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The Dark Heart of Glenferrie Road

Undoubtedly the most contentious stretch of Glenferrie Road is also the most visible and arguably the most visited zone. Just north of the Don Arcade sits the looming dual rail bridges with empty shops in their shadow along with rundown, stained retaining walls. The hub of the main street has stirred the ire of local traders, as many see the area as 'neglected' and 'uninviting'. With the addition of a much maligned street-level public toilet, visitors to the so-called 'heart of Glenferrie' would be forgiven for thinking they are closer to the bowels.

Not a good look: The 'dark heart' of Glenferrie Road

Traffic coming in from either Burwood Road or Barkers Road have an unobstructed view of the dirty rust-brown rail bridge spanning Glenferrie Road, while commuters exiting Glenferrie station are greeted with dark and dingy arcades. As the rail bridge area and arcade essentially act as the 'first impression' of Hawthorn, The Glenferrie Times investigated what traders felt were the most pressing issues about our primary gateway.

Serge from Serge Vidal Hairdressers

Serge, who opened his hair salon Serge Vidal Hairdressers in 1973, has seen the area in question fall into neglect. "The awnings above the shops are wrecked from constantly being hit by trucks and signs for businesses that have long closed down just sit there rusting. It's an eye-sore." He then stated, "I think they should have 'Welcome to Glenferrie' in lights on the overpass, but I was told by council that it would be 'too distracting' for motorists." Sam, the owner of De Barcelona and President of the Glenferrie Traders Association (GTA) agreed that, "an archway obscuring the bridge with a 'Welcome' sign that could be lit up at night would be ideal."

Will at Aussie Disposal, which is directly beneath the bridge, stated, "A permanent lighting fixture is definitely needed. At present the whole area looks dark and dank." The general consensus on the lighting of the area is unanimous. It is "not good enough". De Barcelona's Sam suggested that "This is the gateway to Glenferrie Road but customers don't even feel safe there due to the poor lighting and rundown 'ghetto' appearance of the whole place." Jasmine at Eckersley's Art Supplies added, "I think for safety reasons, there needs to be much better lighting."

Further issues with the radically uneven paving beneath the bridge courted controversy, "I have seen numerous people slipping over in the wet right outside this strip of shops (under the rail bridge)." Serge exclaims, "I even asked Telstra if they could do anything about the metal grates at least to make them less of a hazard, but nothing was done. I mean, it's ridiculous. There was even a lady carrying a baby who slipped over right outside here... it's only a matter of time before someone gets sued." The shops beneath the station bridge have remained notably empty, since popular cafe Mario's closed in 2016 and other nearby shops have sat un-leased since 2018.

Lachlan from nearby Dobsons noted that, "The turnover of businesses is pretty high. I think that is in direct correlation to the overall dingy look of the bridge area." Will at Aussie Disposal made the sobering remark, "What business is going to want to open up right outside that toilet block? You wouldn't want customers going to your cafe having to smell that while enjoying their coffee." Serge further added that, "The reason so many shops sit empty under the bridge is because the rent for these premises is way too high." Will observed that, "Well, we are quite close to Malvern, and I think shoppers are more tempted to go to an area like that where this type of neglect isn't an issue."

In light of the impassioned reaction to the rail bridge area's shortcomings, The Glenferrie Times approached the City of Boroondara Cr Wes Gault for a response. He explained, "We welcome this kind of community feedback. We have listened and it is just a matter of nudging the right people into action." The shops beneath the bridges, the retaining walls and the overpass itself fall under the jurisdiction of VicTrack, who explained that work on this area had already commenced.

"Works to refurbish the shops on Glenferrie Road are well underway and once they are complete the shops will be advertised for leasing. The refurbishment works include waterproofing the shops to prevent water damage in the future." VicTrack explained, "We are looking at a long term solution to address the damage to the building’s canopy, which was caused by it frequently being struck by larger vehicles." Work on the shops at 664 and 666 Glenferrie Road are nearing completion, and we expect the shops to be available for lease by early 2023."

VicTrack further added that "there are currently no plans for lighting to be installed on the bridge" due to it "involving a critical power supply as well as street power lines running underneath the bridge meaning that much of the bridge isn’t suitable for any additions." Beautification of this area has been a hot button issue since the City of Boroondara announced their Glenferrie Place Plan project in the 2019-20 Budget.

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