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The Future of Racecourse Road

Coffe Club at Racecourse Road, Ascot innernorth.com.au
14 August 2009

If you mention the name Racecourse Road to most people in Brisbane, they'll know what you're talking about. They may never have enjoyed a Sunday morning breakfast at one of the many cafes, a meal at any of the award winning restaurants, or the buzz that a big race day brings to the street, but you can be sure they'll have heard of one of Brisbane's most famous streets.

But despite the reputation, many visitors may be left underwhelmed by their first visit to Racecourse Road. Sure, there are some sensational restaurants and cafes, a selection of fashion boutiques, and a handful of old Queenslander homes along the Poinciana tree lined street, but is there anything that really sets it apart from other Brisbane restaurant strips?

Park Road at Milton is perhaps a street that suffers the same problems. Its reputation as a dining strip is well known throughout the city, but without the instantly recognisable Eiffel Tower above La Dolce Vita, which brings a touch of Europe to the street, is there anything special about Park Road that couldn't be replicated in any other inner suburb of Brisbane?

With the glamour of Eagle Farm racecourse at one end, the lure of the Brisbane River at the other, and the beautiful setting within two of Brisbane's most prestigious suburbs, Ascot and Hamilton, Racecourse Road has the potential to be Brisbane's premier dining and fashion precinct.

The Brisbane City Council has recently released its Neighbourhood Plan for the area which includes Racecourse Rd. Hamilton Ward Councillor David McLachlan had this to say about the plan:

"Council is required by the State Government to establish 156,000 dwellings under the Regional Plan - however we will do this by establishing where the community wants to see this growth accommodated,

"Our Neighbourhood Planning process is about increasing the quality of life of residents, by planning with them, and here that means looking at the impacts of increased traffic on Nudgee and Racecourse Road.

"We're also committed to protecting the unique character of the suburb by enhancing the cafes and streetscape of Racecourse Road, and protecting the area's tin and timber houses."

Whilst the comments about protecting the unique character of the area are welcome, the talk of increasing the number of dwelling is concerning. The plan likely recommends additional dwellings in the surrounding areas rather than directly on Racecourse Road, but any further residential development in the street itself should be strongly opposed.

People come to an area like Racecourse Road for the cafes, restaurants and boutiques. The last thing they want to see is rows of high density housing, which contribute nothing in terms of architecture to the area.

What Racecourse Road needs more than anything is better atmosphere. With the exception of Eagle Farm race days, the only thing which currently adds atmosphere to the strip is the occasional exotic Italian car that coasts its way along the street at 40kph. Why does this add to the atmosphere? Because you don't see cars like that in many other areas of Brisbane.

So Racecourse Rd needs to offer more to locals and visitors that they can't get elsewhere in Brisbane. The quality restaurants and cafes are already doing their best, but it's the street itself which needs improving.

A number of suggestions have already been made by business owners along Racecourse Road, these include more public seating, heritage light poles, flag posts to promote local events, and a focus on the rich heritage that the street enjoys.

The Racecourse Road Business Group has responded to the council's neighbourhood plan and has released a comprehensive 'wish list' of what it would like to see in the area. Business owners and locals will no doubt be taking a keen interest in how the future of Racecourse Road is shaped over the coming months.

InnerNorth.com.au will do its best to keep you up to date with the latest developments. If you have any news or views on Racecourse Road, please contact us.