OPINION: Real consultation on Jonson St pays off
BYRON Shire Council's recent approval of the updated design for the Mercato retail and entertainment centre on Jonson St is testimony to what genuine consultation on complex and potentially controversial developments achieves.
It's widely appreciated that this is a large building and the community was concerned that it could be detrimental to the streetscape and the CBD's urban character and retail mix.
Mayor Richardson understood the issues and recognised that the owner/developer was willing to negotiate, so he brought the community and owner together with council.
I was lucky enough to be part of that dialogue in my former role as president of the Design Advisory Panel (DAP).
DAP is a group of independent design professionals who give time voluntarily to help council and communities arrive at well-designed solutions.
As such, they succinctly bring experienced interpretation of community views to the discussion.
The first discussions were held 10 months ago, and the owner needed patience.
It was a two-step process. Firstly, the owner's team, the mayor, director of planning and representatives from DAP met regularly over several months to review the project's direction and design.
Once the application returned to council for consideration, all councillors had the opportunity to fully participate.
I believe this two-step process worked better than if everyone had had input just at the beginning.
The result is a building that offers significant and tangible benefits for the community including:
- Being in keeping with the characteristic urban character of Byron Bay.
- Creates the only 5 Greenstar retail centre in regional Australia.
- Provides a community use art gallery.
- Increases the number of film theatres, providing one of the best venues in Australia for film festivals.
- Provides a sheltered mini-park at the entry to the building.
- Encourages bicycle use by providing over 100 bike racks, shower and change facilities and personal lockers.
- Encourages the use of electric vehicles via free charge stations and a program to promote electric vehicle use.
It's a great example of what genuine consultation can achieve for our community.