The Collingwood Arts Precinct (C.A.P), spanning a 6,400 square meter footprint of inner-city real estate, once operated as an essential pulse to the heartbeat of Melbourne and now, well into its phoenix like re-emergence from abandonment and disrepair, re-development plans are beginning to take shape and a distinct buzz is once again bouncing off its exposed walls.
Melbourne’s inner north was my second home as a child of the 80’s. I marvelled at the tiny workers cottage in George Street that provided a home to my father and his brothers throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The fascinating volatility and singularity that emanated off the locals of Smith, Johnston and Brunswick Streets and the distinct lack of English permeating the hazy air. Coming from a culturally blended family, as was the norm then and now, weekend visits to the Greek heritage that was my Yai Yai’s lounge room and the streets of Collingwood and Fitzroy, proved to be my first and most powerful lesson in societal and cultural diversity and the intoxicating melting pot of humanity that is the result of low economic housing, creativity and inner-urban community.
A lot of the colour and vibrancy that illustrated by childhood has since been leeched from the area thanks to the astronomical acceleration of gentrification. So many residents, whose presence was integral to the strong heartbeat of the inner north, have long moved on after being priced out of what was once an enviably creative landscape and I have watched as affluence moved in and diversity fled.
Walking through the site of the former Collingwood School of Art & Design, C.A.P appears to be in a state of optimistic upheaval. The redevelopment of this precinct (tasked to Contemporary Arts Precincts) is wholly geared at digging the dwindling but still present heartbeat of urban Melbourne from the rubble and nurturing it back into relevance. With plans to reinstate spaces dedicated to creativity and community, C.A.P is set to once again sustain the presence of local artists and artisans whose rich contributions are essential to fostering the area’s unique appeal and the general cultural life of Melbourne.
The existing monolithic like, and seemingly impenetrable, facade is being treated to sensitive architectural interventions to open up the buildings that make up the precinct, via thoroughfares that feed in from Johnston Street. The vision is to revitalise the site via a unique and innovative social enterprise model. Large public spaces will connect the ground floor tenancies, intended for galleries and aligned hospitality enterprises, to foster social interaction. As you ascend through the buildings, spaces will become increasingly private, conducive to the many needs and spatial requirements of what will be a densely populated creative community.
Viewing C.A.P today, the preservation of the fabric of the building is evident, however the consideration for its usability has also been hugely prioritised. With the first round of tenants soon to be announced, it is clear that initiatives to breath fresh life into the local community, which will harness the essence of Melbourne’s greater creative life, are in full play.
Images courtesy of C.A.P Melbourne & Creative Concierge.
Words by Tiffany Jade