Southbank Promenade's future

Southbank Promenade was designed for a Melbourne that had virtually no central city residential population, and a metropolitan population only about half of what it is today. As a result, pressures for use of the promenade have increased – and will continue to increase – well beyond what might have been imagined when it was built. There is a need to consider adjustments to the design as it is renewed in order to increase its capacity to accommodate diverse activities without conflict.

The vision

Southbank Promenade will remain one of Melbourne’s most significant civic, leisure and visitor destinations, providing a physical and symbolic link between the city and the Yarra.

Key project aims are to:

  • Refine the promenade to support its intensive public use.
  • Increase its capacity to accommodate crowds.
  • Reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Support both casual non-commercial activity and events.
  • Plan for the renewal of assets including paving, lighting and trees to enhance amenity, appearance and sustainability of the space.
  • Improve connections of the promenade with adjoining spaces and precincts.

As part of City of Melbourne’s design proposal, a number of key issues were identified along the promenade that require addressing:

  1. Damaged concrete paving
    The promenade was paved with precast concrete tiles, which are regarded as substandard for major civic spaces in Melbourne, and are in poor condition.
  2. Poorly-performing lights
    Existing multiple rows of poorly-performing lights on short poles could be replaced with a single row of higher-quality pedestrian-scale lights along much of the promenade’s length.
  3. Declining tree health
    The trees between Princes Bridge and Evan Walker Bridge are in very poor health due to poor soil conditions. There is a lack of species diversity, and the existing planting design has a street-like character that does not recognise the parkland and river context.
  4. Pedestrian/cyclist congestion and conflict
    The shared path along the upper promenade is as narrow as 4.5m in places between Princes Bridge and Evan Walker Bridge. Conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians occur throughout the length of the promenade.
  5. Poorly sited artworks
    A number of important sculptures in the precinct are poorly displayed.
  6. Shabby finishes and a clutter of uncoordinated furniture
    The bluestone-clad retaining walls are damaged in many places. Balustrades are cluttered with accretions of defunct speakers and other wiring. The promenade as a whole is cluttered with poorly coordinated furniture.

Key directions for improvement of Southbank Promenade are to:

  • Renew all trees, improve soil conditions and introduce permeable surfaces to provide passive irrigation opportunities.
  • Upgrade existing concrete pavers with bluestone, improve lighting levels with new LED street lights, and upgrade balustrades and furniture.
  • Create rest points that divert the line of travel, with feature trees and palms, low-level planting and feature seating elements.
  • Reconfigure the stairs and ramps between the upper and lower promenades to widen the thoroughfare, improve visual connection between upper and lower promenade and provide fully compliant DDA access to lower promenade.
  • Create river front resting space and eliminate dead spots.
  • Widen the upper promenade at Hamer Hall, and reinstate the artwork ‘Dervish’ to its original site on Hamer Hall’s terrace level with St Kilda Road.

City of Melbourne has taken this design through numerous iterations and internal reviews to get to a point where we can present a consolidated plan that responds to the site’s key issues. We have engaged with a number of key stakeholders and authorities over the course of the design process and with the community on the proposed landscape design from 14 July to 21 August 2020.

Landscape design

Select each spot to learn about the proposed upgrades for each area.

Before and after

Use the sliding image tool to see before and after conditions at various view points along Southbank Promenade. The positioning of each view is marked on the map above.

View A

Upgrades include:

  • Fully DDA compliant access to lower promenade.
  • Creation of rest points with feature trees and palms, low-level plants and seating.
Before: After:

View B

Upgrades include:

  • Renewal of trees and improved soil conditions.
  • Introduction of permeable surfaces that allow for self-watering.
  • Reconfigured stairs and ramps to widen footpaths and improve views between upper and lower promenade.
Before: After:

View C

Upgrades include:

  • Renewal of trees and improved soil conditions.
  • Introduction of permeable surfaces that allow for self-watering.
  • Creation of a river front resting space and eliminated dead spots.
Before: After:

View D

Upgrades include:

  • Widened upper promenade at Hamer Hall by 70%, from 5 metres to 8.5 metres
  • New trees introduced.
Before: After:

Southbank Promenade