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Sam says ‘give us time’

02 Nov 2011

Sam says ‘give us time’ Image

By Places Victoria CEO Sam Sangster

In recent weeks Docklands has come under scrutiny for what many perceive as lack of planning, or in some circumstances, over planning. But to suggest that Docklands suffers from a lack of planning is to suggest that we are looking at a finished product.

Docklands is 38 per cent complete. While nobody is arguing that Docklands is currently the utopia to which so many would have it aspire, those behind the $2 billion worth of private development currently occurring in Docklands have been prepared to back the odds that it will be – in time.

When Docklands was first envisaged in the late 80s and early 90s, Victoria was an economic basket case. The Kennett Government’s vision was to drive economic vitality back into the state – which has been achieved incredibly successfully.

Over the past 10 years, Melbourne has had a competitive advantage over other Australian cities by being able to offer high-profile businesses large tracts of land for development right on the doorstep of the CBD, at a fraction of the rent charged in similar locations in Sydney and Brisbane.

The result – since 2002, close to 40 corporates have relocated to Docklands, contributing to the 22,500 workers who now experience the area daily.

The Kennett Government and the Docklands Authority knew that to create a market in what was effectively a barren wasteland, commercial players needed sufficient and long-term land supply pipelines to make their considerable investments worthwhile.

This single commercial paradigm of long-term, large scale land supply has, to date, created exactly what was expected – one fairly consistent development outcome; a series of big buildings and structures.

Without this, the area would never have attracted the 6500 residents and 22,500 workers or the millions of visitors each year.

The $2 billion worth of private development that is currently occurring across the precinct in 14 developments is expected to bring a further 9400 workers to Docklands over the next 18 months.

Both Places Victoria (formerly VicUrban) and the City of Melbourne have acknowledged that now there are people in Docklands, the next era of development needs to address their needs – not necessarily in grand gestures, but by filling in the gaps between buildings, providing the fine grain and community infrastructure that will now attract day-to-day users rather than sitting empty.

Another of our key objectives over the next 10 years of development is to increase the diversity of product and the social diversity.

Docklands’ first affordable housing project – The Merchant – was completed in late 2009 and sold out at least nine months prior to its completion. This development includes 133 apartments – 57 of which are managed by Housing Choices Australia and are available to rent by low to medium income tenants.

The Mariner at NewQuay reached practical completion in June 2011. It provides 85 apartments which are owned and managed by Housing Choices Australia.
Docklands has now reached critical mass. The momentum that has gathered over the past 12 months will continue to grow, bringing with it a wave of street-level activity.

In early 2012, the successful developer will be announced to develop the last uncontracted parcel of land – a two hectare site with a prestigious Collins St address, air rights over Wurundjeri Way and a Flinders St frontage.  This development, along with Walker Corporation’s 180,000 square metre commercial and retail Collins Square Precinct, will complete the important Collins St link between Docklands and the CBD and add to the pedestrian experience for those who walk from Southern Cross station.

The retail spaces at the base of the current developments have, by necessity, been delivered ahead of need – 70 per cent of the planned retail has been delivered, while the precinct itself is only 38 per cent complete. Over time, as more and more workers and residents move to Docklands, these spaces will fill up with retailers and businesses to service the ready clientele.    

When painters begin on a canvas they start with broad, often bold strokes. The details, the light and shade and the nuances come later.

Melbourne, as the city we know today, with its intricate laneways, cultural precincts and vibrant cafes, has taken 150 years to develop. In fact much of what we celebrate about Melbourne today is recent. Even 25 years ago, when the experience of Melbourne’s CBD was soulless and desolate after the workers went home, the Postcode 3000 project was required to revitalise the city. It is simply short-sighted and wrong to judge Docklands after just 10 years.

Plans are important and Docklands certainly had one, but plans need to be broad enough to be flexible to respond to the needs of changing economic and social priorities and a changing landscape.

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  • Rose M at 11:17am on 03/11/11

    It’s a terrific place to live and play; we've loved our two years here and remain excited. Calling the area "soulless" needs explanation since as residents, we’re perplexed. We hope for new, funky and interesting development in keeping with the edgy modernity of Docklands. Learn from Barcelona's planning and do something exciting. Well done people; keep it up and remember our green spaces.
  • Michael S at 1:56pm on 03/11/11

    Great response Sam ! Rome wasn't built in a day, and if people want to know where the trees are, take a walk around Docklands Park at lunch-time, something you can't do working in the CBD.
  • Sarah D at 7:07pm on 03/11/11

    I find it difficult to see how you can bring a high level of vibrancy to a street scape that is populated with large scaled commercial buildings. An example, you can walk 500 metres from Southern Cross to Batman's Hill Drive and pass, lets say 4-5 street front retail setups.
    I agree with the statement, " give us more time", and I would add to that, lets say a lot more time:)

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