Home Community How Gawler’s versatile street plaza has given the town a new heart

How Gawler’s versatile street plaza has given the town a new heart

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It is one thing to increase accessible, pedestrian-friendly space in a bustling town centre, another to fully create a “civic heart of the town”.

But that is what has been achieved in Gawler, a town of more than 25,000 people north of Adelaide, and one recognised by the South Australian Government as a centre for significant regional growth. 

Calls for the establishment of a “pedestrian-orientated destination and cultural space” were answered with the redevelopment of the Walker Place precinct into a versatile plaza, an initiative which has been awarded Best Public Works Project Under $2m at the IPWEA Excellence Awards.

The Town of Gawler partnered with urban designers Wax Designs, construction company BluBuilt and the local community to deliver on the remit of improving public amenity and increasing place-making in the town centre.

Work began on the project in 2020, following the publication of a Stakeholder Engagement Plan and Small Business Impact Mitigation Plan with the new precinct open in August 2020.

The result: an innovative, adaptable space that can be converted from a one-way street into a fully functioning, pedestrian-only plaza capable of hosting outdoor events with ease and at speed.

Urban challenges

Walker Place is a connecting road between two of the town’s main streets, and is lined by businesses. With the project taking place in an urban environment, the Town of Gawler Council worked with construction company BluBuilt to map out plans for the redevelopment, in particular concentrating on ways to mitigate the impacts to these and other local businesses during the construction period.

By entering into an ongoing engagement with the local businesses in question, and the community at large, areas of potential frustration were well managed. 

Local workers were also employed during the build, bringing an immediate financial benefit to the town.

Sustainable solutions

The sustainable outcomes of the project were also a key consideration, both during construction and once complete. Ultimately, a central challenge was to minimise the precinct’s carbon footprint.

To achieve this, several steps were taken, including the use of recycled quarry rubble for sub-base construction.

Additionally, WSUD (water sensitive urban design) and ESD (ecologically sustainable development) principles were incorporated into the project design. In practice, this meant the use of rain gardens to capture stormwater and the planting of drought-tolerant natives.

Large deciduous trees were also planted around the plaza with the purpose of absorbing about a tonne of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every seven years, as well as providing natural shade to reduce the area’s heat island effect.

But the biggest impact is in the transformation of a two-way road to a one-way shared space – which can be further converted into a fully functioning plaza for events – which has encouraged increased numbers of pedestrians and cyclists in the CBD, thereby lessening the volume of greenhouse-gas -producing vehicular traffic.

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