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Docklands $9bn plan for next decade

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 19, 2014

Dewi Cooke


NINE billion dollars will be poured into Docklands over the next decade, as planning begins for an ambitious next phase of development for the waterside precinct.

Work will begin in May on the transformation of the maligned Harbour Esplanade from desolate tram route into tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly boulevard – a recognition of the criticisms of Docklands for lacking necessary green space.

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”It’s the best piece of waterfront in Docklands and I don’t think anybody would try to pretend that it is the greatest place to be,” VicUrban’s general manager for Docklands, David Young, said. ”That is absolutely recognition of some of the feedback … that Docklands doesn’t even necessarily feel connected within itself. That project is a critical one.”

VicUrban will ask residents for ideas during planning for the next decade, and will take in the views of businesses, architects and designers for a ”community engagement” process that will feed into an overall plan.

It is expected to release soon a stocktake of the first 10 years, coinciding with the launch of the community consultation. About 42 per cent of Docklands has been completed.

Harbour Esplanade would eventually connect the Yarra River to Victoria Harbour, Mr Young said, admitting it did not currently live up to its potential.

”Sydney’s harbour is everything. But here, Melbourne harbour? A harbour experience? It’s quite a fresh idea, I suppose. But it’s actually got to be somewhere really attractive … and I’m the first to accept that Harbour Esplanade right now doesn’t quite stack up,” he said.

But Kim Dovey, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Melbourne, and a critic of the Docklands development, questioned the value of community consultation, calling instead for a ”major rethink” for the next 10 years.

”My sense is that the first stage was so badly done that you need something a bit more dramatic, you don’t really want a break on innovation in the next phase, you want more,” he said.

Under VicUrban’s plan, the few existing trees along Harbour Esplanade will be removed and later replaced with 230 Norfolk pines. Tram tracks will be relocated to allow the creation of two ”super stops”. Separate, dedicated bike lanes will also be installed.

Work is expected to take 12 months for this first stage of development and will be followed by further work on the wharves and new buildings. A community library is among the ideas mooted for the area.

Criticised in its first 10 years for a variety of sins – too sprawling, too disconnected, too windy – the rehabilitation of Docklands’ image is being pegged around projects such as this.

Professor Dovey said Harbour Esplanade was too big, fuelled by a ”misconception” that crowds would funnel through after football matches at Docklands stadium. He said planning should be handed over entirely to the City of Melbourne after the state government had proved itself ”inept”.

City of Melbourne councillor Peter Clarke, who chairs the council’s planning committee, said residents had long been asking for green and recreational spaces and a permanent community centre.

”I think generally the community is very frustrated by the excessive consultation and no deliverables,” he said. ”The community shouldn’t be living in a construction site now, it deserves an amenity past where it is up to.”

Lord mayor Robert Doyle has called for a return of planning powers for the precinct and VicUrban’s Mr Young said the council was heavily involved with what is likely to become a ”shared vision” for the future of Docklands.

Mr Young said $5.5 billion in private sector investment had already been spent on transforming the Docklands from an urban wasteland into a residential and commercial precinct.



There is currently:

  • 8,350 residents
  • 38,000+ workers
  • Head offices for corporations including ANZ, NAB, Melbourne Water, Myer, Australian Taxation Office, AMP, Lion, Pearson Publishing, Medibank, Ericsson, Channel 9, Channel 7 and Fairfax among others
  • More than 4,800 dwellings completed
  • Millions of visitors annually
  • Highest concentration of Green Star rated buildings in the southern hemisphere
  • 42 public artworks
  • 100+ restaurants, cafes and bars
  • 100+ retailers
  • 100+ events held annually
  • 741 marina berths (public and private)
  • 7km waterfront
  • 3.7 hectares of open space including 3 parks
  • $450m in public assets

Source: Places Victoria August 2013



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