Development at District Docklands set to feature “biggest escalator in Australia”
A local development is set to break an Australian and Southern Hemisphere record.
A new Docklands development featuring an Australian-record 47-metre escalator has been approved by the City of Melbourne.
The “massive” escalator would be part of a $340 million dual-tower development within The District Docklands precinct, which is set to feature a hotel, serviced apartments and office space.
Up until 2022, Melbourne’s Parliament Station held the record for the longest single-span uninterrupted escalator in Australia at 30 metres long, which was overtaken by the recently opened Airport Central station in Perth (35 metres), but will next year be surpassed by Sydney’s Central Station (45 metres).
However, developer Capital Alliance is aiming to snatch the mantle in 2026 with a 47-metre moving staircase, should its new project at 28-38 Pearl River Rd be approved by the Victorian Planning Minister.
Perhaps most striking, and unlike the previous record holders, the escalator will sit on the exterior of the building, drawing comparisons to notable European structures.
Deputy Lord Mayor and council planning chair Nicholas Reece said the “massive” escalator was without doubt the “highlight” of the proposed development.
“I must say, as soon as I saw it, it did remind me of the Pompidou Centre in Paris,” he said at a June 6 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
“I’m sure it’s going to become a drawcard in Melbourne. We’re the biggest city in Australia now, and we’ve now got the biggest escalator in Australia to prove it. Indeed, we’ve got the biggest escalator in the Southern Hemisphere — what bragging rights!”
The external escalator is to face Pearl River Rd and extend from level 4 to 14 before reaching a large 1000-person function centre that would span across both towers.
Urban Planning Collective (UPCo) director Kel Twite, acting on behalf of Capital Alliance, said the unique escalator design was given “very careful consideration” by the project’s architects SJB.
“It’s fair to say that is a key design element in the building, and I guess it’s deliberately on the exterior of the building and a bit loud and proud if you like,” he told councillors.
“But it’s used to deliver access to the function space within the building, together with what is a publicly accessible bar etc. within the hotel component of the building. So, it is very much not intended to be utilitarian as such, but a key design element, and it’s something the design team has given very careful consideration to since the inception.”
The development itself was set to feature an 11- to 13-storey southern tower, and 23- to 26-storey northern counterpart with a maximum height of 96 metres, and large arched brickwork on the ground level.
It would contain 210 hotel rooms, 133 serviced apartments and almost 3500sqm of office space, and in addition to a level-17 public bar would also feature a beauty salon and wellness centre.
Much like the recently completed Marriott Hotel (also built by Capital Alliance) less than 200 metres away, the proposed development would also feature an infinity pool.
Mr Twite said the development would make a positive impact on “what is a pretty ordinary site in the existing streetscape”, an assessment Cr Reece agreed with.
“The site itself is quite a challenging one,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said of the plot that sits opposite Docklands Studios.
“It’s quite narrow and small by Docklands standards, but I do commend the applicant and architects for coming up with an outstanding design which delivers lots of functions in the form of a hotel, offices, apartments. [It] cleverly cantilevers out towards some of the surrounding sites, and overall delivers a really interesting building for Docklands which I think will become a real landmark.”
Cr Jamal Hakim, a local resident, commended the designs and the “continued investment in Docklands”.
“That site does need something interesting, so it’s great to see the interesting design here,” he said.
“We’re seeing a change in demographics in Docklands with more families, particularly from migrant backgrounds. And with a strong visitor and entertainment district, and such easy access to the city … it’s making it a great place to live and stay.”
Capital Alliance has said it was “looking forward to opening to the public in 2026”, should the state government approve the plans.