Pressure on Victorian Government to adopt Council plan for old Footscray Hospital site


    By Pierre Vairo

    The Reimagining Old Footscray Hospital group (ROFH) welcomes the release of Maribyrnong Council’s draft plan for the soon to be vacated old Footscray Hospital site.

    We were excited to learn that Maribyrnong Council’s desire for the future of the land between Eleanor Street and Gordon Street is aligned with the vision that the ROFH developed with the aid of the community in the summer of 22/23. Council are proposing that more than 40% of the land be kept as open space, creating a new park the size of Yarraville Gardens in a part of Footscray that is currently lacking open space and facing an influx of new residents as the area densifies.

    From a housing perspective, Council’s vision for the site is one of mixed-use medium-density buildings of three to eight stories. It’s proposed these buildings be built on the site of the existing yellow brick hospital along Eleanor Street. Council proposes the heritage listed psychiatric building on Gordon Street is handed to Council to manage as a community facility. The beloved community run Brenbeal Childcare Centre is slated for an expansion to cater for a rise in demand. Pleasingly Council’s draft plan does not aim to build any roads through the site, instead it envisions a precinct where walking and cycling are encouraged. 

    The State Government’s current policy stipulating that public land redevelopment includes a 10% affordable housing component is not sufficient and does not reflect the urgent need for more affordable housing in our city. Whilst affordable housing is a focus of Council’s plan for the site ROFH, together with local groups HousingAIM and WestSide Cohousing, is calling for Council to set a higher target based on demand. Our position reflects the views we heard from community and we believe that the future of this site should not exclude people on very low-to-moderate incomes.

    It has been 100 years since residents of the west fundraised the money to purchase this land so that Footscray could have a hospital.

    While Council’s advocacy plan for the site reflects the community’s vision, the reality is that Council only owns 35% of the land and does not have final say over how it is developed. The future of the site is in the hands of the Victorian Government with their 65% share and their deeper pockets.

    ROFH would like to see the state government join forces with the community and Maribyrnong Council to bring our joint vision to life and ensure that this public land continues to benefit the Footscray community for the next 100 years. 

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