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Making beautiful cool places

"Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful"

It was neighbours week and all across the city people were meeting, talking and gathering with their neighbours. In my little corner of the city the South West Community Group organised a wonderful walk with Dr. Helen Donovan where we considered how we could make our neighbourhood more beautiful through the prism of a world that is getting hotter and a community that will increase in numbers over the coming years.

About 20 of us walked down Sturt Street from King William to Whitmore Square then across the square to Wright Street, back to Sturt St West, finishing at Erb'n Flo Café for a free coffee courtesy of the Adelaide City Council.

Helen Donavan, previous councillor for the South Ward is also a professional exercise psychologist involved in Walking SA and passionate about green, life-affirming and accessible spaces.

Here are a few things we saw and talked about on our walk.

Two ends of the same street

If you stand at the Kings Head corner and look East you see Halifax Street with its green centre strip, thriving community and small businesses. Look West and Sturt Street is a wide, empty, hot road with few trees. It feels desolate and not people-friendly. Our group talked about how we could re-design this end of the street with more trees, separated bike lanes, and verge gardens, making it greener, slowing down the traffic and encouraging small businesses and street life. There is clear research that the width of roads is a factor in slowing cars down. It's a fact that much of Adelaide's car traffic drives straight through the city rather than using the ring roads.

The possible new development on this street will increase the population and so we need to think now about how we can make this part of Sturt Street a nicer place to live.

Signs of hope and ideas for the future.

We passed the beautiful garden at the front of the Christian Centre on Sturt Street, a joint project with the Youth Options Garden Squad, an NDIS skill development organisation, and the Adelaide City Council.

Further down, we walked through Ergo Apartments and noticed the publicly accessible green space and the way this encourages walking to and from the market. This development is medium-rise with a focus on diversity that has really built a sense of community.

We looked at a number of different approaches to greening a street and talked about how we could make footpaths safer for walking, or for people in wheelchairs or with prams. A lot of footpaths are very narrow around this area and on bin days they take over completely with dozens of wheelie bins. Having bigger community bins as they do in Europe and a wider footpath on one side of a road were a couple of ideas we came up with.

We popped into Christies Walk, a brilliant example of a cooperative, environmentally sustainable housing development from the 80s which has amazing gardens and shared spaces. It's so peaceful. If you are interested, they offer tours so you can see how it all works. Just outside there is a shared car system delivered by a company called Flexicars (previously Go-get) where for a very reasonable price it's possible to hire cars for quick trips making it quite possible not to own a car.

The Troppo Corner is a cafe in a garden. A tiny piece of reclaimed creates a corner now filled with gardens. It is a gorgeous bit of deep shade which not only looks and feels wonderful, but also removes the need for air-conditioning.

More green further west.

We crossed Whitmore Square noticing the refreshing and calming green space. We talked about the importance of keeping spaces green so the heat of the city is moderated and wondered if the choice of trees we are planting now will survive rising temperatures due to climate change.

We looked at the plants beginning to grow down the wall of the west side of Boehm Apartments and discussed how green walls have a patchy reputation in Adelaide because they seemed to appear on developers' drawings but in reality, they needed to be built into designs and backed up with infrastructure if they are to survive. Things like the use of recycled water and making better decisions about which way buildings should face.

The verge gardens on the west side of Whitmore Square are an excellent example of how a bunch of neighbours can get together, decide on a project and then ask the council to help. It is maintained by the residents and is an excellent example of community effort.

Walking down Wright Street towards West Tce is stunning. Big trees shade the road, verge gardens have popped up and just around the corner, there is a road made completely of recycled materials.

Walking back to Sturt Street West, we noticed the rain garden inlets that make crossing the road so much safer, slow the traffic and the bonus is they add green to the street.

Then the icing on the cake was sitting in the back garden of Ern n Flo cafe on Sturt Street sipping excellent coffee and chatting. Thank you Marjon and Helen for organising such a lovely and thought-provoking morning.

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Robbie Porter
Robbie Porter
09 мая 2023 г.

Great work Janet. Appreciate you walking the streets to see what's hot and what's not in the CBD. We can all learn something from your travels.

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