shade and reduced surface evaporation will assist water conservation, minimize algal growth, optimize bird drinking points and ensure that the system is largely self cleaning. Deposits of sediment and leaves can be directed to basin features and mesh screens for ease of cleaning. As a linear and intermittent feature, the fracture could incorporate a diversity of artistic responses as opposed to a rigorously recurring ‘style’. The source point/s of water entering the fracture, basin features and the ‘end point’ of the water feature provide discreet opportunities for individual creative commissions. A section between the final two basins could be designed to incorporate children’s play features, for example, allowing them to float twigs down the stream.

 

Mr Gillam acknowledges custodian Doris Stuart for her support, encouragement and guidance.

 

Pictured: From top – •Native passion fruit (arrutnenge), fruiting stem and unopened flower – inspiration for contemporary lighting. • Night-flowering native passion fruit. •  Magpie Lark (Teye-teye, Rteye-rteye – Eastern and Central Arrernte). These birds are frequent visitors at outdoor cafes around town. • Chrysalis of the caper white butterfly (irrarle), inspiration for LED lighting and decorative lantern building. • The humble pavement crack – magical to children who intuit its metaphoric potential – could be upscaled to form a water feature along the biodiversity corridor. •Parsons Street sightline, west-northwest (295 deg), with penetrating mid-winter setting sun. In the distance a mountain at 9km and mid-range feature at 3.5 km. These natural landmarks are associated with highly significant Arrernte song-lines and sacred sites. This critical sightline should be extended and reinstated east-southeast to the banks of Lhere Mparntwe, the Todd River. All photographs copyright MIKE GILLAM.

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. M.V.
    Posted October 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Rivers (…dry ones too) are assets to urban spaces. Yet Alice Springs has its back turned to the Todd River, spatially and culturally.
    Design ideas should be generated from the analysis of an existing situation’s constraints and opportunities. The Todd River bed presents both of these to Alice Springs. It deserves to be engaged with more thoroughly, not just as a liability.

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  2. Mike Gillam
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    While traffic management is in the hands of others I’m happy to provide a personal view.
    At least two dedicated east-west bicycle / pedestrian pathways linking existing pavements that flank the Todd River and Stuart Highway are urgently needed. Given the flatness of terrain and favourable weather, it seems unbelievable that Alice Springs is not leading the country – a fantastic bike path network is long over-due.
    While some locals deride the importance of bikes because they don’t own or use one, the same people think nothing of taking long walks or riding a bike to relax when they’re on holiday. To create a network of commuter bike paths we may need to lose some parallel car-parks but that shouldn’t pose a problem because safe dedicated bike paths would encourage many more people to ride bicycles. Some streets are wide enough to accommodate bike paths without loss of car-parks but roundabouts are seriously problematic.
    The south side of Wills Terrace for instance, with some minor modifications to pedestrian refuges, has easily enough space for a full length bike path. The south side of Stott Terrace has similar advantages.
    Like many Alice Springs issues I’d be surprised if bicycle riders have not already done the lobbying and provided the authorities with all the strategic information necessary to plan an amazing network. Returning to your question about Parsons Street.
    My outline for Parsons Street notes the following: “While this ‘directions’ document does not detail the northern side of Parsons Street (a much narrower pedestrian zone) the Stuart Highway beckons and the potential for this northern edge of Parsons street to provide a dedicated bike / walking path needs investigation.”
    I’d also highlight the advantages of open space opposite the courthouse (north side of the street) versus the future impacts of traffic (south side) accessing basement carparking within the proposed five storey development of the old Commonwealth bank site.
    Anyone who questions the justification for bike-paths in Alice Springs should check out the number of bicycles chained to Monte’s front fence on a Friday night. I hope the Town Council and NT Government can address the bicycle path network (or lack of it) before some-one dies.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I agree with Mike Gillam when he says the re-introduction of traffic into the northern end of Todd Mall is a fait accompli.
    This change has been coming for years and is about to come about.
    But is it possible, Mike, when you ‘provide creative direction for an expanded “footpath” at the eastern end of Parsons Street’ to expand that brief to include a shared pedestrian/bicycle “footpath” on Parson’s St from Leichhardt Tce to the roundabout at Hartley St?
    We need an east / west bike corridor through the CAD, and putting one in from the river to the Post Office is a start.
    Let the council rangers fine any rider going obviously too fast or recklessly, but let the rest of us ride through.

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  4. Adelaide Church
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    I love Mike’s imagery and concepts and look forward to this revitalisation.
    I think that the true spirits of this area will be revealed so much more wholly and completely by reducing the overbearance of unhealthy spirits being distributed from the Todd Tavern. Imagine the area as a friendly social hub where healthy drinking habits are encouraged by imbibing alcohol with a meal and folk are encouraged to socialise instead of “drive thru”. Any thirsty camels that “need a drink” can be encouraged to imbibe in delicious Alice Springs water from nice free riverside drinking fountains. Imagine 🙂

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  5. Mike Gillam
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I’d like to explain my support for re-opening the north end of Todd Mall to answer some queries I’ve been getting. Opening this section to traffic was a fait accompli, at least in principle, when I was asked to provide creative direction for an expanded “footpath” at the eastern end of Parsons Street.
    Proposed road-works would see traffic re-connected from Wills Terrace through the existing Mall to Leichhardt Terrace. Turning east on Parsons Street the traffic lane would be confined to the northern (ANZ) side and the pedestrian zone would occupy the southern (Youth Hostels) side. The proposed pedestrian zone is 145m by 7.8m and extends from Leichhardt Tce westwards to just short of the old Commonwealth Bank building. This was the focus area of my work.
    If I did not believe in the necessity of re-opening the northern part of the mall, I would not have accepted this commission. I’ve summarised my reasoning:
    • I believe the strong resistance to opening the northern part of the mall stems from the public’s instinct to protect even low-grade pedestrian spaces at all costs in a town where cars seem to rule, bicycle riders fend for themselves and pedestrians want more. Certainly much of this frustration and dissatisfaction is fueled by the obvious improvements to public spaces and the success of amazing “place-making” projects in other parts of the country.
    • Lets face it – the built environment is pretty dull and we are rescued from mediocrity by the natural landscape that provides an extraordinary town setting. I should mention here a dwindling number of heritage buildings that do make a significant contribution in Parsons Street.
    • Why can’t we actually lead the country and highlight our distinctive sense of place and identity when other communities, even those working with the ordinary, seem to be doing it better?
    • Many people can see and sense the potential of Alice Springs and are starting to believe that the blandness of our public spaces has something to do with the government meekly taking its cues from business. Is the re-opening of the mall another case of vested interests getting what it wants? On this occasion, is the proposal in the public interest? Yes and yes.
    • Our instincts to defend the public domain need to be tempered with basic analysis and facts. We might also consider quality, diversity, sustainability and the economic viability of the whole. Narrowness of choice and repetition of experience are unlikely to attract public support or tourists and even less likely to give small business a fighting chance to succeed. Ultimately the integration of public spaces with appropriate enterprises is essential to maintaining reinvestment in the street. High value public spaces are renowned as economic multipliers and small business at its best, offers a level of stewardship and care for the street that governments are unable to match.
    • So supporters of the public domain need to look beyond quantity to the richness and function of contrasting spaces that offer a multiplicity of uses and speak to a population, residential and tourist, that are not easily impressed.
    Todd Mall is a narrow pedestrian zone trending roughly north-south and lying parallel to the Todd River, the town’s spiritual heart. The river’s future potential to enrich the public domain is best appreciated from the elevated site of the new IAD café on South Terrace. Hopefully this trend will continue as more businesses see the advantage of facing this amazing corridor of red gums.
    • Todd Mall is approximately 450 meters long and our population of say, 30,000 is small, tourists not-with-standing. With a population of 1.3 million and tourists the successful Rundle Mall in Adelaide is slightly longer at 500m. The Townsville Mall, built in 1979, at roughly the same time as Todd Mall (semi mall 1978, full mall 1987) and with a city of 160,000 has been scrapped after decades of poor performance.
    • Todd Mall is prone to cold south-easterlies in the winter and because of its orientation the benefits of warm winter sun are reduced. In summer, breezes from the north give some relief but shade is inadequate and discontinuous. Gardens beds have a neglected look and the Mall generally does not project regional design, innovation or basic quality for that matter.
    • People are quick to point out the success of cafes that give life to the southern end of the Mall but the insertion of more daytime trading cafes into the northern Mall is unlikely to prove viable for business owners and would not address the low numbers of people using the space in the evenings. A careful mix of businesses and services addressing the street combined with appropriate access is needed to achieve general improvements to trading and security. Eventually a residential population in the upper levels would help and this needs to be actively promoted, possibly through genuine rating relief that will encourage developers to make the substantial investments required.
    • Cafés are labour intensive and margins are very tight. Protection from cold winds and the ready availability of winter sunlight, particularly in the mornings, are elementary and desirable features for any café. Parsons Street is one of the few locations where this occurs – pedestrian amenity on the street is the missing ingredient. With its north facing orientation Parsons Street is a hidden gem but this needs to be protected from the clumsy development of tall buildings on the northern side of the street that would block out winter sunlight.
    • When the mall was built, the dangers of allowing a large stand alone entity such as the Alice Plaza (previously Ford Plaza) to locate along side and draw people away from public spaces were well understood. This is a classic example of narrow commercial interests triumphing over the longer-term future of their neighbours and the community at large. Certainly many of the remaining small traders who depended entirely on Mall frontages (by now a diminished activity interface with no vehicle traffic) were severely damaged by the Plaza’s design and its internalized pedestrian precinct.
    • The plight of small businesses on the Mall worsened as Plaza retailers facing the Mall gradually severed their connection to this public domain eg. blocking sight lines (windows) with graphics and locking doorways onto the Mall, because it improved security and allowed them to operate with fewer staff.
    • Priceline Pharmacy (formerly Amcal) provides an interesting case study of momentum in the Mall stalling by degrees. Concerns for the safety of staff leaving work and the public’s nervousness about walking into a lonely mall after sundown to collect medications influenced the decision to close earlier at 6pm instead of 7.30pm. This extended hours / essential service was moved to Yeperenye, a location that offered the convenience and safety of vehicle access. This seemingly minor loss of Mall activity at just one shop front from 6.00 to 7.30 pm. almost certainly impacted subtly and negatively on the confidence of people venturing up the Mall to look for a restaurant.
    • Given our small population the Mall is probably too long and too monotonous and everybody, even those who shop online and support an unseen industrial zone in a major city, should be concerned by the future of the town center.
    • When I commenced work on Parsons Street, designers working for the NT Government were developing conceptual plans to improve pedestrian amenity in half a dozen projects across the CAD (CBD). These included youth facilities to the north of Wills Tce, a multi use meeting place occupying a large site between Adelaide House and Hartley Street and the linear pedestrian corridor along Parsons Street leading to the Todd River.
    • Imagine the possibilities for young and old, for families and cultural tourists if Alice Springs could develop such a rich suite of public spaces. At present only Parsons Street has some limited security of funding and I would hope the potential of this east – west pedestrian zone would readily compensate for a loss of Mall space as cars return (with appropriate traffic calming features in place) to the northern end of the Mall. I’m also hopeful that public energy can be directed towards ensuring that a greater mix of community sites, as highlighted at the recent public meeting, will be supported and funded in the near future.

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