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Bairnsdale before and after

Preliminary perspective images have been prepared to help illustrate the proposed changes to the Main Street gardens and Nicholson Street mall detailed in the draft concept plans. See ‘before’ and ‘after’ images below. These perspective illustrations have been created to give an impression of the design intent rather than a photo-realistic image.

For more information on what is proposed click on the Masterplan menu above and view the Nicholson St Mall and Main St gardens draft concept plans.

Thank you to Peter and others for all your comments on the draft concept plans and other issues. Please keep contributing so we can hear your thoughts on the concept plans and other issues. The public exhibition phase ends Friday 4 May.

 Before                                                                                                          After






Public exhibition of draft plans

We are very pleased to announce that draft concept plans for the Bairnsdale CBD Improvement project are now available to view! In developing these plans we have listened to what you have said and spent a lot of time observing activity in the town centre.

During April is your opportunity to provide feedback on the plans.  The public exhibition phase will run from Wed 28th March until Fri 4th May.

The plans provide an overall vision for the CBD and design concepts for upgrades to the Main St Gardens and Nicholson St Mall.

We have also been developing ideas for activating and improving the laneway network. This work is ongoing and a plan for the laneways is being developed and will be available soon.

The community response to date on the proposed public realm improvements has been very positive. Most people acknowledge the Mall is tired and needs a facelift and that the Main St gardens, whilst beautiful, could benefit from some design interventions to create a greater sense of grandeur and to encourage more community use of this special place.

How do I get involved?

1. View the plans here by clicking on the drop-down menu “The Masterplan” above. You can leave comments below the plans on each page.

2. Council will be present at the following community events where you will have the opportunity to view the plans and have a face to face chat with the project team:

  • Fri 30th March – Choices for Living Expo at Community College East Gippsland, Dalmahoy St, Bairnsdale. More info: click here
  • Fri 13th – Fri 20th April – National Youth Week at Forge Theatre & Arts Hub, 80 McKean St
  • Fri 27th April (9:00am – 4:30pm) and Sat 28th April (9:00am – 4:00pm) – East Gippsland Field Days at Bairnsdale Aerodrome.  More info:
  • Thurs 5th April,  Thurs 12th April and Wed 18th April (10am – 2pm) – at the Rotary Kiosk in Nicholson Street Mall

3. You can email/write to us or phone us directly (click on Contact Us above for details).  A hard copy set of plans can be posted if it is not possible to view online or attend one of the above events.

4. If your club or group would like a face-to-face briefing on the concept plans then please contact us.

Safety in the public realm

A few contributors have highlighted the issue of safety in Bairnsdale’s public spaces. Rob notes that the mall can be a scary place at night with sometimes loud, drunken or abusive behaviour.  Others have cited undesirable behaviour occurring in the laneways. Rob also identified traffic safety issues in and around Main Street.

Safety in public space is an important issue for us and we are spending a lot of time on this subject.

If you are interested in this topic we suggest you look into the works by Jan Gehl and Jane Jacobs; two prominent urban commentators on public space safety.

Jane Jacobs believes vitality and safety of a city is directly related to the pattern and form of the street; that city vitality and safety depends on footpaths being in constant use and streets and public spaces being watched.

Jan Gehl’s work is focused on a pedestrian-based city and emphasises the need to create spaces that allow people to walk, sit, stand, talk and play, and importantly to watch, see and hear.

Our work is strongly informed by the concepts of public safety and behaviour. Watch the blog for more discussions and diagrams on this topic in weeks to come.

Places to sit, watch and talk in Southbank


We’ve uncovered a gem in Bairnsdale! It has a fabulous network of laneways. We have been thinking about how we can transform these spaces to make them more attractive and vibrant pedestrian-friendly spaces. Last week we met with some of the local traders between Nicholson Street Mall and Main Street and many are keen to explore ideas for opening up and reinvigorating their laneway network.

Some businesses have already started to create a bit of activity with café courtyards. However, the laneways are still fairly inactive and full of car parking so these outdoor areas are mostly screened from view. We also noticed many shops have walk-through doors from the laneway to Main Street or Service/Bailey Streets which provide great shortcuts to get you across the city centre.

Rear Paper Chase Café courtyard and walk-through


View to Campbells Arcade from Nicholson St


Painted mural at rear of House & Gift on Bailey St


Where can we take our inspiration from?

What is the one thing people say they love about the centre of Melbourne? The most common response is the laneways. They are known as the heart of Melbourne. The laneways are a fantastic network of vibrant spaces that host cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. They are a voyage of discovery through the centre of town. The laneways provide useful shortcuts to get from one main street to another – the pedestrian traffic being the impetus for many a lively space along these thoroughfares.

Degraves St, Melbourne


Here is an example of how a small vacant piece of land can be made more interesting and friendly with a small amount of money. Opposite this vacant plot a couple of cafe entrepreneurs set up a coffee machine behind a roller door premises and started serving coffee.  Soon enough, word spread of a new “coffee digs” in the neighbourhood and space for seating was in demand.  Looking across the street to the vacant site the idea of a café courtyard arose. Below is the result.  A few dollars spent sprucing up the space with astroturf, a bathtub of flowers and some milk crate seats and voila!

Chapel St, Fitzroy plot before


Chapel St, Fitzroy plot after


An example of a grassroots community movement is the ‘livable laneways festival’ which is a non-profit organisation based in Vancouver that “challenges Vancouverites to re-examine the…potential of overlooked city areas”. Temporary activities such as art markets, night markets, live music events and public art installations have transformed tired inactive laneways and have revealed the potential of these spaces to become vibrant and pedestrian-based places.  See

Laneway in Vancouver


Same laneway during a livable laneways festival


A quite different urban renewal example is the container shopping mall that has been set up in Christchurch to revive its retail core following the massive earthquake that hit the city last year. The container mall is a fantastic pedestrian based shopping centre made from brightly painted shipping containers stacked to create 1-2 storey retail shops. See:

If you have photos of lanes you like, or activities you think might work in Bairnsdale’s lanes, post them on the blog.

Making cities for people…

“The potential for a lively city is strengthened when more people are invited to walk, bike and stay in city place” writes Jan Gehl (2010), an influential Danish architect and urban designer who advocates for pedestrian friendly cities.


The Gehl Architects blog explore issues relating to quality of life in cities. Last week they asked “What interventions have inspired you in your city? Have you ever contributed to this form of ‘urban dialogue’?” See this link for our contribution to this discussion:

In the news…

The Re-imagining Bairnsdale project made the local news last week. Watch the WIN News segment here.


Cars, cars and more cars…

Historical photos of Bairnsdale depict streets full of people; outside shopfronts, socialising at community events. The photo below shows Main Street during the Hospital Carnivale circa 1900.  In 1929 Bairnsdale entered and came third in the Victorian Ideal Town competition; however the judges were obviously impressed and gave Bairnsdale a special award for ‘Most Beautiful Town’.

However things have changed. Did you know that today 60% of Bairnsdale’s public realm space is dedicated to cars and parking? Only 10% is dedicated to open space and footpaths; places for you to walk, stand, sit and talk.

Whilst the historical photos below may depict an era without cars, they demonstrate Bairnsdale has a great sense of community and public life.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the streets were pedestrian friendly where people can meet, exchange ideas, socialise, enjoy entertainment or simply relax? We sometimes underestimate the importance of these simple activities and opportunities.