Makeover to revive the social heart of Norlane

December 1, 2021 BY

Councillor Anthony Aitken

THE council is aiming to bring Labuan Square in Norlane back to life as a safe and appealing community meeting point.

Improvement projects like this play a crucial role in the sustainable future of our region.

While there is a need for new development in a growing community, it’s important to remember what we already have.

That’s what we’re doing at Labuan Square.

We see the potential of this public space to be a thriving neighbourhood hub once again.

Thanks to the passion of residents determined to see the precinct returned to its former glory, we now have a concept design on the table.

We’ve worked with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners, community groups, and local stakeholders to create a vibrant vision for the space.

Inspired by our culture and heritage, the plans embrace surrounding nature and focus on accessibility and appeal. Think more trees and seating, natural play elements, better facilities and a mix of essential and specialty shops.

We’re hoping this will be more than a makeover – it will be a revival.

In a suburb so proud of its past, it gives me great delight to be part of this new chapter.

Many of us have fond memories of Labuan Square.

For a long time, it was the social heart of the area not far from the Ford factory. It was a bustling meeting place where people would get their groceries and bump into friendly faces.

Over time, things have unfortunately changed.

Like in many cities, big shopping centres have superseded smaller retail strips like Labuan Square.

There’s no denying this space has been left behind along the way, and we want to turn that around.

If we’ve learnt anything from the pandemic it’s that people value connection with their neighbours and their neighbourhoods.

People want to have places where they can catch up with friends, grab a coffee or buy something special close to home.

We think Labuan Square, through this redevelopment, has the potential to offer that charm and convenience.

Having listened to the ideas of local residents and business owners, I have so much confidence in what the future holds.

This brings me back to the plans.

Council is investing at least $250,000 to rejuvenate the block.

Following extensive engagement in May, we identified four main areas of importance to consider in the redevelopment:

– sustainable landscape and access to nature
– activating the shops
– appearance, and
– events and activities.

From surveys and feedback, we know there is a desire for sustainable landscapes, play features, technology, public art and outdoor dining opportunities. You’ll see all of this in the concept design, which is currently open for comment.

What stands out to me at first glance is the central representation of nearby Cowies Creek, embracing Wadawurrung concepts of country.

There is green lawn, timber seating and interesting environment for children to explore.

The plans replace the existing toilets with gardens and trees and position the new facilities on the eastern side of the Forster Street car park.

Updated technology will boost safety and aesthetic. An integrated smart pole will provide CCTV and free Wi-Fi, while coloured lights will illuminate trees.

Hopefully, the fresh energy of Labuan Square will attract new businesses. I can just imagine dining outside and enjoying a bite to eat, overlooking the precinct.

We would really encourage the landlords and shop owners in the area to get involved with these potential improvements, by working with the council to invest in new and exciting rental space opportunities.

Ideas include: community art spaces; community service delivery; not for profit office opportunities; unique multicultural markets and eating spaces that showcase the local community.

I think the concept design is a positive milestone for the Norlane community.

But we want to hear from you!

The plans are available on the Geelong Australia website, where you can also complete a survey. Engagement closes on November 29.

Head to yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au/Labuan.

If you would like to speak with a project team member or you require assistance completing the survey, please call 5272 5021 or email [email protected]