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Docklander - September 2014

04 Sep 2014

Docklander - September 2014 Image

The original Docklander

Most people who work in Docklands today wouldn’t be able to imagine what the area looked like before it was developed.

But for Brian Tanti, the image of pre-development Docklands is still clear in his mind.

“It was in a classic tumble weed, frontier kind of state,” Mr Tanti said. “It had been sitting idle for many, many years.”

Mr Tanti began working in Docklands around 20 years ago as curator of the Fox Classic Car Collection and today is CEO of the AutoHorizon Foundation, the not-for-profit organisation behind the FR-1 concept car.

According to Mr Tanti, when he first began working in Docklands the only other presence in the area was the Mission to Seafarers on Flinders St and an old 1950s caravan was the only place you could buy lunch.

According to Mr Tanti he wouldn’t have seen more than a handful of people regularly, but “there were always interesting characters floating about”.

He recalls a man who used to live in the historic crane next to Shed 5 on Flinders St and a “Steptoe and Son” style operation called The Old Tin Shed, where a man used to sell second-hand building materials.

According to Mr Tanti, the first development to cause significant change in the area was the establishment of physical corridors to the city via the Bourke St and Collins St extensions.

“I think that was the first big step in creating a connection with the city,” Mr Tanti said.

“It was only when those two bridges and connections started happening that people from the city would start to wander down on their lunchbreak.”

As Docklands grew both residentially and commercially a small community also began to emerge.

“I got involved at a community level through the likes of Peter Crowley and Peter Anderson at the Docklands Authority, who were trying to build community out of what was a greenfields development,” Mr Tanti said. “It was pretty hard going back in the early days.”

Mr Tanti eventually became involved with the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, serving as an executive member for five years.

He was the chamber’s second president, and took on the role for two years.

“It was a period where the chamber was looking for some direction,” Mr Tanti said.

“One of the things I was able to bring to the chamber of the time was that I wasn’t politically aligned to any developer or group and I called things as I saw them,” he said.

“There was an opportunity to work with both the small and big businesses in trying to advance the precinct.”

Having watched Docklands grow from the ground up, Mr Tanti is in a unique position to reflect on its development.

So does he think anything should have been done differently?

“I’m not an urban planner so I can’t answer that question with any degree of expertise, but at a smaller level, at a personal level I think more events down here,” he said. “Street events and events that engage with the residents.”

“I don’t think there’s much I’d change. It would be great to see more usage of the water and a connection with Southbank perhaps.”

But for the most part he thinks Docklands development has gone in the right direction.

“The place has changed dramatically, for the better.”

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