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Bourke Street Mall

A transit mall designed to revive the retail economy and improve the amenity of the city centre, the Bourke Street Mall was officially opened at the commercial core of Bourke Street by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 14 April 1983. A trial closure of Bourke Street between Swanston and Elizabeth streets in late 1973, introduced after discussions between the Melbourne City Council and the Retail Traders' Association, brought shopkeeper protest and traffic chaos. The 1974 Melbourne Strategy Plan revived the concept, but protests from local traders continued and it was 13 February 1978 before the section was closed to through traffic. Initial landscaping was minimal, leaving little more than a glorified street closure until the construction by 1983 of seating, lighting and horticultural installations. The Bourke Street Mall Act 1982 enabled a special land tax to be levied on abutting property-owners, and provided for the mall's management and promotion. Though early regulation of public performance and gathering was restrictive, the mall became by the 1990s a favourite site for buskers. Early critics attacked the mall's closure as premature and successive landscape treatments as timid, but despite the presence of trams it remains one of Melbourne's few dedicated pedestrian spaces.

Andrew May