News

New hope for Wonga Park shopping centre


THERE IS A NEW wave of optimism that the Wonga Park Village shops will be given a new lease of life.

The “For Lease” sign that has stood as a sentinel outside the derelict shopping strip for over a year was given the addition of an “Under New Ownership” sign in late February, and has been joined by some cyclone fencing around the perimeter of the centre.

On contacting the leasing agent, Lewis Waddell of Fitzroys Real Estate, it was confirmed that the site has been purchased by a developer who would like to remain anonymous at this time.

Mr Waddell told the Dairy that the new owner has submitted plans to redevelop and refurbish the site to “bring it back to life”.

The owner has plans for what, in his words, will be a “community revitalisation”, and is hoping to attract tenants for a variety of retail, medical and dining spaces.

“Depending on how the permit application goes the owner hopes [tenants will be able to move in] within the next three to six months,” said Mr Waddell.

Tenants were evicted from the shopping centre by the former owner three years ago.

Hairdresser, Lynn Munro received notice to vacate her Yarra Road salon just before Christmas of 2015.

“I received a letter on December 17, 2015 to say I had to vacate within four weeks,” she said.

Since then the shops in the precinct have remained empty, much to the frustration of Wonga Park locals.

“The owner was a local person, but she moved to Sydney and stopped renewing leases on all the shops, even the Post Office couldn’t continue to operate,” she said.

When the centre was put up for lease again last year there were hopes for activity at the site, but despite numerous enquiries from potential tenants, none of the shops were let.

“The shops were the heart and soul of Wonga Park, with everyone living on such big blocks it was a place for everyone to meet.

“When I was the last shop there, people would come in and say, ‘where can we get a coffee?’, but there was nowhere,” Ms Munro said.

Over the last three years, all attempts of contacting the now-former Sydney-based owner of the property have proven futile as Council, media and residents have had letters unanswered, phone calls cut off, and many questions left unanswered.

While the centre has been languishing unoccupied, the town has been resolute in maintaining their community spirit.

Wonga Park Farmers Market has been established in an attempt to reinvigorate the community, but this does not solve the village’s day-to-day needs, which, until the property is tenanted, are still unmet.

Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community at Manningham City Council said it was too early for Council to comment on the owner’s ideas for the site.

However, he said the Council welcomes the potential rejuvenation of the centre.

“Council is keen to see the Wonga Park Village Centre restored to a viable and vibrant local shopping and community precinct for the local community to enjoy,” he said.

Anyone interested in leasing space from the new owner can contact Lewis Waddell at Fitzroys Real Estate 0431 107 275.

 

Bridgeworks February 25 – March 8


EARLIER TODAY, VicRoads released their latest information update, detailing bridgeworks to take place over the next two week.

Between 7am and 5pm, Monday to Friday on weeks beginning February 25 and March 4, VicRoads contractors will be on-site installing expansion joints, and a “splitter island” at the south end of the bridge in the centre of the new pedestrian crossing.

The expansion joint will allow the bridge to flex in extreme weather conditions while the splitter island should be installed to complete the pedestrian crossing at the southern end of the bridge, separating the northbound from the southbound traffic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

VicRoads have stated traffic management will be in place to ensure traffic is moving, even during lane closures and there may be speed restrictions in place.

With the works taking place only on weekdays between 7am and 5pm, although the morning peak may be affected by the bridgeworks, the evening peak traffic congestion should remain at its usual level.

“Plan ahead” as bridgeworks return


IN A MAJOR change of plan, VicRoads has announced with just four days’ advance notice that the resurfacing works on the bridge will commence next Monday, February 11 and are scheduled to take place for the full week in both daytime and night-time including the morning peak period.

Daytime works are scheduled to take place between 7am and 5pm from Monday, February 11 to Saturday, February 16.

Night-time works are scheduled to take place between 8pm and 5am from Tuesday, February 12 to Monday, February 18.

The suddenness of these works and the announcement of both day and night lane closures may come as a bit of a shock, when the Diary recently asked VicRoads about any further lane closures, Stephane Hinkeesing, Manager Structures Metro said:

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be finalising our works including new asphalting on the bridge and permanent line marking.

“During these works, there may be some overnight temporary lane closures.”

The new update advises that during the above times there will be lane closures on the bridge; however traffic flow will be maintained with on-site traffic management, although it is unclear how many lanes will be open.

The latest email update also states:

“Works can only proceed under favourable weather conditions and can be impacted by rain, cold or excessive heat.

Contingency dates have been included in case of unfavourable weather.”

This would indicate — assuming all goes well — road users in Warrandyte may not need to suffer through a full week of lane closures.

But with peak time traffic still backing up, it is possible that any lane closures are going to have an adverse effect on already congested Warrandyte roads.

Take heed at VicRoads advice, plan ahead and assume the bridge is out of order for the second full week of February.

A decade on, artists reflect on time of Renewal

BLocal artists are using their art to heal the lingering wounds of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

A metal dragonfly fashioned from old fencing and barbed wire is one of the works of art at Renewal — A Black Saturday Memorial Exhibition.

It commemorates a decade since the Black Saturday fires tore through Victoria, in one of the darkest days the State has ever experienced.

A dragonfly was the first sign of life artists Dawn and Gary McDonnell saw on their return to their Nillumbik property after the fires — and it became a symbol of hope and renewal to them.

The couple is among 60 artists showcasing their work at an exhibition which runs from January 25 – February 25 at two locations in Nillumbik.

Diary contributors, Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn also feature in the exhibition, which gives them an opportunity to reflect on the events of 2009.

The pair lost friends to the flames that day, and recall the worrying time spent as the fires threatened their Bend of Islands home.

Ona’s contribution to the exhibition, Ancient Silent Sentinels [right] comes through as a message of resilience.

Ona explains, “the 2009 bushfires burned hot throughout much of the bush but these graceful grasstrees started to sprout again quite quickly — silent sentinels with black trunk.

She said that the grasstrees became for her symbols of regeneration, as they often stand starkly in the landscape “to remind us of the ability to stand strong and resilient against the chaos and destruction that follows a huge bushfire”. 

Nillumbik Shire Council Mayor Karen Egan said like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a feeling of renewal, fuelled by hope and courage, had emerged in the community.

“Hope is a flame that burns eternally, and many artists have found creating works of art a cathartic experience,” Cr Egan said.

“Art speaks from the heart often saying what words cannot.”

Ona told the Diary of how, in the month’s following Black Saturday, she and Syd healed by collaborating on shared canvases.

“We both went through trauma where we could not paint for several months, and then we started painting on each other’s paintings, we started new paintings, which were healing paintings,” she said.

Last year, Council put a call out to artists inviting them to exhibit their work.

Their art includes a range of mediums — paintings, ceramics, sculptures, etchings, jewellery, print, wool, a digital movie and photographs.

Cr Egan said many of the works are paintings that reflect the scars on the landscape that have healed over time – an outward manifestation of emotional scars which are often less easy to heal.

Others works of art are less traditional. 

One is made from latex casts of fallen trees in the Kinglake National Park.

Cr Egan said for many artists, creating the pieces on display would have been a cathartic experience.

“Some works of art are for sale, others aren’t. 

“Some visitors to the galleries will smile, others will be reduced to tears.

“But what I believe all will take away with them is the message of courage, healing and hope,” Cr Egan said.

The exhibitions are at Wadambuk Art Gallery in St Andrews and the Eltham Library Community Gallery.

The exhibition was among seven Nillumbik community initiatives collectively awarded Victorian Government grants of nearly $33,000 to mark the 10th anniversary of Black Saturday.

Community attempts to rescue bus shelter walling

Concern on lack of consultation

A HUGE community effort has gone into mitigating the effects of a Public Transport Victoria (PTV) decision to reconstruct the 906 bus terminus at the bridge roundabout; demolishing a wall and damaging heritage stairs in the process.

This work is part of PTV’s ongoing future-proofing of bus stops in the area to allow for the potential introduction of bendy buses.

PTV handed the work over to VicRoads to manage as part of the bridge reconstruction and to be performed simultaneously to prevent the need for any further disruption.

VicRoads had been planning this work for some time and had applied to Manningham Council for an alteration to the original permit to include this work — a permit being required because of the heritage overlay applying to the site.

Manningham Council did not advertise this planning request, deeming it to be of minor nature, and in June 2018 they amended the original permit to include this work.

The Diary has learned from VicRoads correspondence that Council had referred the permit amendment to its heritage advisor and urban design team.

It was recommended that the works reuse as much of the existing stone work as possible and care should be taken to match the new stone wall in size, colour, arrangement and visibility.

The first that locals knew of this work was in mid-November when fencing was erected around the site and contractors began to demolish the existing heritage stone walling, which caused damage to the historic stone steps.

A group of concerned residents, along with the Warrandyte Historical Society (WHS), convened meetings with VicRoads and their subcontractors, reminding them of their community obligations and offered the pro-bono services of local conservation stonemason James Charlwood as a design consultant to oversee the rebuilding to the appropriate standards.

Warrandyte Historical Society President, Margaret Kelly, spoke to the Diary regarding the bus stop works.

“The Warrandyte Historical Society was disappointed that there had been no warning of the work to be undertaken on the bus stop wall (this would have allowed photos to be taken for archival purposes) or neither it or other community groups had been consulted on the project.

“This highly visible, central area of the Warrandyte Township Heritage Precinct is historically significant and the Society is concerned that any changes to any of the various elements should be in line with the relevant plans and guidelines.

“We were pleased with the community response and the quick involvement of individuals to try to ensure the best outcome,” she said.

Last year, WHS was successful in negotiating the fate of the Old Dairy with Council and Melbourne Water and are hopeful that this sort of consultation will happen again in the future.

WHS along with Warrandyte Community Association are meeting with Council this month to discuss heritage protection in Warrandyte.

Mr Charlwood has produced a comprehensive Concluding Report which is highly critical of VicRoads, the sub-contractors and Manningham Council for their inadequate provisions to protect the heritage assets.

A copy of the report is available from the Diary upon request.

Whilst to a layperson the finished result may look acceptable, Mr Charlwood is critical that the style of the new work fails to match the adjacent walling.

Others have commented that the diagonal cyclone fencing above the wall detracts from the overall look and feel.

And it is noted that despite all this work, nothing has yet been done to rectify the broken stonework rumble strip that separates the bus stop from the Yarra Street traffic.

It is not known whether further work is intended here, but it would be a shame to leave the broken stonework as is, as the surrounding area and roundabout have been rebuilt.

Theresa Dawson, who was a driving force behind the community initiative to preserve the wall told the Diary: “There are a lot of new people living here now who are more than likely unaware that the reason they are able to live in such a unique and beautiful suburb, in such close proximity to the CBD, is because of the tireless work through the 70s and 80s of the Warrandyte Environment League, WCA, many other diligent locals and the Diary, that acted impartially to present necessary facts to locals. 

“We need to continue to honour the legacy of all these groups and individuals by standing up and carrying on their work if we wish to continue enjoying such a lovely village with rich history.”

The last 24 months have seen community groups defending heritage in the face of utilitarian progress and the Diary looks forward to reporting on the plans to help maintain cultural heritage.