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Creating an urban village

27 Feb 2019

Creating an urban village Image

New CEO of The District Docklands George Karabatsos is very excited about the incredible opportunity that the precinct represents to the futures of both Docklands and Melbourne.

With nearly 30 years of experience working in the retail property and investment industry, George’s understanding and passion for his new role was clearly evident as he walked and talked Docklands News through his vision for The District last month.

And listening to his take on the future of The District, it’s hard not to get excited. Between what is already there and what is on the way, Mr Karabatsos said he believed the precinct was quickly evolving into what he referred to as “the pulse of the harbour”.

But more broadly, the precinct’s direct connection to the city’s north-west growth corridor, including future urban renewal zones at E-Gate, West Melbourne and Arden-Macauley, gives it all the makings of something very special for our city.

“I genuinely believe this is instrumental in that broader vision and how Docklands is seen,” he told Docklands News. “It’s quite an amazing environment if you look at it in the medium to longer term and there’s not many opportunities you get where you can help be a part of shaping a new district within a suburb like this.”

“I’m still very early on in my first year but we’ve already got about $150 million worth of projects that we are delivering on in 2019 so we’re very excited.”

Having worked in a number of senior management roles in the retail and property sector, which have included the likes of Colonial First State and Westfield, Mr Karabatsos’s level of expertise is just what The District needs to accelerate its transformation.

Melbourne born and bred, his understanding of our city’s cultural fabric is something he is keen to weave into the “community fabric” at The District – creating a destination that he believes has the potential to help transform the city.

Following the rebrand of The District Docklands by owners Ashe Morgan in November 2017, the precinct has already seen significant changes on its journey transforming into what George calls an “urban village” providing retail, entertainment and leisure.

Its master plan portrays an exciting image for the future, with a new fresh food market, Marriot Hotel and new commercial and community services currently under construction, while the new Hoyts Cinema headlines a new dining and entertainment precinct.

Combine all of that with more commercial and residential growth in NewQuay, a new primary school and a proposed pedestrian link from North Melbourne Station through E-Gate, the future looks bright.

As the man charged with leading this exciting chapter in the precinct’s story, Mr Karabatsos said he was thoroughly enjoying his new role. While there are still a number of challenges that lay ahead, he said the biggest was changing peoples’ perceptions about The District.

“Not many people know the brand The District Docklands and I think the biggest challenge will really be how do we deliver on the community and visitor expectations on what the product is and what it needs to stand for to become the life of the city and heart of the harbour.”

“What does that mean? It means it delivers amenity to residents, to workers, visitors and we really need to bring all these components together that are quite unique to us.”

“Property as a whole is a very stable investment vehicle but it is a reflection of how communities live, work and play.”

“Unless you’re in tune with how the community around you is growing and changing and what their needs are, the amenities they need then you kind of miss the boat.”

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