Flinders St Mall, Townsville, QLD Australia

Flinders Street Mall continues to flourish, seven years after Stratacell installation

Flinders St Mall redevelopment

Flinders Street Mall is a thriving shopping precinct in the heart of Townsville – but it hasn’t always been this way. Previously a pedestrian mall, Flinders Street struggled to attract shoppers prior to an urban redevelopment by Gamble McKinnon Green in 2011. The redevelopment, which opened the street to vehicular traffic, included the installation of Citygreen® tree pit systems to provide much-needed shade and beautification. Today, the trees continue to thrive, adding freshness and function to Flinders Street Mall – and offering valuable insights for future projects.

Before the redevelopment (1979 – 2011)

An article by ArchitectureAU provides a brief history of Flinders Street Mall, prior to the redevelopment. The two central blocks of Flinders Street were converted into a pedestrian mall in 1979. The space was lively and successful in the 1980’s, with fountains, trees and children’s play equipment complementing a diverse range of shops. However, throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, the mall fell out of favour, and several major stores closed. The lack of shade and character were major factors in the mall’s decline. With temperatures regularly exceeding 40 °C in Townsville in summer, the heat proved a huge deterrent. Rather than walking in uncomfortable conditions through the concrete-laden pedestrian mall, people flocked to air-conditioned shopping centres in the suburbs instead.

The new site launches with Stratacell in 2011

After consistent calls to re-open Flinders Street to vehicular traffic, an urban redevelopment project was initiated in 2008, with the rejuvenated site launching in 2011. Converting the mall into a roadway for joint use by cars and pedestrians was pivotal to bringing it back to life. However, so was shade and beautification. Citygreen tree pit systems were used to provide much-needed relief from the harsh Townsville sun, and transform the site to a welcoming, green urban space.

Using linear trench drains that connect down through the pavement into Stratacell™ pits, Flinders Street Mall was one of the earliest developments of stormwater harvesting, coupled with tree pits. As well as the modular Stratacell systems, the project highlights the methods of Citygreen landscape solutions, including the ReRoot, RootStop and RootRain systems.

Flinders Street Mall redevelopment - Stratacell Installation

At the time of the redevelopment, Kate, a Landscape Architect from Gamble McKinnon Green, said the Citygreen tree pit system was chosen as it “allows the trees the opportunity to grow to their mature size in a harsh urban environment”. She also noted that “the compressive strength of the Stratacells was also a huge benefit in this particular streetscape, as it allowed for a variety of surfaces to be applied over the top. For instance, the Stratacells could be extended under areas of concrete pavement.”

Barry Heffer, from NaturForm, was the project manager for the landscape component of the project. He also supported the Stratacell system, saying it was essential to “establish large trees with a good root system” especially in cyclone prone areas like Townsville. “The structural integrity of the cell holds up the concrete above. It doesn’t allow the roots getting out of the cell zone and start interfering with the storm waters and other services”, he added.

Flinders Street Mall Redevelopment

After re-opening to the public, Flinders Street Mall was an instant success. It won the prestigious “Best Urban Renewal Project” prize from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, as well as the Award for Excellence in the “Great Place” category at the 2011 Awards for Planning Excellence. Most importantly, it proved extremely popular with locals and visitors, who began to frequent the city centre.

Thriving trees and infrastructure, going strong in 2018

Seven years later, in 2018, Flinders Street Mall continues to flourish as a social and commercial hub for Townsville – and so do the Citygreen trees. Since the 2011 upgrade, the growth of the trees and palm canopies has been outstanding. The trees have grown to many times their original size, providing increased shade and vibrant greenery.

Flinders Street Mall redevelopment

Modern, functional street furniture, including bike racks, seats, lights and drinking fountains, seamlessly integrate with the city landscape, while tree guards provide essential protection, merging with the planting, pavilions and porphyry paving.

As well as contributing to sustainable growth through green infrastructure and water sensitive design, the tree installation has provided valuable insights around the performance of large trees in cyclonic winds. Since being planted, the Citygreen trees at Flinders Mall have survived several tropical cyclones. They have withstood conditions extremely well, with none being blown over.

Flinders St Mall - 2018 photo

There have been some learnings around rootball anchorage, with some trees not growing as straight as expected. Interestingly, the rootball anchorage issues impacted only one of the three species planted – and non-Citygreen trees were impacted more. The learnings around rootball anchorage have been implemented in subsequent projects, and the impacted trees have been corrected.

Following the success of this project, the City of Townsville has used Citygreen systems on several ensuing developments. They love the enhanced growth rates and larger tree canopies they can achieve.

“Great customer service, quick response times and a very in depth QA system with constant support.”

- Laura Wiesenekker, Project Engineer, Densford Civil -

“Citygreen is a very professional  business, and I found everything was great in terms of deliveries, product supply and information. It was all forthcoming and helped us to complete the project.”

- Keith Burns, Architect/Designer, Keith Burns Architect -

“Citygreen offered training and invaluable technical assistance during the works.”

- James Callan, Estimating Manager, Complex Co Pty Ltd -

“Our experience, in working with a Citygreen Design Studio was second to none. We found responses from the design studio to be very timely, and technically thorough. We went backwards and forwards a number of times, looking at different iterations of the design and, nothing was too much trouble to examine and explore different possibilities. I would highly recommend the Citygreen Design Studio to any future client considering using your services.”

- Sandra Smith, Principal Landscape Architect, City Of Monash -

“We are big on compliance on all projects, and the fact that their SmartCertify cloud platform covers all bases, and supports their 20 year warranties, is critical – especially that these pits are being installed under roadways and footpaths.”

- Johny Purkaystha, Civil Program Engineer, Central Coast Council -

"I reviewed all the previous projects that we have installed in the past couple years using your product and I can happily report back that we have 0% mortality in the soil cells, which is incredible!"

- Brendan Wilton, CEO, Trim Landscaping, Bedford, Canada -