By Casey Neill
“ONE might as well be in South-East Asia.”
Foodie Elizabeth Chong couldn’t speak highly enough of Springvale as she led a walking tour of food businesses in its heart last year.
“Springvale was one of the first to really showcase Asian food in such a diverse way,” she said.
“I had a cooking school way back in 1961 and I needed to buy some really specialised ingredients and foods that I couldn’t get anywhere else.
“I was rather inspired by Springvale in those early days.”
Elizabeth said the arcades that today stock cuisine from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China were then just starting to take shape.
“It was mainly old Springvale Road and I used to go to the Nanyang supermarket,” she said.
“I think they’ve still got a pretty strong following. They had a butcher’s shop in there as well.
“That would be the oldest supermarket here, I think.”
The Chinese-born cook has introduced other cuisines to her cooking schools during the 54 years.
“I got to really know Vietnamese cuisine here in Springvale,” she said.
“This couldn’t be more authentic because they don’t know how to do it any other way.
“It’s a testament to that if we warmly welcome and support migrants and refugees, we can create a vibrant community that works.”
A towering gateway in Springvale’s centre is another example of how the suburb has embraced multiculturalism.
The 12-metre tall archway at Buckingham Avenue – twice as big as the one in Melbourne’s Chinatown – was opened in April last year.
Springvale Asian Business Association (SABA) president Daniel Cheng said the landmark would be a beacon for tourism.
“It will be a gathering and photo shooting point for families and friends and visitors from interstate and overseas,” he said.
“It will be a cultural landmark for the entire community to be proud of and talk about for a long time to come.”
Then-Mayor Sean O’Reilly said the archway would add “vibrancy” to the business activity centre and reinforce Springvale’s status as an Asian hub.
Buckingham Avenue is also home to the award-winning Springvale Snow Fest, which this year attracted more than 40,000 visitors.
It won the Best Victorian Tourism Event title at the Australian Event Awards in September, following on from its Best New Event gong at the awards in 2013.
Judges commented that it was a fun and innovative event that brought the snow to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to travel to the snowfields.
Nearby, a near-$50 million transformation of Springvale’s heart is taking shape.
In August councillors unveiled concept drawings for a revitalised Springvale Community Precinct at 397-405 Springvale Road to replace the former council chambers.
The project’s $40 million second stage is due for completion in 2020 and will include a library, meeting spaces and outdoor areas.
A $7.6 million refurbishment of the Springvale Town Hall is already underway and is due for completion next June.
“Springvale will be reborn with this $40 million project,” Cr Sean O’Reilly said.
“It’s great to see Springvale moving ahead in leaps and bounds.
“Sprouting from these plans I can see the transformation of Springvale.”