My Voice: Gerry McLoughlin

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Gerry McLoughlin is a long-time Balaclava resident considering running in this year’s council elections.

I have lived in Balaclava for 12 years. I lived in Marine Parade in St Kilda a long time before that and watched the changes in Acland Street. It used to be so diverse, but now it’s all franchise shops and there’s no personality. What I love about Balaclava is its local nature – the greengrocers, the fishmongers and the shops with individuality. More people are wanting to come to Balaclava. I’m happy for it to become a destination centre, but I want to make sure we don’t kill the golden goose. It’s a shame we’ve lost some of Carlisle Street’s most interesting shops, like our record store and the Russian deli. I bought right into the heart of Balaclava because I could see the bones of change, and I just want to make sure that works out well.

I am an architect and urban designer. I have been taking a keen interest – and making submissions – to the Carlisle Street Activity Centre Structure Plan, which includes plans to upgrade Balaclava station and the supermarket precinct.

Regarding the $13.5 million Balaclava station upgrade, first of all we need a far better presentation of the proposal. There were no dimension drawings, so you couldn’t enter into any meaningful discussions about the designs. The community consultation process was really inadequate. It also doesn’t reflect this is a project that is more than just a smartening up of the station, it’s about place making, and for all time it will make a statement about Balaclava’s village heart. We’ll only get one bite of the cherry… so we need design excellence. I’m also surprised to see the designs have changed so much. We’ll never get another chance of this type of money, so to ram it through without proper drawings or proper explanation or why the previous proposals were jettisoned is inappropriate.

The designs don’t include half the things we were talking about. There’s not going to be a lift. Instead, Public Transport Victoria is planning to install a ramp that will take about four times as long to walk up. We need a lift – we’ve got lots of young mothers with prams, and we’ve also got an ageing population. The station also needs a toilet on the bottom level. The current plans mean you’d have to get up that long ramp, then buy a ticket before you could use the toilet. More access points, and more cover to protect people from rain, are also needed. There’s also not enough foot space for people to stand – in the mornings, it’s absolutely packed.

The time is coming up for me to decide whether or not I’m going to run for council. Maybe it’s time for me to put my hand up.

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