Cato Square FAQs

  • Cato Square - What and why?

  • What is Cato Square?

    Stonnington City Council is transforming the Cato Street car park in Prahran into a world-class urban park with multi-level underground car park, similar in scale and prominence to some of the world’s most famous urban squares. When completed in 2019, Cato Square will be almost as large as Federation Square.

  • Where is Cato Square?

    The site is bounded by Cato Street, Izett Street, Wattle Street and Chatham Street. It is situated in a strategically significant location – in close proximity to Chapel Street and the Commercial Road retail precinct, and within convenient walking distance to the Prahran Railway Station.

  • Why is Council building the new Cato Square?

    With a projected increase of over 30,000 residents in Stonnington by 2036 and with the second lowest amount of open space per capita in Victoria, the Cato Square project addresses an urgent need to increase public and accessible open space for the physical, mental and social wellbeing of all residents.

  • Why was Cato Street car park chosen as the site for the new urban park?

    The delivery of open space in Stonnington is guided by Council’s Strategies for Creating Open Space. This plan is the result of an extensive review and investigation of a wide range of strategic opportunities, including the undergrounding of existing car parks such as Cato Street car park.

    The Cato Street site, which is already owned by Council, is unique for its size, location and suitability for use as public open space. The project was conceived as long as 10 years ago but was also identified in the Chapel Street Masterplan of 2013.

    The project is part of the long-term improvements to the area outlined in the Chapel Vision Structure Plan 2007-2031 and the Chapel Street Master Plan.

  • What will the project cost?

    The project is expected to cost $60+ million. It will be fully funded by Council over successive financial years and will use a mixture of borrowings, Council funds and open space contributions.

    This is a viable and economical option for Council. If we were to purchase a parcel of land in a similar location and undertake a project of the same scale and size, it would cost in the vicinity of $120 million. [1]

    [1] Cost Comparison

    As a point of comparison, valuation advice is that the cost of purchasing land in this precinct of an equivalent area (9,000m²) would be in excess of $70m. Assuming the same costs to develop the land as open space to the same standard $14m, this would result in a total project cost of $84m if you add the cost of developing the car park at $45m this would equate to a total project cost as a comparison of $129m. On that basis the cost of the project as proposed is in the order of 50% less than if Council was to purchase and improve the same area of land into car park and open space.


  • What will the new space be called?

    In the short-term, the site will be called Cato Square. Once construction is under way and as part of the process of consultation, Council will discuss with the community the best way to decide on a name for the square.

  • Construction

  • What is the construction timeframe of the project?

    Some works to underground power in the area will be coordinated by CitiPower and are expected to take place in September or October 2017. CitiPower will be in contact directly with traders when timelines are confirmed. 

    The full construction program will commence in 2018 and take approximately 18 months to complete. More information about the construction timeline will be available when a construction company is appointed in late 2017.

  • Will the area be open during the construction period?

    Yes, although the existing car park will be under construction the area will remain open. Council will work with builders to ensure people can safely visit businesses in the area.

    Any anticipated disruptions during construction will be communicated as early as possible via project updates, a newsletter, and directly to stakeholders where required.

  • How will noise in the area be managed?

    As with all construction sites there will be some noise associated with the works.

    Operating hours will be in line with industry practice and EPA guidelines. Construction will be limited within normal construction hours of Monday to Saturday between 7.00am until 6.00pm.

    Building constructors will be required to have construction management plans and environmental management plans to Council’s approval.

  • What will happen with parking during construction?

    Council will request building companies to present strategies to maintain sections of the car park throughout construction as part of the tender process. More information about this will be available when a construction company is appointed in late 2017, Council will ensure that traders and businesses in the area will be informed as soon as possible.

    Council is also progressing plans to deliver a precinct-wide, real-time car park guidance system. This digital directional signage will provide information on parking availability in nearby car parks. We are also investigating other methods to link people with nearby car parks.
  • How can traders be kept up to date through the construction period?

    Council is in regular communication with traders and businesses surrounding the Cato Street car park in the lead up to the construction of Cato Square. Communication channels include the Cato Square website, trader updates, email, a trader reference group and drop in information sessions and opportunities.

    See our Information for traders and businesses page.

  • Will any changes happen to the streets around Cato Square?

    Yes, streets around the square will go through improvements and changes as part of the construction process:

    • The section of Wattle Street bordering the square will become pedestrian only
    • The section of Cato Street bordering the square will become a shared zone, with pedestrians having priority while still allowing for deliveries to traders
    • Chatham Street will be widened to incorporate a number of parking spots to service the properties on that street and remain open to traffic
    • Izett Street will be widened and remain open to traffic and serve as the entry point to the new underground car park.

    Improvement works will also take place in surrounding streets.

    Council will communicate with nearby traders regarding construction and traffic management shortly after we appoint a construction company in late 2017.

  • Why was it necessary to conduct an archaeological dig?

    The Cato Street Carpark was added to the Victorian Heritage Inventory in March. The Inventory is a listing of all known historical archaeological sites in the state, established under the Heritage Act 1995. Council worked closely with Heritage Victoria to secure archaeological remains from the site.

    Plans of the area from the late 19th century show a number of detached houses, cottages and terraces fronting Izett, Cato and Chatham streets. Cato Square will recognise that the site carries a rich history as an important part of Prahran.

    Learn more about the archaeological investigation or details about a display of key artefacts

  • Design of the square

  • What will Cato Square look like?

    Cato Square will comprise nine distinctive, multifunctional spaces along with seating, lighting, public art, landscaped gardens and performance spaces. It will sit atop a new, multi-level underground car park, with approximately 500 car parking spaces servicing a wide range of local businesses.

    The new space will link to Grattan Gardens and will improve walkability and connectivity to surrounding areas and shops.

    View the architectural images and design concepts of the redevelopment.

  • What are the key features of Cato Square?

    Cato Square’s key features include:

    • nine distinctive spaces to suit a diversity of community needs from intimate areas to larger gatherings
    • central square with water feature
    • themed green zones with extensive shading and landscaping
    • over 500 convenient and safe car parking spaces
    • two retail opportunity spaces
    • feature seating including terraced steps in the main performance space
    • environmentally-friendly design features that reflect and celebrate local identity, and maximise community safety and wellbeing
    • convenient and accessible access into and around the open space, and linking to surrounding retail and commercial areas
    • ability to hold events such as festivals, markets, live performances, outdoor cinema, recreation activities and large public events
    • free WiFi
    • safe and improved pedestrian environment around the site
    • integrated public art creating interest and excitement.
  • Why isn’t there more green space?

    The design provides for spaces for both relaxation and activities to help activate the space.

    An urban forest on the Izett Street side of the park will include a children’s playground, while a grassed area on the Chatham Street end of the square will provide an open area suited to picnics and groups of people gathering. The rest of the square will be populated with plants, including a sensory garden, and a walkway will the link the square with the nearby Grattan Gardens.

    Watch our Cato Square walk through video to get an understanding of the role of green space, cover and shade in the design.

  • How will the retailers be chosen for Cato Square?

    Council is seeking independent advice on options for retailers for the opportunity sites in the square.

  • Who is designing the new urban park?

    Australian-based, award-winning architectural firm, Lyons, was awarded the project in early 2016 following a competitive tender process. Lyons is one of Australia’s largest design practices, acclaimed for design excellence, innovation and sustainability across a wide range of cultural, government, residential and community-based projects.

  • Will the square be accessible for everyone?

    To ensure people of all ages and abilities are able to access the park, this project will be delivered in line with universal access principles and comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

  • What about crime and anti-social behavior?

    Council has used the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or "CPTED" (pronounced sep-ted) approach that takes into account the relationship between the physical environment and the users of that environment. This approach illustrates Council’s strong focus on security and preventing anti-social behaviour.

    Council has engaged with a wide range of authorities, including Victoria Police, in developing the design and the project will include CCTV.

  • What sustainability measures will be put in place?

    Cato Square will build on Council’s long-standing commitment to the environment and implement a broad range of holistic environmental and sustainability initiatives. Energy-efficiency measures will include energy-efficient (LED) lighting, high performance thermal, building fabric and glazing. Solar PV, water and storm water capture and management, and urban ecology features will be key outcomes of the project. 

  • Will bicycle parking be provided?

    Cato Square will have above ground parking for bicycles and Council is looking into incorporating the site into Melbourne’s bike sharing network.

  • Consultation and staying informed

  • How is Council consulting with the community about the project?

    Council’s vision for Cato Square is the result of extensive community consultation as part of our Public Realm Strategy, Chapel reVision, Chapel Street Masterplan and Strategies for Creating Open Space.

    More recent community engagement and consultation on the project took place between February and May 2017, this included three community forums, an on-site information hub and a community survey through our digital engagement platform, Connect Stonnington. Feedback from these channels was provided to the Cato Square design team and will help shape future communication strategies.

    Council remains keen to hear from the community about our plans for Cato Square and future consultation opportunities will be announced.

  • How can I stay informed about the project?

    The best way to stay up to date is to subscribe to Cato Square email updates and check the dedicated Cato Square section on Council’s website.

    Updates will also be communicated via the residents’ newsletter InStonnington, local newspapers, Facebook and Twitter.

    If you are a trader seeking information and updates on the construction process, email:

  • Car parking

  • What car parking will be provided?

    The existing Cato Street car park occupies the entire available space, providing 432 parking spaces. The redevelopment will deliver approximately 20 per cent more car parks – more than 500 spaces.

    Car park features that will improve the visitor and shopper experience include: 

    • A green, landscaped zone along Chatham Street with an additional 22 perpendicular car parks (a net gain of 13 spaces)
    • A multi-level underground car park with high-quality finishes including a higher ceiling level (3m+) to the first level
    • Painted and signed columns, walls and beams at entry / exit points
    • Travellators and lifts to all levels to ensure universal access for all people
    • Specialty low-energy lighting
    • Generous parking bays and isle widths
    • 24/7 physical security and CCTV.
  • Will parking be free?

    Council is working on implementing a flexible car park management system, including whether or not parking will be paid.

    Feedback from the community and local traders has indicated a need for short-term parking and we will work with the car park managers to implement this.

  • How will Cato Square be used?

  • What kind of events will take place at Cato Square?

    Cato Square’s dynamic and multifunctional space will support a diverse range of community events such as festivals, open-air markets, musical and theatrical performances, recreation activities and more. This will also form part of discussions and engagement with the community.

  • Will the open space be accessible to the public 24/7?

    Yes. Cato Square and the underground car park will be accessible to the public 24/7.