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Brian Tanti hits the road

02 Aug 2018

Brian Tanti hits the road Image

After more than 20 years working in and advocating for Docklands, love has lured Brian Tanti north to the Harbour City.

Brian is moving his automotive operations to Sydney to be with his new life partner. He has been closely involved with the Fox Classic Car Museum at Queens Warehouse since late 1996.

Brian well remembers arriving in Docklands. In essence, there was nothing here. Tumbleweeds rolled freely through the abandoned industrial zone. If you wanted lunch, you could buy a crusty pie from a caravan catering to the few remaining wharf workers.

“The move from Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield was not popular and there were two or three resignations,” he recalled. “I was a coach builder and soon became manager of vehicle operations for the collection and later director.”

The newly-established Docklands Authority embraced the car museum as one of only a few established entities in the area (the significant other being the Mission to Seafarers in Flinders St).

Queens Warehouse became a community meeting place and Brian was encouraged to help pioneer the fledgling Docklands Chamber of Commerce – serving five years in all, the final two as the chamber’s second president.

“We would advocate for the precinct at every opportunity, even though there was not much here to promote,” he recalled.

A trust associated with the museum had earlier been granted a generous lease over 10 acres in Docklands. Subsequently, a sub-lease saw the establishment of stage one of the Automotive Centre of Excellence – now a part of Kangan TAFE.

As part of the deal, the museum maintains a workshop within the school and this has been Brian’s base for many years. It was here that he conceptualised and built the Auto Horizon Foundation’s FR-1 concept car (still to be completed!).

Being there from the start means that Brian has seen pretty much the whole Docklands development emerge before his eyes. Much of the surrounding land needed to be rehabilitated before it could be used for construction.

Brian particularly remembers the extreme excavation required to decontaminate the site of the ANZ Centre in Collins St (of course Collins St and Bourke St didn’t even extend that far west in the beginning!).

“ANZ is built on the site of the old gasworks and required a $50 million clean-up before they could start,” he said. “It was like a quarry, with trucks disappearing into this pit. The soil was green and the stench was extraordinary.”

But he has plenty of good memories too – particularly of the people he met and the experiences that only Docklands made possible.

“It’s been really good,” Brian said. “It’s been a real honour to be involved.”

“When you see it day-in-day-out, the change seems gradual. But when you look back, the transformation has been amazing – how it has blended with and redefined the western end of Melbourne.”

“The thing I take with me from the area are strong relationships and the experience of being part of the whole thing,” he said.

Locals can keep in touch with Brian through his website: www.briantantisworkshop.com

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