Glenferrie Car Park Sell-Off
In a Boroondara Council meeting on 25 September 2023, it was revealed that Swinburne University has made an offer of $16 million to purchase the Council-owned Serpells Lane car park, located next to Glenferrie Station at 399 Burwood Road, Hawthorn. This comes in the wake of the Serpells Lane Strategic Property Project initiated in July 2022, which proposed to rezone the car park from Public Use to Commercial Use and sell the site.
Council claims that the car park is ‘underutilised’ and identified that of the 89 car park spaces, 57 spaces are used by university students and staff and 32 used by workers, shoppers and traders accessing the centre. If the offer from Swinburne University is accepted, the site in question would be developed by the university and integrated into their sprawling campus. However, Boroondara Council would impose conditions of sale, one being that the university must ‘provide an additional 37 public car parking spaces at the Serpells Lane site or another location as agreed by Council’.
A sale to Swinburne University would sidestep the process of Council rezoning the site to Commercial Zone. Development of the site by an educational institute is permitted in a Public Zone. Thus, the Council would avoid the Windfall Gains Tax (WGT) which came into effect on 1 July 2023. WGT is applied when land is rezoned and sold. If the site is offered on the open market as a viable development site, the land would have to be rezoned prior to sale. Council have been cleared by an independent Planning Panel to rezone the land, despite approximately 60 objections.
Since the announcement of Council’s intent to rezone the site, a groundswell of support for retaining the car park has grown in the community. Earlier this year, a change.org petition to save the car park was set up and has since gained almost 400 signatures. Signatories of the petition bemoaned that ‘Glenferrie Road shopping precinct is in decline and desperately needs parking space.’ and ‘The Council need to provide parking, not sell it off.’ It is noteworthy that in Victoria, train stations typically possess adjacent car parks in the understanding that many people use them as drop-off points or commuter parking. The loss of Serpells Lane car park would result in Glenferrie bucking this statewide trend. Many locals objecting to the rezoning and sale repeatedly raised concerns about the loss of parking spaces and the overall pressure this would put on parking in the area. Some commented that the car park ‘is for the community, so it doesn’t matter who parks there’. Residents of the adjacent apartments explained that the apartments were designed under the assumption that the public car park would remain an open space. Local traders are also concerned about the loss of car parks, viewing their presence as valuable to local commerce. In response to concerns about the loss of Serpells Lane car park, Council pointed to low usage of the car park by local traders and their customers and explained that the draft Glenferrie Place Plan proposes to deliver new ‘parking facilities at other locations in the centre’. Council also explained that in the precinct’s busy period (11am-2pm), off-street parking capacity is only around 80%. Therefore, the loss of 89 car parks can be absorbed by other surrounding parking alternatives.
Some opponents to the sale however say it’s not just about parking, but also overdevelopment, the loss of open space and trees. A frustrated signatory of the petition stated, ‘Council… are meant to be stewards working on behalf of residents and traders.’ Some opponents to the sale have developed a short video offering a vision of the integration of Serpells Lane car park and Glenferrie Station, which would provide easy access from the car park to the station.
Boroondara Council is accepting public feedback (submissions) on the proposed sale of Serpells Lane car park until 5pm, 17 October. The community is invited to have their say by:
Completing an online survey at: Engage Boroondara - Proposed sale of land to Swinburne University
Emailing feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posting feedback using reference: ‘Proposed Sale of Serpells Lane’ to: City of Boroondara, Private Bag 1, Camberwell Vic 3124
Submitting feedback in person at Council offices at 8 Inglesby Road, Camberwell.
Councillors will receive a report and consider community submissions at an upcoming Council committee meeting, before deciding whether to sell the property directly to Swinburne University.
Those that have made submissions can also request to appear at the Council committee meeting in person or have someone represent them. Simply include a request to appear, along with your contact information in your submission and Council will notify you of the upcoming meeting once confirmed.