Melbourne’s famous laneways will undergo a makeover as the city tries to attract people after the COVID-19 lockdown.
The program will revitalise 40 laneways, in a $7.5 million project that’s expected to create 150 jobs.
The laneways include Barry Place, Finlay Alley, Westwood Place and Crombie Lane.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp says the project will cement the city’s reputation as the street art capital of Australia.
“We’re probably getting right up there into one of the top cities for this sort of experience around the world,” she said.
More than a million people visit the city’s laneways every year.
As part of the project, the renowned Melbourne street artist Kaff-eine has been commissioned to paint a mural in Russell Place.
Kaff-eine says the laneway project has meant she can keep living in the city after her work dried up this year thanks to COVID-19.
“I was faced with the really, really distinct possibility that I was going to have to find somewhere else to live,” she said.
“I’m just really thrilled that this opportunity has come up.”
As well as the laneway project, another 160 people will be hired to help reopen the city’s restaurants, distributing face masks to diners, and cleaning temporary dining areas.
A city recovering
But while the new measures may boost the city’s reopening, encouraging people to return has so far proved a challenge.
Despite the easing of many COVID restrictions, foot traffic in the city centre is still down by two-thirds.
“The ultimate aim is to have everyone back working in the city but we know that whilst we want to see that happen swiftly, the priority has to be that happening safely,” Ms Capp said.
On Monday, 25 per cent of office workers will be permitted to return to their workplace.
Ms Capp said Christmas spending should also help the city’s recovery.
“People are intending to spend at least as much as they did last year, if not a little bit more, that’s the majority of the sentiment that we are hearing,” she said.
The council is considering other measures, such as free parking in the city centre over Christmas and New Near.
It’s also considering expanding the city’s 12 smoke-free zones to make the CBD almost entirely smoke-free.