20/02/2008 - 22:00

Bringing the city’s laneways to life

20/02/2008 - 22:00

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It’s hard to miss the rows of plastic flowers lining one of Perth’s little-known laneways, Wolf Lane, off Murray Street.

Bringing the city’s laneways to life

It’s hard to miss the rows of plastic flowers lining one of Perth’s little-known laneways, Wolf Lane, off Murray Street.

The art installation, funded by FORM Contemporary Craft and Design, is part of a wider plan to enliven laneways in the city centre.

FORM executive director Lynda Dorrington said the project was aimed at engaging local residents and city workers, particularly those from a younger demographic.

Following two workshops, which were attended by 140 people, FORM is planning to establish an action group to undertake similar projects.

“We hope we’ll create a groundswell of capable decision makers who will move forward with a strategic direction for activating laneways,” Ms Dorrington said.

There’s also a broader agenda, with the City of Perth in the process of drafting a strategy for laneway developments, as part of a 15-year vision for the city.

While a project is yet to be chosen, the city’s intention is to prioritise 10 laneways for development, to be chosen through consultation with stakeholders.

A number of laneways have been identified as potential activation sites, including the Telstra-owned Shafto Lane North, Pier Street laneway and a lane adjacent to London Court.

Two of the proposed areas – Wolf Lane and Munster Lane – are owned by the city, with the latter having been acquired from the Department of Culture and the Arts.

The city has also received advice from Melbourne-based consultancy Village Well.

Representatives from the group visited Perth in October last year to identify spaces for activation in Perth and Northbridge.

According to Ms Dorrington, the laneways project is a vehicle for channeling creativity and giving people a stake in building the future of the city.

This was crucial, she said, in retaining workers in the long-term and creating an attractive city for interstate and overseas workers.

“In a state like WA, being construction-led, most of the talent will get up and go when it’s over,” Ms Dorrington said.

“When the bulk of the skilled trades leave, you have to ask, ‘what are we leaving behind?’”

As part of its laneways project, FORM conducted a survey of 500 people, canvassing ideas for improving the city.

The survey found that extending trading hours was by far the most favoured way to animate the city, receiving about 16 per cent of total responses.

Hosting more events (11.5 per cent) and relaxing liquor licensing laws (7.5 per cent) were rated highly, along with developing the foreshore, improving parking and making more pedestrian-only spaces.

Respondents said they would most like to see cafes, shops and small bars or pubs in the laneways.

Ms Dorrington said there was a need to deliver regulatory changes, as well as giving people an opportunity to be creative.

“In terms of hard infrastructure, there’s a lot happening in Perth, but in terms of soft infrastructure there’s not much,” she said.

“We want to generate a growing sense of community in the city.”

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