Tuesday, 16 April 2024
    Cultural and Social, 040521

    Neighbours beat developers

    With 2,000 square metres, residential zoning and a corner location, an old church site in Melbourne’s leafy north-east is a developer’s dream.

    It’s the kind of property that normally gets cleared for shiny townhouses that sell for a small fortune in a booming property market.

    But about 35 residents in Montmorency had a different vision.

    When the property was put up for sale, a loosely connected group banded together to try to purchase the site.

    Contributions ranged from $20 to $120,000, but in the space of a few days they were able to amass enough for a $220,000 deposit. An offer of nearly $2.2 million was accepted.

    Resident Marissa Johnpillai nearly runs out of breath when she describes how the group plans to transform the former Uniting Church and kindergarten into a community centre.

    “There’s been loads of suggestions, obviously,” she says.

    “Shared food, shared meals, shared cups of tea, teaching each other how to do things, old and new technology, sharing between generations, lots of gardening, lots of growing food and cooking food together …”

    Ms Johnpillai takes a breath and carries on.

    “Food swaps, plant swaps, people talk about dance in this space. Someone was like, ‘can we put a basketball hoop outside?'”

    For fellow resident Katherine Barling, the potential of the Mountain View Road site represents what she loves about the area she has lived in her entire life.

    Ms Johnpillai said the residents were in the final stages of formalising a co-operative and were hopeful of securing a social enterprise loan.

    But she estimated they would still need to raise “at least $900,000” on their own.


    Montmorency residents beat developers to buy old church site (ABC News)


    Montmorency residents gather outside the former Uniting Church site on Mountain View Road, which they hope can be transformed into a community hub.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)