A four-point plan for our city’s recovery

A four-point plan for our city’s recovery
Ellen Sandell

When it comes to COVID and lockdowns, Melbourne’s CBD and Docklands are some of the hardest hit areas in the country.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of Melbourne’s CBD. With more people working from home, fewer people will travel to and from the city for work.

But governments don’t seem to have twigged that this has changed things quite fundamentally, and they don’t seem to have a plan for the future of our CBD, beyond crossing their fingers and hoping things will go back to the way they were.

Instead of hoping we go back to “normal”, we should use this as an opportunity to reimagine what our CBD is for, and why people choose to travel to it, or live in it.

I’ve joined my Greens colleagues Federal MP Adam Bandt and City of Melbourne councillors Rohan Leppert and Olivia Ball to come up with a four-point plan to reinvigorate our CBD.

1. We need incentives to attract innovative and creative businesses to base themselves in the CBD.

Many businesses who rely on 9am-5pm workers have struggled to survive, closed, and may sadly not come back. We need to encourage innovative businesses that offer unique experiences to make the CBD their home. The federal government should subsidise rent for new creative, tech and innovative businesses who sign long-term leases in Melbourne’s CBD and Docklands. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Budget Office is currently costing this plan, but our estimates show that with just a few hundred million dollars, it will leverage hundreds of millions more of private investment in our CBD and make a huge difference.

2. Make the city more liveable for residents

We need to make the city more liveable for residents by:

making streets more pedestrian-friendly;

making it easier to get a good night’s sleep with better construction and traffic regulations;

regulating short-stay apartments;

greening our laneways to create more open space; and

better building regulations.

3. Make the city more affordable

We need to build more affordable homes in the city, particularly so essential workers like nurses, cleaners and supermarket workers aren’t pushed out.

The state government should introduce laws that require a percentage of affordable, public or social housing in all new developments. This is already happening in other cities like New York, London and San Francisco.

4. Fund the arts

Our arts organisations and festivals – from the Fringe to the Comedy to the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival – often run on the smell of an oily rag or exist on unstable year-to-year government funding. Governments should create a joint fund to support 20 festivals and arts organisations with stable funding for five years.

We must also protect our heritage buildings. Right now, one of our iconic arts venues – the Nicholas Building – is about to be sold and risks being turned into apartments. The state government should provide a loan for the City of Melbourne or Nicholas Building Association to buy the heritage building so it can be kept as an affordable and unique creative community.

This is a radical and visionary plan, but that’s exactly the kind of thinking we need to build a better city after the pandemic. It will require investment from all levels of government.

You can find out more about the Greens plan for the CBD at greens.org.au/vic/cbd

What do you think? Get in touch with me at [email protected].

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