With community visioning at its heart this case study showcases an effective place making program that capitalises on repositioning an important cultural precinct in an area earmarked for redevelopment.

The City of Greater Dandenong in Victoria’s south east took the initiative to establish a community led vision and harness state funding opportunities for cultural precincts and community infrastructure.

The resulting Precinct Framework is providing a plan for the immediate transformation of the precinct – its goal is to infuse it with the colour and vibrancy the community associates with their culture and sure up its future.

The 30 year old organically formed precinct is advantaged by its compactness, fine grain, location near the railway station, northern aspect, surrounding public realm and relevant demographic profile. However despite these features it has fell into neglect due to uncertainty associated with being in an area earmarked for redevelopment. This has seen a period of low investment over 10 years, a despondent trader culture, brand decline, changing footfall and low scoring place measures.

The City of Greater Dandenong has mapped a community led vision process that resulted in a Precinct Framework, formation of a Precinct Taskforce and focused delivery on initiatives to bring back the colour and vibrancy that the place was missing.

Lighter, quicker, cheaper approaches were used to transform the precinct from a neglected quarter to a colourful jewel. Business façade improvements, combined with public / street art initiatives have reaffirmed the importance of the precinct within the activity centre despite its challenges. Key sites have been approached with artworks that visually reveal a layer of creativity and identity that build pride and place attachment.

Reinforcing design and architectural elements which underpin the precinct and dealing with maintenance and back of house treatments that frame the retail offer have been critical to its early success. Each intervention gives attention to understanding and observing what is seen and how this feels for customers, onlookers and visitors.

The results are quickly achieving large scale transformation that celebrates the visual language of the precinct and brings change to important sites. Adding layers of colour and applying the community’s aspirations physically – is a hall mark of the project, which is being managed within realistic budget parameters. The project is delivering on a promise to stakeholders and restoring traders and community confidence for a sustained offer and future for the precinct. Discussions with the state development agency are heading in a positive direction towards guidelines and an assessment criteria that leverages the precincts unique identity and requires development propositions to respond to the special cultural character associated with the Precinct.

Abstract from ICTC 2019
Author: Jenny Pemberton-Webb, Place Manager, City of Greater Dandenong