Metropolitan Melbourne is set for a cultural revival post-lockdown, as hospitality businesses receive state support to provide outdoor dining and entertainment. To safely accommodate the projected rise in street-side pedestrian activity, the strategic placement of reinforced concrete furniture can effectively provide robust physical protection as well as unique design appeal.
The Victorian government’s $100m City Recovery Fund and $87.5m Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package will support restaurants and hospitality businesses as they extend their services outdoors, transforming shared spaces such as footpaths, car parks and public parks into hubs of vibrant outdoor activity. Following in the footsteps of New York’s successful Open Restaurants initiative, the lifting of lockdown restrictions will see Victorian dine-in patrons enjoying open-air, alfresco-style seating as businesses adopt new COVID-safe practices.
Pedestrian safety in the outdoor environment
The increase in outdoor activity will require heightened safety measures to protect patrons and pedestrians as they spend more time in public open areas, especially if these areas are kerbside. Fortunately, the City of Melbourne’s Transport Strategy 2030 contains various initiatives aimed at creating more safe spaces for pedestrians and bicycles in the city, as part of a broader vision to create a safe, walkable and well-connected city.
Activities within this broader strategy complement the planned transition to outdoor dining and entertainment. For example, Melbourne’s Little Streets initiative establishes pedestrian priority on Flinders Lane, Little Collins, Little Bourke and Little Lonsdale. On these ‘Little’ streets, footpaths will be widened to allow safe physical distancing, speed limits will be reduced to 20km/h and pedestrians will be given right of way over car and bicycle traffic.
Appealing to the public
In order to successfully transition standard footpaths into shared public spaces that will attract and engage new visitors, the new spaces should be safe, inviting and accessible. Business owners must ensure that their individual premises comply with COVID-safe practices, providing reassurance of a safe and hygienic dining environment. In addition, local councils’ investment into physical streetscape upgrades such as new street furniture, lighting and live greenery will play a big part in revitalising and transforming the atmosphere of the street.
The role of concrete furniture in street transformation
Due to its material characteristics, concrete furniture provides multi-pronged benefits when installed in an outdoor application. Firstly, the sheer weight and strength of a concrete bollard, bench seat or planter, particularly when reinforced, creates a robust solution for pedestrian protection due to its incredible impact resistance. Secondly, the highly customizable nature of a prefabricated concrete product presents landscape architects and urban designers the flexibility to create a unique design or to produce a visual style to match an area’s existing character. Thirdly, the ability of concrete to withstand harsh weather conditions and age well over time is clearly proven by the ubiquity of the material in the built environment.
The use of concrete products as a form of subtle physical protection is a tactic that has already been used extensively in Melbourne’s CBD. In 2019, the City of Melbourne implemented security upgrades for pedestrian safety around routinely congested parts of the city, with areas such as Flinders Street Station, Princes Bridge and Olympic Boulevard enhanced with reinforced concrete solutions. The Little Streets program that is currently under way will also introduce new concrete planters and seats to liven up the widened pedestrian pathways.
This design-led approach to the treatment of the pedestrian-vehicle boundary works well to soften the appearance of what are, essentially, fortified vehicle barriers.
How SVC can help
SVC has extensive experience in the manufacture of reinforced concrete products designed to perform in an outdoor application. Our portfolio of work includes concrete furniture, bollards, planters and custom products made for multiple councils and commercial projects, ranging from metropolitan Melbourne to regional and interstate locations.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss potential streetscape solutions with councils and businesses looking for assistance in the transition to outdoor dining and entertaining. Please contact our friendly team if you’d like to begin the conversation.