Historic Fitzroy Gasworks site to get a new lease on life

Photo: Victorian Heritage Website

An indoor sports stadium could be on the cards for the redevelopment of a historic Yarra site.

The Victorian government property development agency, Places Victoria, has begun a four-phase plan to develop the former Fitzroy Gasworks precinct at 433 Smith St. A community engagement phase that concluded on 10 June invited members of the public to register their support for the project.

According to Yarra City Council Mayor, Cr Roberto Colanzi, at this time the leading idea is for the site to host an indoor sports stadium. Home to one of the biggest basketball clubs in the state, the City of Yarra is yet to acquire a stadium of its own.

“The Collingwood basketball club has something around a thousand members and they have to play everywhere else,” says Colanzi.

Built in 1859, the Fitzroy Gasworks was a key supplier of gas to Melbourne until closing in 1927, its distance from the port proving to be a competitive disadvantage. The site remained in operation as a workshop and gas storage facility until the 1970s.

With strong support from local council, the stadium would be a well used and highly sought after community space for the Yarra precinct.

The historic elements of the site have been central to planning with Places Victoria advising that through council and community collaboration the heritage aspects will be preserved.

The iron store located on what is currently the Council depot area is heritage-listed as having state significance.  The building is a rare find, imported during the gold rush and is one of very few buildings prefabricated in England before being transported to Australia.

The fate of the famous ‘Barbed Wire to Bonbonniere’ mural on Smith St will be “considered in close consultation with the City of Yarra”. Despite no formal heritage protection, the mural is a much-loved part of the community.

Gasworks_Artworks

Photo: Places Victoria, Gasworks campaign

The council released an Urban Design Framework to ensure the planning and investment of the site moves with the interests of the community. The framework suggests that options of relocation or restoration of the mural may be viable.

Despite the many considerations to balance, the City of Yarra is working closely with Places Victoria to ensure that the site will benefit the changing Yarra community without losing its history.

Results from the community engagement phase are expected in the next few months and will determine if the project will move forward.

By Kathryn Lewis

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