Docklands activation strategy advanced


By Sean Car

The City of Melbourne and Development Victoria’s (DV’s) long-awaited Docklands activation strategy is understood to be only a few weeks away from being shared with major stakeholders, with some programming expected to begin by year’s end.

Despite last month’s local government elections causing some minor delays in the process, the final report by events and activations company Alto Cibum is expected to be present- ed to the City of Melbourne and DV on November 10.

With the election winners revealed on November 4, Docklands News understands that the report will be presented to the council as soon as the new councillors and leadership team are sworn in.

While further details of what’s included in the strategy isn’t yet known, the progression of the plans comes as welcome news to the Docklands community following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

With much of the discussion surrounding the council’s reactivation of Melbourne having been largely focused on the CBD, many local businesses have been questioning what Docklands-focused efforts are on the horizon.

While a range of stakeholders, including the Docklands Chamber of Commerce (DCC) and Docklands News, were originally consulted back in July, the impacts of the second wave of coronavirus on commercial traffic in Docklands has significantly changed the stakes.

But while much of the plan’s big-ticket items are understood to be centred around office workers return- ing to the precinct, weekend events for residents and visitors are also expected to play a part in reactivation over summer.

A spokesperson for the City of Melbourne said the plan sought to leverage “water transport, tourism and maritime heritage” and that the council was currently working with major Docklands employers on plans to bring their staff back to the office.

“Docklands is normally home to 72,000 jobs so it’s crucial that we encourage office workers to return to the precinct,” the spokesperson said.

“The City of Melbourne is liaising with major city employers about the best ways to safely bring workers back to the city, including Docklands. Ideas include staggering work times and days to reduce the risk of overcrowding on public transport and traffic congestion.”

While Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on October 26 that a return to offices in the near future was unlikely, he said the government would provide a clearer picture on November 8 as to when city offices could open.

“If you can work from home you must work from home,” Mr Andrews said.

“Now I know that’s frustrating, I know that there are many businesses, large and small, who want to get their staff back on site, but those environments at this stage are just too risky.”

It’s expected that Melbourne will follow the same model adopted in the likes of New South Wales, with COVID-safe plans and four sqm metre rules instated by employers. But many corporates in Docklands aren’t planning on a return to the office until 2021.

While this fact continues to present ongoing challenges to local businesses, many of which have already closed permanently, the activation strategy will be very much cognisant of this, with many of its larger activations proposed for possible rollout from March next year.

In the interim, Docklands can look forward to the Christmas Twilight Sunday Market on December 6 from 12pm until 8pm along NewQuay Promenade hosted by the Docklands Sunday Market and supported by the DCC and MAB Corporation (see details on page 17).

With the DCC also working with the council and local businesses on a range of other activations over the Christmas and New Year period, a council spokesperson said this summer in Docklands would be like “no other”.

“We want to see Docklands’ retail and hospitality venues buzzing,” the spokesperson said. “Docklands will look splendid for Christmas with decorations including the giant reindeer re-turning to Harbour Esplanade. Several Docklands businesses will also participate in our Christmas Collective program to spread festive cheer throughout the precinct.”

“Our ‘Always On’ advertising campaign will ramp up again to promote the city reopening by highlighting precinct offerings, such as outdoor dining, event activations and retail to promote

visitation and spend.”

The council said it was also pleased to see Docklands cafes and restaurants taking advantage of outdoor dining.

“Permits for extended outdoor dining have been issued to 29 venues including applications from the likes of Cargo along NewQuay Promenade and the Docklands Community Sunday Farmer’s Market,” the spokesperson said.

“We have continued to provide local businesses with funding and support during these challenging times. Fifty-nine Docklands businesses have been successful in the initial batch- es of grants awarded across two of our business grants programs.”

The company behind the activation strategy, Alto Cibum, has previous experience in delivering events and strategies for the likes of the AFL, South Melbourne Markets, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and Luna Park.

Investigations are understood to have been largely focused on the precinct surrounding Victoria Harbour and NewQuay in an effort to bring permanent and sustained activation to Docklands and its waterways.

It’s not yet known what role, if any, a redeveloped Central Pier could play as part of the strategy, or the AFL and DV’s new master plan for Marvel Stadium and Harbour Esplanade, which was due for release earlier this year before the outbreak of COVID-19.

With Docklands’ maritime heritage under- stood to be central to the strategy, the recently announced business case by the state government and the council for a new maritime museum at the Mission to Seafarers building on Flinders St could also play a role.

However, with the council having earmarked the northern side of Central Pier for the berth- ing of heritage vessels including Alma Doepel and Enterprize in the future, many believe such a museum would be better suited as part of a reimagined Central Pier.

But whether these larger plans feed into the strategy or not, it’s expected that it will help to significantly change Docklands reputation and improve communications among its major custodians.

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