Saturday 16 March 2013

Save City Place - make it WOW! '

City Place - Reasons why 'Save City Place - make it WOW', rejects Options 1 and 2, but supports Option 3

OPTION 1:  Open City Place to buses and cars, develop the Shield St extensions

OPTION 2:  Open City Place to buses only

OPTION 3:  Revitalise City Place as a pedestrian-only precinct

Silvia, and Geoff Holland with CRC Security Officer looking on.

Why we wish to retain and revitalise City Place as a pedestrian precinct

1.       City Place is the Heart of Cairns.  In 2011 Cairns Regional Council announced they were not going to destroy City Place, merely move it into the corridor between Lake St and Grafton St.  It would be called the “Heart of Shields St”.  In March 2013, Cairns Regional Council announced that the “Heart of Shields St” would be relocated into the corridor between Lake St and Abbott St.  It would no longer be called the “Heart of Shields St”.  Council’s landscape architect Jez Clark, who came up with council’s latest design, said “I think the heart idea is quite strange in a sense in that it’s a lineal, it’s..  my heart’s kind of in one place [forming a circle with his hands].  I think it’s more of a lineal sort of experience.”  Jez Clark admits – the Heart of Cairns is gone in his latest design.

2.       City Place is our Town Square.  A Town Square is the most important civic space where citizens can gather to discuss issues and to defend the social and democratic values of their community and country.  The significance of Town Squares has a history going back hundreds of years in Europe and elsewhere.  It took 130 years for Melbourne to establish a Town Square because New South Wales Governor George Gipps specifically banned in 1838 the creation of open squares because he believed they would only encourage democracy.  

City Place is where Mabo Day and NAIDOC Week have traditionally been launched.  A significant rally was held there by unions in September 2012.  The Cairns City Forum earlier in 2012 gave an opportunity for the public to ask questions directly to candidates of both the State and Local elections, a forum facilitated by Toastmasters International.  A free speech podium is located in City Place to allow anyone to have their say.  Earth Hour has been celebrated in City Place.

The corridor between Lake St and Abbott St on Shields St is not appropriate as a meeting place.  Jez Clark has described how the proposed splash base fountain can be switched off so the audience for an event can stand in the fountain.  This is unsatisfactory.  We need a grassy terraced amphitheatre with shade from the sun and shelter from the rain in front of the stage as we propose in Option 3 where the current performance stage is located.

3.       City Place is a focal point and meeting place.  Visitors enjoy and benefit from a focal point to orient themselves in a city.  City Place is that focal point.  It is a meeting point.  A major iconic fountain or waterfall in City Place which would be a signature landmark for Cairns, would further define a focal point and meeting place for the City.

4.       City Place is a unique space.  It is the only place in the Cairns CBD with four heritage buildings on all corners including historic Hides Hotel and the School of Arts building where the Cairns Museum is located.  It has a magnificent fig tree on one side.  It is close enough to the ocean to catch the sea breezes.

5.       City Place has a special history.  Located beside Gimuy Lagoon, it was a meeting place of the Gimuy Wallabarra Clan for over a thousand years.  Gimuy Lagoon still exists under Rockmans, Woolworths and Orchid Plaza.  A creek still runs underground from the lagoon down Shields St, under the Esplanade Lagoon and out to sea.  The Aborigines of the Gimuy Wallabarra Clan made shields from the buttress roots of the Gimuy fig trees (slippery blue figs) that grew around the lagoon.  They did this without killing the trees.  Gimuy is the original name for Cairns.  This history could be depicted in interpretive signs and Aboriginal public art reflecting the water stories of the original inhabitants.
Mayor Cr. Bob Manning

Reasons why we reject OPTION 1 and OPTION 2

1.       There is no reason to open City Place to vehicles.  We were told it was necessary to open City Place to buses because we needed an efficient bus service.  But the creation of an ambiguous and dangerous “shared zone” with all buses having to weave through one of the busiest pedestrian zones in the CBD will  But the Cairns Transit Network in the city will get rid of all bus stops in the CBD except one pair located on Lake St at Aplin St.  This means bus commuters will have to walk much further to get to their destination, including elderly, disabled and young parents with toddlers, in the hot tropical sun and heavy tropical downpours.

2.       Bus stops reduced from 10 to 2.  The Cairns Transit Network in the city will get rid of all bus stops in the CBD except one pair located on Lake St at Aplin St.  This means bus commuters will have to walk much further to get to their destination, including elderly, disabled and young parents with toddlers, in the hot tropical sun and heavy tropical downpours.  The Cairns Transit Network would actually reduce amenity for bus passengers!  Under Option 3 we would develop existing bus stops in Abbott St (near Woolworths, Orchid Plaza), a pair of bus stops on Spence St between Grafton and Sheridan St, and a pair if bus stops on McLeod St between Shields St and Aplin St.  Bus passengers could then access any bus route in Cairns from any of these bus stops, and they would provide good coverage of the CBD.  Under this plan, bus stops would be removed from Lake St.

3.       No more Heart of Cairns, only a “lineal experience”.  Option 1 and Option 2 would relocate City Place into the Heart of Shields St – in the corridor between Abbott St and Lake St.  This is a corridor space not a focal point – a Heart of the City.  Council architect Jez Clark said “I think the heart idea is quite strange in a sense that it’s a lineal, it’s...  My heart’s [indicates round shape of a heart with his hands] kind of in one place.  I think it’s more of a lineal sort of experience and I think it’s difficult to talk when you use that language.”  But Jez, we want a City Heart!

4.       No performances permitted.  Existing city ordinances would not allow performances in this corridor because of noise regulations.  Noise regulations allow performances in City Place because Cairns Regional Council have known  this open space can manage and tolerate increased noise levels, unlike the corridor between Lake St and Abbott St which is a relatively closed space, and has a more direct impact on local businesses at close range.

5.       Performing artists say not a performance space.  Bands and performing artists have signed a petition saying the corridor space between Lake and Abbott St on Shields St is not an appropriate space for performances.

6.       The audience has to stand.  Under Option 1 and Option 2, the audience of the performance stage would have to stand in the “splash base” fountain area.  This is because there is limited space.  Under Option 3, on the other hand, the grassy area in front of the performance stage in City Place would be expanded into a larger shaded terraced grassy amphitheatre.  People would not have to stand up to watch a performance but could relax on the grass.

7.       Two pedestrian zones cut by a busy road.  Under Option 1 and Option 2 we are supposedly creating two City Places either side of Lake St for pedestrians but it is cut in two by a busy road with all buses passing through at slow speed suggesting bottlenecks and queues. 

8.       The road would be even hotter than City Place is now.  What little shade we still have will be removed to make way for the road.

9.       There would be no truly pedestrian-only zones in the CBD – just ‘shared zones’.  The Shields St extensions (between Abbott and Lake St, and between Lake and Grafton St) will not be pedestrian only.  They will be “shared zones” with some vehicle access.  City Place is our only truly pedestrian zone in the CBD and we wish to keep it!

10.   No major fountain / waterfall focus.  Option 1 and Option 2 provide 6 mediocre off-the-shelf water features.  Option 3 would provide one large iconic fountain or waterfall in City Place which would signify the Heart of Cairns, a meeting place.  It would be a signature for Cairns, the Reef and the rainforest.  Visitors would come to have their [photos taken in front of the fountain / waterfall and show friends back in their home country.  Locals would meet there as it would be an unmistakeable pinpoint landmark.  Option 3 would also provide a number of lesser water features.

11.   Heavy vehicles may put heritage buildings at risk.  City Place is the only square in Cairns that has heritage buildings on all four corners.  City Place is also built on swamp, and the ground is susceptible to movement.  Having all buses drive past these heritage buildings regularly, particularly Hides Hotel and the School of the Arts building where Cairns Museum is located, could damage these buildings over time.

12.   No children’s playground.  Option 1 and Option 2 would get rid of the children’s playground in Shields St between Lake St and Abbott St replacing it with the performance stage.  While there would be a “splash base” fountain, this would be intermittent and not a regular play structure for children.  Under Option 3 the children’s play structures would remain and there would be a splash base fountain with shade sails similar to Muddies Playground.

Proposed demolition of City Place.

Features of Option 3

1.       Tropical oasis.  Under Option 3 City Place would become a tropical oasis – a cool space where people can relax during the heat of the day.

2.       Large native tropical shade trees.  When Council removed the large shade trees some years ago, City Place became too hot for people to spend time in during the day.  They replanted with Brazilian leopard trees which were inappropriate and have not provided adequate shade.  Mature native shade trees can be planted if pruned before planting.  A full canopy can be achieved within 1 year (tourist resorts plant mature trees all the time).

3.       Grassy seating area.  Locals remember the grassy hill where people used to relax.  Under Option 3, the grassy area in front of the performance stage would be expanded into a larger terraced grassy amphitheatre.  It would have shade from the sun and shelter from the rain allowing performances and other events even when raining.

4.       State-of-the-art performance stage.  Performers were never consulted over the previous design of the performance stage and as a result it is largely dysfunctional as it does not provide protection from the elements, has not facilities for changing, and does not provide acoustical projection.  A new state-of-the-art performance stage may incorporate some of the existing stage.  However the design process would be sure to consult with local performing artists and look at best practice around the world.

5.       Iconic fountain/waterfall.  Option 1 and 2 offer 6 minor water features taken off-the-shelf.  Option 3 would see a City Place designed around one major iconic water feature, plus a number of minor water features such as a splash base fountain in Shields St next to the children’s playground, and another between Lake and Grafton St on Shields St, and another on Lake St behind the performance stage – an area which would be developed for outdoor dining and cafés.  This iconic fountain/waterfall would be a landmark.  It would be a signature for Cairns reflecting the local Aboriginal culture, and the water stories of Far North tropical rainforest.  It would be a place which visitors have heard of before they even arrive in Cairns, and go there to have their photo taken so show friends back home.  It would be a meeting place for locals.  It would help cool the tropical oasis in City Place.

6.       Tourist Information Kiosk.  A small stylish tourist information kiosk would be located in City Place.  This would double as a Police Beat Desk.  Amongst other things this Tourist Information Kiosk would have brochures on “What’s On in Cairns”, and also bus timetables and a map of bus routes in Cairns and the region.

7.       24/7 Police Beat Desk.  There was previously a Police Beat office in City Place, but this was moved down to the Esplanade Lagoon.  There is a need to establish a Police Beat Desk once again.  There would be two police officers on duty all the time.  They would have a mobile phone, and this mobile number would be made public to all shop owners, and the names of those on duty would be available on a roster on the Web.  The mobile phone would be handed to the next pair of officers when changing shift.  Ideally the police officers would be Aboriginal and specially trained in Aboriginal Liaison, and well as Tourist Liaison.  They may have special colourful uniforms.  They would patrol City Place and the extensions for 100m in every direction. 

8.       Public art.  We have seen successful examples of public art on the Esplanade and other locations around Cairns.  City Place also deserves quality public art.  This art, including sculpture and mosaics, could reflect the waterstories of the original Aboriginal Bama inhabitants of City Place, the Gimuy Yidinji people.

9.       Historical interpretive signs.  Interpretive signs could relate the history of Gimuy Lagoon located at City Place, the gimuy trees whose buttress roots were used to make shields.  They could form part of a historical walk and relate to the Cairns Museum located in City Place.  The signs could also relate to the history of the heritage buildings located on each corner of City Place.

                                          __________________  |  ___________________

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