A vision for Hawthorn — Master plan concept for Mitcham Court Precinct finalised

Jensen PLUS was engaged by City of Mitcham in late 2022 to develop a master plan for Mitcham Court Precinct — an important civic area that includes former bowling greens and the Air Force Association precinct.

With the bowling green unused for many years and the clubroom building, which is home to the Air Force Association (AFA), at a point of requiring significant upgrades, the Council has embarked on an ambitious project to set a clear and exciting vision for its redevelopment.

Mitcham project site aerial viewThe Precinct sits within the much-loved broader Soldier’s Memorial Gardens, Memorial Library and Hawthorn Community Centre precincts, interfacing with existing community infrastructure and heritage places, as well as residential properties.

The site presents a few challenges that are largely related to the positioning and location of the precinct together with the orientation of adjacent buildings concealing the former bowling greens and impacting how the area is used by community and visitors.

Community and stakeholder visioning

“At the crux of this project is genuine and meaningful engagement with the local community to ensure the final master plan reflects their experiences, local use and aspirations,” says Reb Rowe, Senior Urban and Regional Planner.

“The benefits of early engagement and a collaborative approach were reinforced throughout the project with AFA, key stakeholders and community actively included in conversations and considerations from commencement of the project.

“Respect for perspectives and visions was shown by all involved, which fostered proactive working relationships and ultimately resulted in a great outcome for everyone.”

Following individual conversations in which community and stakeholders were invited to share insights and ideas, those with a special interest in the project were invited to participate in a visioning workshop.

The workshop was carefully designed to identify challenges, opportunities and values of the precinct and collaboratively develop a vision and guiding principles to shape the master plan.

“The community was very active in sharing their experiences, ideas and visions,” says Reb.

“The key themes that we heard were important to the community included accessibility, community use and connection, reflection of history and heritage, green open spaces with unique natural character, and a place where people want and feel safe to spend time.”

An important place for community connection

Through the extensive community engagement, our team identified a vision for the precinct.

An important place for community connection, where people are welcomed to spend time in a green open space with a natural character. The precinct celebrates its history and complements the Soldiers Memorial Gardens and local area.

The final master plan incorporated many aspects that will create a welcoming and safe space for the community to enjoy.

“Lawn and picnic areas will be complemented by extensive plantings of native species which will enhance the natural beauty of the area while also providing privacy for adjacent residential properties,” says Reb.

A play space for young and older children will also be a key feature.

“This will enhance the focus on green open space by incorporating natural materials and nature play.

“It will also draw on the site’s history and link with the Air Force Association with an aeroplane-theme.”

A pedestrian plaza will lead people into the site from the eastern boundary.

“The activation of the existing stables providing a sheltered seating area with an opportunity to incorporate AFA memorabilia and draw on the sites history and heritage,” says Reb.

“A modern yet simple pavilion will create additional and flexible sheltered space that can be used by community or for small functions.”

The master plan also recommends the demolition of the Air Force Association and lean-to buildings, which currently present significant visual barriers to the site and aren’t regularly occupied or used.

“All components of the final master plan reflect the community’s vision and will create a safe, open space where people can gather in nature and under modern facilities with family and friends.

Putting the plan into action

The City of Mitcham’s Elected Members endorsed the master plan in late 2023 and the Council will now embark on projects that will see the vision brought to life.

“Working with community on open space projects is energising and positive work,” says Reb.

“The community generally shared similar ideas for the site as a place to spend time and enjoy the park setting with family and friends, and I believe we have delivered on this vision in a way that is respectful of the setting, supports biodiversity and appreciation of the environment, and allows people to connect more easily and deeply with this important place.“

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