Insight 1. There’s an overwhelming pride for Melbourne’s laneways 

Everyone we spoke to expressed an overwhelming pride for Melbourne’s laneways and their importance in contributing to the city’s worldwide identity and brand. 

Across the different segments we spoke to, everyone agreed that the laneways play a key role in establishing local communities in the city, as well as, contributing a ‘charm’ and a piece of history to everyday life. Laneways are considered the ‘lifeblood of the city’.

In particular, long-term residents and building/apartment owners (who also reside in the laneway) feel very passionate about their laneway and recognised the value of investing time and money to it. 

Leverage this pride and enthusiasm to drive initial program promotion and involvement. Clearly demonstrate how the program can contribute to the health and wellbeing of the residents and visitors in Melbourne’s inner city laneways. Identify what is important to those who you want to involve and design a program experience that is tailored to their needs. 

To learn more read Step 1. Understand who your target group is.

Supporting research quotes

“We have to do this. It feels silly not to.” 

Camila, Marketing Manager at a laneway business

“If it were up to us, it would already be green.” 

Justin, business owner

“A sense of community is important.” 

Matt, Strata Manager

“There are a lot of corporates around here so it’s quite refreshing to have some greenery.” 

Gautum, apartment owner & resident

Insight 2. There are uncertainties on the overarching benefit(s) of green laneways

Research participants recognised the immediate value of improving the aesthetics of the laneway but many were unclear on how the initiative will otherwise contribute to the city.

Whilst we’ve found that some individuals are aware of the Council-wide strategies (e.g Urban Forest Strategy), they struggled to recognise if and how the ‘greening’ of a urban space feeds back to a greater objective or outcome.

It is also important to remember that there is a perception that the Council has a revolving door of new priorities and campaigns. Agendas appear to change every six months and there is ‘less need to take it seriously’.

Clearly link your program to greater city wide initiatives and long-term strategies. For example, Melbourne’s ‘Green Your Laneway’ program should be closely affiliated with the Urban Forest Strategy and demonstrate how it can contribute to the Council’s goal of achieving zero net emissions by the year 2020. Proudly share the short and long-term benefits the initiative will bring to the city and those who are living in and visiting the city.

To learn more read Step 4. Create an engagement strategy.

Supporting research quotes

“We are proud of being the most liveable city, so council should be doing all they can to keep it that way.”

Tony, apartment owner & resident

“If you know it’s a sure thing, then why not?”

Olivia, apartment owner & resident

“I’m not sure what the goal is.”

Charles, apartment owner & resident

“We all love the fact that Melbourne has laneways but the Council should show it.”  

Justin, business owner

Insight 3. Role of the City of Melbourne is to be an advisor and guide of the program  

Participants expect the Council to play an active role (from start to finish).  

Being a ‘neutral’ party, the Council is regarded as a go-to-contact for advice and support throughout the process. There is also the perception that the initiative process should be owned and delivered by the Council. 

At the same time, some participants mentioned that there is a negative perception that the State Government has ‘a lot of money to spend’ and members of the public are unsure ‘where the money goes’. Participants therefore specified it would be important for the Council keep an active involvement in the process to avoid being viewed as ‘self indulgent’.

It is important to define a program owner at the start before launching into setting up the details of the project. Clearly communicate who the program owner is, what their role is and how they will manage the process. Provide open lines of communication to the program owner.  

Learn more about the role of a program owner here.

Supporting research quotes

“There should be someone at Council to call for help.” 

Olivia, apartment owner & resident

“We need guidance.” 

Katherine, apartment owner & resident

“The council needs to be a gatekeeper to make the final decision.” 

Ken, apartment owner & resident

“The council needs to be serious about it.” 

Tony, apartment owner & resident 

“Why should I fund it? The council has plenty of money.” 

Charles, apartment owner & resident

“There has to be some contribution by the Council.” 

David, Senior Owners Corporation and Asset Manager 

Insight 4. Direct benefits of greenery in laneways vary depending on who the stakeholder is 

Through our conversations with different laneway members, we quickly uncovered that groups benefit from the Green Your Laneway program in different ways. 

For example, apartment owners who currently reside in the space and members of the Owners Corporation Committee benefit from:

  • Increased value of building/asset
  • Improved safety and cleanliness of the laneway
  • Better community interactions
  • Reduced maintenance costs (e.g. graffiti removal on building walls)

On the other hand, we found onshore building owners who currently lease out residential and commercial spaces would benefit from a greened laneway through:

  • Increased value of the building/asset
  • The opportunity to charge higher rent
  • Improved reputation of laneway
  • Improved desirability of area
  • Increased diversity of people wishing to reside in the area (e.g. particularly beneficial for short-term leases, such as on AirBnB)

Businesses located in a laneway have a lot to gain from the program. Key benefits for this specific target group include:

  • Increased footfall in the laneway
  • Improved desirability of area
  • Improved reputation of laneway
  • Increased visitor diversity to the laneway (e.g. a landmark that attracts tourists) 

Use this knowledge to define the value proposition for each target group of the program and to craft meaningful messages and interactions. 

To learn more read Step 2. Create a value proposition.

Supporting research quotes

“Property value increase is a positive.” 

Matt, Strata Manager

“Anything to have people look down the laneway is a good thing.” 

Justin, business owner

“Short term rentals would probably favour it.” 

Matt, Strata Manager

“I have a strong interest in living in a really nice environment.” 

Ken, apartment owner & resident

“It might bump up the value of the apartment.” 

Gautum, apartment owner & resident 

Insight 5. The program offers immediate benefits for businesses

Businesses in the laneway (such as hospitality businesses) have the most to gain and more immediately (in comparison to building owners and residents). For instance, an increase in footfall and visits to the laneway can directly translate to an increase in customers and direct sales.

We also found that businesses also recognise the initiative as an opportunity to ‘fast track’ Council requirements, such as permits. By playing an active role (being involved, promoting, contributing funds), there is an expectation of receiving a degree of ‘special treatment’ from the Council.  

The laneway businesses and industry representatives that we spoke to also expressed an interest to partner with the Council to work alongside them (rather than only being a receiver of information). There is a need to tailor the program engagement and process accordingly. 

Clearly communicate the benefits the program can offer businesses as a means to get them involved and excited about the program. Also consider other incentives, such as fast-tracking permit applications as means to getting businesses involved. 

To learn more read Step 4. Create an engagement strategy and Step 3. Define the program service experience.

Supporting research quotes

“We see it as an investment.” 

Steve, business owner

“If it were up to us, it would already be green. We are very willing to help.” 

Camila, Marketing Manager at a laneway business

“I’ve tried a lot of things to get people to stop and turn down this laneway. But it’s hard and it costs money.” 

Justin, business owner

“We would happily doorknock in laneways. This program is easy for us to promote.” 

Paul, Commercial Real Estate Agent  

Insight 6. Short term leases are a barrier for many laneway businesses to contribute funds 

If a lease is short (e.g. 6 years and less) it is difficult for a business owner to see the value in investing into the laneway. They are unsure how long they’ll be operating from the space and if they’ll be required to move. For young businesses, funds are also often tied up in business set up costs.

Consider this barrier when approaching local businesses in laneways to be a part of the program. Discuss whether the business can contribute to the program in different ways (besides financial). You can also use this conversation to showcase the opportunities the program can offer their business, in an effort to persuade them to become involved.

To learn more read Step 6. Define funding mechanisms.

Supporting research quotes

“We only have a short lease, so there’s little point I’m afraid.” 

Justin, business owner

“As commercial tenants we don’t have much freedom on what we can do to the building.” 

Camila, Marketing Manager at laneway business

Insight 7. Many almost missed the last campaign 

Everyone we spoke to commented that they stumbled onto the campaign by accident. 

In a few instances, one person/business in the laneway would come across the campaign and share the information with others. However, in most cases they only found out about the initiative close to the submission deadline, limiting the level of involvement that could be obtained from other laneway members. 

A lack of promotion also caused some confusion, as participants were unsure whether the initiative was available for the general public. This created hesitation and doubt as to whether to get involved and share it with others in the laneway. 

Consider how the program can best be promoted and shared with the members of a specific laneway. Define who the target group for your program is and tailor messages to address their needs and motivations. Also consider what communication channels are the most effective to share information and the most intuitive for your target group to use. 

To learn more read Step 4. Create an engagement strategy.

Supporting research quotes

“I missed the memo, which was unusual.” 

Tony, apartment owner & resident 

“Did you really want us to be involved?” 

Olivia, apartment owner & resident

“I try to stay up to date with the council, but I still didn’t hear about it.” 

Charles, apartment owner & resident

Insight 8. Inconsistent communication and updates on the program left some participants in doubt

Participants from the first round of the ‘Green your Laneway’ initiative commented that past communication and updates from the Council have been inconsistent. Periods of ‘silence’ have left individuals feeling uncertain on the next steps and the general progress of the program. For some this has begun to create some doubt in the initiative and the final outcomes of the program. 

Participants commented that an online resource (e.g. a dedicated program website) would be the best medium to provide updates while social media is considered the least convenient. 

Provide ongoing updates throughout the duration of the program to instill confidence and reduce unnecessary ambiguity. Keep in mind that this process will be new for many and that the target group of the program do not have necessary background information. Remember that updates during quiet times are just as important as when there is a lot of activity in the process.  

Provide clear pathways for individuals to reach out for support and ask questions. Participants of ‘Green your Laneway' greatly appreciated the direct contact details to a member of Council  

To learn more read Step 4. Create an engagement strategy.

Supporting research quotes

“The most value we can receive is new information.” 

Camila, Marketing Manager at laneway business

“It has trailed off a bit and momentum must be kept up. Or people will lose interest.” 

Gautum, apartment owner & resident 

“You have to demonstrate where the money goes.” 

David, Senior Owners Corporation and Asset Manager

Insight 9. Low interest loans and grants are appealing to support laneway funding  

The majority of participants we spoke to indicated that external funding support would be helpful in the process of gaining buy-in from others in the laneway – in particular key decision makers, such as building owners and members of the Owners Corporation Committee.

We also found that additional funding would reduce the need for laneway members to involve everyone in the laneway in order to increase funds. Not everyone who occupies or regularly visits the laneway will be interested in supporting the initiative.  

Funding options, such as low interest loans and grants also reduce the ownership of the funds to a specific group of individuals. Instead, it becomes more of a laneway community-wide effort. 

Work together with laneway members to identify if this would be a suitable option for their laneway and determine who would ideally manage the process. Provide support in navigating the loan or grant application process (as this can often be a new and/or difficult process). 

To learn more read Step 6. Define funding mechanisms.

Supporting research quotes

“Sure, it would place responsibility on owners and residents.” 

Matt, Strata Manager

“Yes, that would work! That [low interest loan] would be good.” 

Olivia, apartment owner & resident

“That is very smart. It would be wise to explore that.” 

David, Senior Owners Corporation and Asset Manager

Insight 10. Personal recognition for a financial contribution isn’t (always) necessary

We spoke to a few individuals who had been involved in the first round of ‘Green your Laneway’ and had personally contributed funds to the program.

These individuals did not want to be personally recognised for their contribution. Neither did they expect their funds to only ‘green’ their building and/or space. Instead it is considered a contribution to the laneway as a whole. 

Avoid making the assumption that everyone would appreciate personal recognition. Open up the discussion with the individual as they are considering making a contribution and, together, decide what format the recognition could take. Remember that it is not only a financial contributions that merit recognition, other forms of contribution (time, networks, promotion) are important too. 

To learn more read Step 6. Define funding mechanisms.

Supporting research quotes

“I’d prefer contributions to go to the entire laneway.” 

Ken, apartment owner & resident

“A plaque? No way, that’s not what we want.” 

Gautum, apartment owner & resident 

Insight 11. There are differing opinions on who should own the maintenance of the laneway (in the long run)

Amongst the participants we spoke to, there was no clear indication on the preference of who should ideally own the maintenance of the laneway greenery.  

Whilst participants are more than happy to contribute time and effort, others regarded it as a burden and a reason not to get involved in the program from the beginning. 

Tailor the maintenance process to suit the needs and demands of the laneway. Clearly demonstrate the requirements and level of effort required to maintain the greenery in their laneway. Pilot sharing the responsibility of maintenance with members of the laneway and ‘monitor’ the progress.

Most importantly, ensure everyone is aware that the Council is available to support maintenance (either completely or as a shared responsibility). 

To learn more read Step 3. Define the program service experience.

Supporting research quotes

“I would support it if it was maintained by the Council.” 

Charles, apartment owner & resident

“Ongoing maintenance should be more of a council responsibility.” 

Tony, apartment owner & resident 

Insight 12. Long-term residents feel inconvenienced by new (and large) developments close to or in their laneway 

New highrise developments in and around laneways is upsetting long-term residents. 

They believe that it is negatively impacting their amenities, access to sunlight and sense of a community. Some commented that new developments should be asked to contribute back the laneway. This could take shape of contributing new open green spaces or other forms of ‘compensation’ (e.g. financially contribute to the program).  

Consider this as an additional potential funding avenue for the laneway. 

To learn more read Step 6. Define funding mechanisms.

Supporting research quotes

“Multi-storey developments should be contributing to the surrounding areas.” 

Ken, apartment owner & resident

“This new big apartment block just came up and it’s blocking our sunlight.” 

Gautum, apartment owner & resident 

“We’re subject to a lot of construction.” 

Katherine, apartment owner & resident