The Victorian Government is extending funding support to hospitality businesses to provide outdoor dining and entertainment, and help kick-start an economic revival post-lockdown.

The government’s $100m City Recovery Fund and $87.5m Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package will support restaurants and hospitality businesses as they extend their services outdoors, transforming shared spaces such as footpaths, car parks and public parks into hubs of vibrant outdoor activity. This initiative takes inspiration from New York’s successful Open Restaurants program, and expects to see Victorian dine-in patrons enjoying open-air, alfresco-style seating as businesses adopt new COVID-safe practices following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

With restaurants looking to offer outdoor dining services, street-side pedestrian activity is expected to rise significantly, necessitating the strategic placement of reinforced concrete furniture, which combines robust physical protection with unique design appeal.

Pedestrian safety

Pedestrian safety in the outdoor environment

After months of living with restrictions, people are more inclined to come out in droves and spend time outdoors in open public areas. More safety measures, therefore, are required to be in place to protect patrons and pedestrians, especially in kerbside spaces. This demand can be met by implementing various initiatives recommended in the City of Melbourne’s Transport Strategy 2030 that aim to create more safe spaces for pedestrians and bicycles in the city, as part of a broader vision to create a safe, walkable and well-connected city.

Activities within this broader strategy complement the planned transition to outdoor dining and entertainment. For example, Melbourne’s Little Streets initiative prioritises pedestrian movement on Flinders Lane, Little Collins, Little Bourke and Little Lonsdale through various measures including widening footpaths to allow safe physical distancing, reducing speed limits to 20km/h, and giving pedestrians right of way over car and bicycle traffic.

Greenery using concrete planters

Safe, inviting and accessible public spaces

So that standard footpaths are successfully transitioned into shared public spaces that will attract and engage new visitors, the focus should be on safety, accessibility and appeal. Hospitality business owners should gain the confidence of their patrons by ensuring compliance with COVID-safe practices, facilitating a safe and hygienic dining environment. Correspondingly, local councils must invest in physical streetscape upgrades such as new street furniture, lighting and live greenery, all of which will contribute to revitalised and transformed urban public spaces.

Princes Bridge

Transforming streetscapes with concrete furniture

Concrete street furniture is designed and built to offer multiple benefits in an outdoor environment. For instance, the sheer weight and strength of a concrete bollard, bench seat or planter, particularly when reinforced, provide a robust solution for pedestrian protection due to incredible impact resistance. Additionally, prefabricated concrete furniture is highly customisable, allowing landscape architects and urban designers the flexibility to create unique designs or visual styles to match an area’s existing character. Furthermore, concrete products can withstand harsh weather conditions and rough use, and will age well over time with minimal maintenance.

The utility value of concrete furniture as a form of subtle physical protection in an urban space is well-proven in Melbourne’s CBD, where it has already been used extensively. In 2019, the City of Melbourne implemented security upgrades for pedestrian safety around routinely congested parts of the city such as Flinders Street Station, Princes Bridge and Olympic Boulevard, which were enhanced with reinforced concrete solutions. This is currently being implemented in the Little Streets program where new concrete planters and seats will be installed to invigorate the widened pedestrian pathways.

Taking a design-led approach to create safe, robust and visually appealing solutions for pedestrian-vehicle separation helps to soften the appearance of what are, essentially, fortified vehicle barriers.

Reinforced concrete products

How SVC can help

SVC Products has extensive experience in the manufacture of reinforced concrete products designed to perform in outdoor applications. SVC has delivered a broad range of solutions including concrete furniture, bollards, planters and custom products for multiple councils and commercial projects, ranging from metropolitan Melbourne to regional and interstate locations.

Councils and businesses looking to transition to outdoor dining and entertaining can consult with SVC for potential streetscape solutions.