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Car-free Rundle Mall laneway plan

The Charles Street laneway connecting Rundle Mall and North Terrace could be getting a full streetscape upgrade in a $5 million move to make the road a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.

Mar 20, 2024, updated Mar 20, 2024
Charles Street could become a pedestrian only precinct, with a $5.5m commitment from the Adelaide City Council. Photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily

Charles Street could become a pedestrian only precinct, with a $5.5m commitment from the Adelaide City Council. Photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily

At last night’s Infrastructure and Public Works Committee meeting, Adelaide City Council discussed closing Charles Street to public vehicles to reinvigorate the Rundle Mall laneway.

Under the change, the only people allowed to drive on Charles Street would be police and emergency services workers, council staff  and Rundle Mall managers given permission from the Adelaide Economic Development Agency.

The draft budget papers for 2024-25 discussed last night allocated $5.5 million to the Charles Street upgrades and flagged the possibility of state government grant support of $3.6m, which would reduce the council cost.

The council has received funding for the design of the Charles Street upgrades, with the state government indicating it’s willing to consider supporting the project because it would increase the vitality of Rundle Mall.

The upgrades would include providing paths that comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, limiting vehicle movement and increasing opportunities for retail, outdoor dining and events.

The kerb and water table on the western side would also be removed, with a stormwater upgrade, new paving, new and improved lighting, artwork opportunities and retractable and fixed bollards at the North Terrace end.

The move was unanimously supported by the committee, with Councillor Phillip Martin “delighted” to talk about the plans.

“This is a significant announcement – the city has committed to a very substantial upgrade in the Rundle Mall precinct,” Martin said.

A truck driver does a three-point turn in narrow Charles Street. Photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily

Public consultation on closing Charles Street was undertaken during October and November last year, with 59 of 65 respondents supporting the closure.

One respondent said they hoped the upgrade supporter wouldn’t disadvantage local businesses such as Sustainable Clothing Co. and said that noted that the Charles Street Plaza arcade was underutilised but activated by Renew Adelaide openings.

Renew Adelaide offers rent-free spaces to test businesses and activate vacant spaces in the CBD.

In Charles Street Plaza, Renew has placed retail stores Frida Las Vegas, and Helen’s Mini Worlds. Vicious Video signed a commercial lease in Charles Street Plaza following their time in the Renew program.

Sustainable Clothing Co is a graduate of the Renew Adelaide program, formerly being in a Renew space in Hindley Street before moving to its Charles Street home.

Laura Vogt owns Sustainable Clothing Co. and has big ideas for markets or fashion shows that could be held in an upgraded Charles Street. Photo: Helen Karakulak/InDaily

Laura Vogt, the owner of Sustainable Clothing Co told InDaily she would welcome a change to a pedestrian-only street.

“I think it would make it safer as well for people, especially with the trucks and the cars and everything that parks out the front,” she said.

“We’ve actually had people reverse into our door and almost hit the window and we often hear people at least a few times a month crashing into those bollards.

“I think it would make it a lot safer for pedestrians and that way we can also activate the street and bring more people to it.”

Cars and trucks often stop in front of Sustainable Clothing Co. Photo: Helen Karakulak

Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith pointed out that some respondents objected to losing access to Charles Street and drop off/pick up zones, with access for removalists raised. The concerns were also mentioned by some who supported the upgrade.

Council documents say access to parking spaces in Charles Place, a private road running east of Charles Street, would still be accessible to authorised vehicles. There is also alternative parking in Austin Place around the corner, with Councillor David Elliott also noting there is also a nearby drop-off bay on North Terrace in front of Tiffany and Co.

“It’s a matter of security late at night, if I lived in Martin Tower I wouldn’t want to go around to Austin Place at four in the morning… I just think it may not be acceptable,” Lomax-Smith said.

There are no existing parking spaces in Charles Street, but cars and trucks use the street for drop off/pick up areas, deliver furniture and move residents in and out of Martin Towers. Photo: Helen Karakulak

Vogt said her main concern about the change was the timeline for the roadworks and how they would affect business.

“I’m afraid that it would deter people from the area while the construction is happening,” she said.

Frida Las Vegas will need to decide whether to take on a commercial lease in the space when its Renew rent-free period expires, and the changes could impact the decision.

Owner Stavroula Adameitis is concerned about how businesses will be affected by roadworks but ultimately thinks it could be good for the street.

She said improved lighting in the area would help shoppers and pedestrians feel safe using the thoroughfare, and possibly deter the shoplifters she sees running down Charles Street as an escape route from Rundle Mall.

“What makes Charles Street unique is it’s undercover; it’s different to other pedestrian zones in the city,” Adameitis says.

“I think it could be really great in the future, but it’s going to suck before it gets better for the businesses that are already here.”

Frida Las Vegas brightens up the dark Charles Street. Photo: Helen Karakulak

Adameitis said that being an undercover street offered a lot of potential for activations like markets to liven the space, and the car park and existing infrastructure could be an option for art installations or an Illuminate festival venue.

“It would be great for an immersive art piece as long as it breathes light and colour into the alley so shoppers feel safe,” she said.

Adameitis said she also hoped the council would consider the upgrade’s impact on homeless people in the area.

“There are regular rough sleepers here and I worry about them and what’s going to happen to them,” she said.

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