A Village Revitalized with WSUD Treatments and Stratacells
by Kristyn M. Levis
A community village in need of rejuvenation has been transformed into a busy economic and social hub with the help of the Citygreen® modular Stratacell™ system.
The Eaton Mall project in Oakleigh (Victoria) – jointly funded by Monash Council, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Planning and Community Development, and Melbourne Water – was a “highly innovative and significant initiative in liveable public places”.
Its aim was to support social, economic, environmental and cultural development for Oakleigh Village through the addition of safe, connected and accessible public space, psychological calming of traffic using “naked” street design techniques, and pedestrian and child-friendly places.
The project also included extensive water sensitive urban design (WSUD) treatments, high quality sustainable and durable street furniture, lighting and finishes, creating a unique and enhanced cultural experience. The design subtly references southern European influences through the use of hard and soft landscaping, custom street furniture, public art and architectural lighting.
Eaton Mall is located between Atherton Road and Portman Street and has been a suburban pedestrianised street for over 30 years. This area was identified as a “high priority for rehabilitation and rejuvenation” in a public space enhancement study.
Jonathon Makaay, senior project architect at Monash Council, said the $2.6 million project started in June 2012 and finished in December 2012. Monash Council’s Urban Design and Architecture Department handled the design and management of the project with a “design vision based on the street being treated as a community room”.
“The rejuvenation project builds on the strengths of the human qualities of the village to create a robust, vibrant and liveable setting for people. The design response allows for sustainable economic growth and tourism through highly innovative evidence-based and human-centred design. This includes a series of highly accessible, connected, and multi use public spaces,” Makaay said.
The council selected the Citygreen system for several reasons. First, they needed structural integrity, a class C loading to the streetscape paving. Second, the project needed appropriate space for root growth for advanced street trees, without compromising the pavement behaviour over time with problems such as uplifting.
Makaay said soil volumes are very important for the success and growth rate of street trees. “The calculations for root volumes were all done during the design process and led us to the Stratacell product.”
Third, the system was able to integrate with the council’s water sensitive urban design. “All the street trees are rain and stormwater fed. Water has been harvested for reuse from the street, overhead canopies and large shade structures,” Makaay said.
Fourth, the system’s ease of assembly gave good practical design results with very minimal complications when installing the system. Finally, the fact that the Stratacell system is made from 100 percent recycled polymers gave it an edge as the council prefers to use responsible and sustainable products for all its design solutions.
The Eaton Mall project’s economic vision is to enhance commercial yield by promoting “multicultural branding and quality place making”. This has been achieved by stimulating activity through the strategic placement of community gathering places, enhanced pedestrianisation and connectivity.
The vibrant living street is an important part of the council’s quality retail and commercial initiatives. By improving the outdoor retail trading space, visitors are encouraged to stay longer. The council was able to provide a quality public space to attract private investment, branding the Oakleigh activity centre as a village precinct.
Aside from that, the design actively promotes a safer walking and cycling experience through the adoption of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPETD). By decluttering the space and improving pedestrian lighting, the result enhances facial recognition and psychological comfort, which provides for a safer nighttime street environment.
“Some of the main design intentions were to create a more open, accessible, spacious, sustainable, and more contemporary impression. The Stratacell product allowed us to use a flexible pavement base and to include water sensitive design components. It meant we could provide for advanced tree growth without compromising on the aesthetics of the project,” Makaay said.
This was the first time that the council has used the system or anything like it and so there were a few initial teething problems around the installation. But Makaay said once the contractor had completed the first one, it was smooth sailing from then on. They encountered some services that could not be integrated with the Stratacells so instead, two of the tree pit sizes were reduced.
Makaay said he would certainly consider using the system again after his experience with the Eaton Mall project. Today, the trees are looking healthy and vibrant and they have encountered no issues with the system since the project was completed.
With its successful implementation, the Eaton Mall project celebrates the village’s existing culture by providing a more “aesthetically focused, environmentally sensitive public environment”.