This State Government project is a major investment in local infrastructure and a transformational project for Brunswick. It will see new stations and station precincts developed, create substantial new areas of green and functional open space, improve local streets and paths, and reshape the heart of the area where the most significant creative and community facilities are located, connecting them in a new way.

The topics below form the context of the discussion paper. These topics will form an important part of our final advocacy position.

Opportunities we have identified

Brunswick is a unique and vibrant place, full of expression and character. The approach to this large-scale project should reflect this local character, find ways to celebrate and enhance it, and maximise opportunities for local creative expression.

The removal of the rail line will strengthen connections between key cultural facilities such as Council’s cultural facility being redeveloped at 33 Saxon Street, RMIT’s Brunswick campus and their new PlaceLab research facility, the Brunswick Town Hall and the new urban green space planned for 260 Sydney Road, building a sense of a stronger civic and cultural heart in Brunswick. The project can promote greater activity and investment along Sydney Road and in surrounding streets, creating more vibrancy.

Also central to Brunswick’s unique character is the many stories that make up its past and present and how these play out in the place. There is the opportunity to tell the stories of Brunswick’s First Nations history, and its contemporary First Nations presence typified by leading contemporary art gallery Blak Dot at 33 Saxon Street, and how these stories are reflected in the public realm through open space uses, gestures, landscaping, artworks, patterning, signage, etc. Also important is how the Upfield line’s post-colonial history is protected and celebrated, especially the consideration of the heritage fabric of the Upfield line such as its railway stations, signal boxes and other rail corridor infrastructure.

The elevation of the rail line will remove a major barrier to moving around in Brunswick and create a more unified and connected place that is easier to move around. Improved access to the Sydney Road district will build on its competitive advantage as a location to invest and work with excellent access to the CBD, inner-city and middle ring labour markets.

Whilst the removal of level crossings benefits vehicle drivers by removing hold-up points at boom gates, there are also substantial benefits to pedestrians, cyclists, bus and tram users by the changed conditions. The Brunswick project has the potential to improve the quality of existing pedestrian pathways, broaden the capacity of the Upfield shared path, create more east-west linking paths for recreational bike riders and easy cross-suburb access, install new priority crossings, increase local bike parking facilities and improve connections between transport modes.

New bike and pedestrian paths along the Rail Corridor will be created. The new paths will have increased carrying capacity and improved safety. Getting onto the paths, from adjoining streets will also be easier.Promote sustainable forms of transport

Elevated rail solutions typically create substantial new open space that can be designed for a variety of users, and the Brunswick project is projected to enable four MCGs worth of new open space.

The range, quality and accessibility of public spaces in and around the rail corridor will be greatly improved.

This is great news for Brunswick where there are gaps in our existing open space network, and a growing population is increasing the need for more and better green open space locally.

In designing green open space there is the potential to increase native and indigenous planting and increase habitats for local wildlife, as well as increase tree canopy coverage to assist with combatting the urban heat island effect and increase the number of local water sensitive urban design treatments.

As well as green open spaces, new civic spaces such as paths, nodes railway stations and station forecourts will be created, which have the opportunity to increase the quality and quality of public meeting spaces, and add new seating, resting places, lighting, and public art. The works could also make the train stations themselves more visible, and easier to find. The sheer amount of new improved space could lift the general presentation of Brunswick, acting as a catalyst for improvements to privately owned land and buildings.

The Brunswick community is a highly knowledgeable one, with diverse perspectives and skills. Tapping into rich local knowledge, insights and passion is a key opportunity for the project.

Issues we have identified

Brunswick is an established area with a fairly dense urban form. This means it will be a complex and challenging project to deliver and a number of local buildings, streets, people, businesses and visitors will be directly affected.

21 streets interface directly with the project area and the works will require significant closures to the Upfield shared user path and the surrounding network. This will lead to more people using trams, buses, and footpaths locally, particularly along Sydney Road, as well as increased vehicle traffic and issues around car parking. There may also be issues around how people access train stations during works.

There are many trees in the area where the works will be taking place and this kind of project will inevitably lead to the loss of some existing trees. Many of these trees are significant, in terms of their size and age, and also in terms of the role they play in softening and greening local streets, contributing to local character and amenity, providing habitat for local wildlife and shading to combat the heat island effect. Proper consideration should be given to each impacted tree, and tree loss minimised to the greatest possible extent.

The density of Brunswick’s urban form creates a real challenge over how the new viaducts to elevate the rail line will be realised. It’s still unknown what impacts the new infrastructure will have on the amenity of existing apartment dwellers, businesses and other building users, as well as how sunlight into existing buildings or open spaces might be impacted.

The Upfield rail corridor is a significant one from a heritage point of view, and contains many artefacts that are important to the story and character of the area. How these are protected through the works, and interpreted through the design should be key considerations. The future of any historic elements that are removed should be considered by heritage experts and local historical societies should be consulted throughout.

Significant urban renewal projects such as this one can impact on local housing and other commercial conditions. There is a risk that the improvements of this project put further pressure on locals seeking affordable rental housing, a home to buy, or for local businesses and creatives seeking office or making spaces.