Exciting activations take shape in Vic Harbour as precinct recovers from pandemic

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Brendan Rees

Work on a new ferry terminal and a twin-deck floating bar is starting to take shape in Victoria Harbour in what is hailed as a huge boost to activate tourism and the “gateway to Melbourne.”

Port Phillip Ferries (PPF) has constructed a new passenger terminal and community hub at Harbour Esplanade, which will allow passengers to commute between Melbourne, Geelong, and Portarlington when works finish in April.

The project is being delivered in partnership with Development Victoria and City of Melbourne, with preparation beginning in February and pre-constructed off-site building components being craned into Harbour Esplanade in March.
Once complete, the terminal will feature large waterside facing windows designed to showcase the spectacular views of Victoria Harbour and “perfectly positioned to connect more communities to the bay and bring Victorians together like never before,” PPF chief executive officer Murray Rance said. 
“Port Phillip Ferries has a vision to change the way Victorians travel by utilising our magnificent waterways,” he said.

“The new Melbourne ferry terminal takes us another step closer to achieving our vision while providing a vibrant community hub within the Docklands precinct for locals and visitors.”

The “state-of-the-art” terminal will also house a welcome foyer and reception area, visitor information services, an onsite café, and accessible amenities.

It will cater for passengers of PPF and patrons using other charter operators in the area, with the potential to open new routes and connect more communities to the bay.

The facility, which will be located on the north side of the existing glass house structure and adjacent to the Cow Up a Tree sculpture, will also give the culturally significant landmark by John Kelly greater presence.

Development Victoria precincts group head Geoff Ward said, “We are delighted at the investment Port Phillip Ferries is making in Docklands which will benefit locals and visitors alike. We look forward to this new terminal being completed in April, encouraging more people to visit Docklands and enjoy what this vibrant waterfront precinct has to offer.”

Development Victoria called for expressions of interest for the continued activation of Harbour Esplanade, Wharf VH08, in December 2020.

PPF, which has operated a ferry service from Docklands to Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula for the past five years, was announced as the successful bidder in August last year.

Upon its launch, staff at the new terminal will share their knowledge of local tourism and travel options, including tours, transport, events, and accommodation with guests.

Meanwhile, in other exciting works, framing has started going up for a new floating bar called ATET near the Bolte Bridge.

Designed as an open-air space, the venue will cater up to 550 patrons and have a fully retractable roof and blinds to suit any weather condition.

ATET will sit on the former barge of the Alma Doepel after the tall ship returned to the waters last October.

The barge’s new owner and ATET director Jake Hughes said construction for the bar began in January after a few unforeseen delays.

However, he said works were progressing well with framing for the bar, kitchen and cool room going up and the hardwood deck being restored.

He said the portal frame installation was a “huge milestone” which “really defines the space and makes it a lot easier to envisage the final product.”

“The floor for the upper-level deck has just been finished and the stairs are about to go in. We’ll then move on to installing the balustrading, cladding, and finishing off with fixtures and fittings,” he said with the grand launch expected in winter.

“The space will be decked out with lush planting, and we’ll have outdoor heaters on board, so it will essentially be like a big hot house.”

“After five years of planning, we’re incredibly excited to be able to see this dream coming to life and we can’t wait to share it with the local community.”

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help breathe some new life into the Docklands precinct as it recovers from the effects of lockdowns and restrictions over the past two years.”

“As a destination venue, ATET will draw visitors to the area, creating foot traffic and providing much needed activation to the area.”

He said the venue would be able to host a diverse range of events from weddings and corporate events to yoga classes, evening cinema screenings, and community workshops.

City of Melbourne councillor Jamal Hakim said the work for both projects was “really exciting” as Victoria Harbour was “our most important asset” and the “gateway to Melbourne.” •

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