GroupGSA has completed the $12 million Little Saigon Retail Plaza project in Footscray, as part of the ongoing Little Saigon Precinct Revitalisation project by Maribyrnong City Council.

According to the integrated design company, the Little Saigon precinct is “vitally important to commercial life in the Footscray central area with its strong social and commercial connection with the local Vietnamese community.”

The firm says that the initial brief was to create a multi-level carpark integrated with retail spaces and a public plaza which was designed to tie together the entire precinct.

Another important aim of the design was to create a benchmark for similar developments in the region and foster a sense of ownership and engagement with the local community, including local traders.

The resulting 5700sqm project converted an existing carpark into a landscaped, open plaza with lighting and services for events together with a pavilion cafe.

Working with council, the local community and local artists, GroupGSA says they incorporated graphic art and pattern motifs into illuminated canopies and shop fronts and collaborated closely with a diverse range of stakeholders in order to deliver a retail area that echoes modern Vietnamese style design.

According to GroupGSA Melbourne architecture principal Scott Francis, Co Design were engaged to collaborate with GroupGSA, Maribyrnong City Council, local traders, and the local community to get complete community engagement and ownership of the both the process and the eventual outcome.

“Managing stakeholder expectations is typically a big challenge in this arena,” says Francis.

“Community engagement was further enhanced by establishing a design competition for the artwork in the feature glasswork."

The entire process engendered a "wonderful community philosophy, which has led to a powerful design outcome that has embedded in it local community enterprise and spirit,” says Francis.

The final result, says Francis, has become “a benchmark for similar developments in the region.”