Media Release: Historic laneway reopens to join outdoor dining revolution after major power upgrade works

14 December, 2020

A key section of a major project by electricity distributor CitiPower to upgrade Melbourne’s power supply is now complete, allowing an historic Chinatown laneway to reopen to the public.

During the past two years, CitiPower has demolished and rebuilt an electrical zone substation in Waratah Place.

The work is one stage of a $250 million Melbourne CBD Security of Supply project that will provide the city a ‘double backup’ for its power supply.

To allow crews to safely complete the work, the laneway has been closed to the public for 24 months.

During this time, more than 200,000 workhours were completed, as crews installed 130 tonnes of steel, removed 4000 tonnes of soil and poured more than 4300 cubic metres of concrete as part of the largest projects ever undertaken by CitiPower.

The completion last month means that the Chinatown traders can now use the newly re-opened laneway for outdoor diners as Melbourne begins rebuilding after COVID closures.
CitiPower’s Head of Major Projects Marcus Olive thanked businesses and the community for their patience and understanding as crews worked to complete this important power upgrade.

“We’ve worked closely with the local traders and organisations who represent the Chinatown business community and they have been nothing short of sensational,” Mr Olive said.
“The project team has been very careful to restore and maintain aspects such as bluestone paving and guttering, but at the same there are elements like the LED display on the façade of our building that add to the vibrant feel of Chinatown.

“We are pleased we were able to reopen the laneway to the public and so local businesses can use it for outdoor dining.”

The Melbourne CBD Security of Supply project protects against unexpected events, such as extreme weather, fires, traffic accidents or infrastructure failures occurring on the city’s major supply lines. Once completed, CitiPower will be able to divert power around the city’s grid so major power outages will last no more than 30 minutes.

“The Waratah Place project has been complex and challenging, replacing and connecting electrical cables in deep trenches throughout the area, while navigating gas pipes, sewer systems and heritage buildings built on shallow foundations.”

The construction included working with gas, water and sewerage utilities to facilitate multiple asset relocations, while the deep excavations close to heritage-listed buildings, as well as beneath Little Bourke Street’s Chinese monument, required extensive engineering to minimise the risk to these structures. Extensive community engagement was required, with the team working closely with all businesses affected by the significant work program.

Further work will take place in 2021, including final connections for high voltage circuits across the city, as well as underground cabling work to offload supply from eight different city zone substation into the newly-built Waratah Place zone substation. The laneway however will not be affected.

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