Trees with Stratacell Result in Vibrant Transformation
By Kristyn M. Levis
The Vaughan Street Redevelopment, dubbed Vaughan Central, has created a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere in Greater Shepparton, Victoria.
The redevelopment of the Vaughan Street precinct, which started in July 2013 and finished in November 2013, involved three major stages. It enhances pedestrian access and central urban space in a street that connects the Shepparton railway regional transport hub, the suburban bus network and the taxi services with the Shepparton CBD.
The first stage of the urban renewal project involved significant streetscape and construction works to the commercial area, road and parking areas. The areas included the upgrade of the streetscape of Vaughan Street between Corio and Maude Streets, raised pedestrian crossings and footpath along the southern side of Vaughan Street, removal of existing angled street parking and replaced with parallel parking and a better flow of traffic, a new taxi rank, CCTV, and the removal of street trees. It was worth $3 million with contributions from the Regional Development Victoria, Lascorp and the Greater Shepparton City Council.
“The removal of street trees will result in visible vegetation loss. However, the removal of unsuitable trees and the placement of an avenue of trees more suitable to the environment will enhance the streetscape in time,” the website said.
The council site said the new Zelkova trees are very suitable for the commercial business environment. The design of the Citygreen® modular Stratacell system® “allows better watering and aeration for the root system as well as better drainage”.
“This encourages the establishment of roots to grow beneath the surface, reducing the disruption to paving. The roots will grow deeper in the moist soil to encourage drought tolerance,” the site said.
The site said the council included the Stratacell system in the design to “encourage the tree roots to spread through the un-compacted soil without impacting on the road and infrastructure.
Heath Chasemore, team leader for Parks at the Greater Shepparton City Council, provided advice to the project manager on the landscape design and ongoing maintenance issues.
The Greater Shepparton City Council has used the Citygreen Stratacell system on a number of locations before the Vaughan Street development, with the first installation completed three years ago.
“Soil volumes are very important to the ongoing sustainability of tree planting. A benefit of this system is the ability to increase soil capacity by the addition of more modules,” Chasemore said.
The only minor issue they faced was training contractors to install the system. But this was easily overcome by the presence of Arborgreen staff spending time on site with contractors, explaining how to install the product.
“Once staff and contractor were shown the correct installation, the product was very easy to install,” he said.
Their biggest issue was with the location of services into the growing space during the initial design phase but it was easily solved.
“Because we have integrated this product into the design stage there was a good fit with other landscape elements,” Chasemore said.
Liesl Malan from Liesl Malan Landscape Architects said the city of Shepparton is “a tough environment for trees”.
“Winter is cold and the frosts are heavy. Summer is hot and extremely dry and the selection of commercially available stock suited to the climate is much more limited than the range available to our colleagues in city areas.
“Once we all accepted the sad reality that the existing trees were in such poor condition that we would be unable to retain them, we spent a great deal of time working with Greater Shepparton City Council to find the right tree combination for the new streetscape,” she said.
Malan added that there was anxiety over the removal of the existing trees and the challenges of successfully establishing new street trees.
“We decided to introduce the idea of using tree cells during the concept phase of the project and fought hard to retain them during the inevitable budget reviews,” she said.
Some of the challenges faced by the team include construction timing and stock availability, and the size of the new trees as they were not as large as specified. However, Malan said they’re “confident that the tree cells will provide a good growing environment” and the trees will be able to “provide shade for the streetscape in a relatively short period of time”.
The redevelopment of Vaughan Street was a “tremendous opportunity to reinforce the link between the railway station and the mall”.
“We were able to fix the uncomfortable camber of the road and the narrow (in some cases non-existent) footpath provision. We created generous, consistent footpath areas, pedestrian crossings at a consistent level to the footpaths and a series of welcoming seating areas. Unique furniture pieces were designed drawing on Shepparton’s history, industry and natural environment,” Malan said.
These features for the project were key to creating a strong identity, specific to the Riverina. The furniture was made locally and can be easily replaced using local skills and resources, if necessary.
“In removing the existing trees, we were very conscious of the significant investment the city had made in planting the original Plane trees. They were the best option available at the time and they have provided a shaded, welcoming streetscape ever since. They have also withstood the installation of so many new services as the city has grown and modernised,” Malan said.
“We hope that incorporating tree cells in the new streetscape will, in time, be seen as the best way to balance the needs of the trees and the necessary infrastructure for the rest of this century,” she added.
As of today, Chasemore said the “trees are looking good in this location and at other locations where this product is installed”. They are planning to use the system again in the next streetscape development.