When I bought my first apartment in Melbourne’s CBD back in 2000, the city was a rather ghostly place for residents after about 8.30pm. You could kick a footy up and down Collins Street on weekends. Docklands was a hole in the ground and Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross) was a wind-swept undeveloped frontier. There wasn’t a decent supermarket in the city in those days and the only activity in town on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon was a footy crowd trying to find Telstra Dome (now Etihad Stadium). And of course there were the regular night-owls at Southbank, Crown Casino and Kings Street.
It wasn’t until 2003 when Daniel Grollo’s $600 million Queen Victoria Village (known as QV) opened with a Woolworths that things started to change in the City. The new RACV City Club, which opened two years later on Bourke Street created new reasons to be in the city, transforming the recreation market.
Yes, there was Crown Casino which opened its doors back in 1997 and quite a few high-rise apartments in South Bank. There was even the Aquarium – who’s been there lately?
These early projects changed the landscape and added more things for locals and tourists to do in and around the CBD besides going to the tennis and Grand Prix every year. It has been 20 years since we first hosted the Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park.
A lot of things have changed in the past two decades. In the mid-to-late 90s Melbourne turned off the lights after about 5.30pm and everyone drove home past the Gas and Fuel towers at Jolimont rail yards where Federation Square is today.
Fast forward to today and Melbourne is a globally connected, active, vibrant CBD and not a free car park this side of Docklands Stadium.
Initiatives like Postcode 3000, which began in the early 1990s and massive Kennett-era infrastructure projects kick-started Melbourne’s reassignment surgery. However, much of the development in Melbourne’s CBD has taken place during the past 3-5 years and access to the CBD is changing, with more mega-stops and blue bikes than you can poke a stick at.
A resilient resources sector, waves of university students, a tsunami of construction investment and favourable planning have all contributed to recent spikes in CBD development and this has reminded us all of the importance of the construction sector.
What this means is that the right set of market ingredients, government investment and planning controls has helped Melbourne’s CBD and surrounds transform from a state of being ‘on the move’ to a truly attractive ‘place to be’.
Looking forward, designated urban renewal areas like Fishermans Bend, City North and Arden Macaulay and E-Gate have huge potential for urban growth. They represent what Federation Square and QV were at a point in time – underutilised spaces capable of attracting massive private sector investment and development.
Melbourne’s nationally significant employment clusters also present major investment opportunities with the right infrastructure and planning. The La Trobe Cluster north of Melbourne and Arden Macaulay Precinct located minutes from the Parkville Cluster are set to become Melbourne’s latest urban renewal gems with major planning and infrastructure projects under way.
Recent changes to Residential Zones have also provided long needed impetus for progressive urban consolidation in suburbs located well beyond the usual suspects Carlton, Brunswick, Richmond and Cremorne. Inner and middle-ring municipalities such as Darebin, Banyule, Monash and Hobsons Bay for example will start to deliver their fair share of multi-unit and mixed-use developments, albeit on a different scale in some cases than the CBD.
There is little holding up future waves of major urban renewal in and around Melbourne’s central city area and surrounding suburbs. What is required is careful planning, major transport and road infrastructure investment and an openness to work together to define Melbourne’s new urban fabric in ways that drive productivity and benefits for the community.
We all have the opportunity to define Melbourne’s urban renewal plan for the next 20 years. Let’s work together to make it happen and have fun along the way.
About MacroPlan: MacroPlan’s experienced and qualified economists align their understanding of macro-economic forces with micro-economic variables such as geographic and industrial characteristics, demographics, labour market shifts, resource demand and commercial realities. Contact Glenn Lamont, Director of Urban Renewal today to discuss your property research requirements.