Grand vision unveiled to revitalise Docklands waterfront under joint venture

Marvel Stadium Waterfront Upgrades
Harbour Esplanade Joint Venture
Brendan Rees

New life could be breathed into the Docklands waterfront after a bold plan was announced to explore a “major new development opportunity” at Marvel Stadium and AFL House. 

Under a joint venture between the state government and the AFL, “redevelopment opportunities” of the sites are being considered to “transform the waterfront” with “a range of potential uses” including housing, commercial and entertainment.  

The Channel 7 building, adjacent to AFL House, could also form part of the Harbour Esplanade overhaul.

The project would see the government’s property developer and major project agency Development Victoria and the AFL work together.

Development Victoria bought the leasehold to 160 Harbour Esplanade, currently occupied by Channel 7, in 2018.

According to a state government press release, the future redevelopment of the sites “presents opportunities” to create a mixed-use development “that can revitalise Docklands’ waterfront and enhance the Stadium as a sports and entertainment complex”.   

Acting Minister for Development Victoria Natalie Hutchins said the joint venture would “unlock a major new opportunity in Docklands” while “transforming the waterfront and enhance Marvel Stadium as a sports and entertainment precinct.”

AFL executive general manager Matthew Chun said the league was committed to delivering a “memorable experience for fans and visitors to the precinct and excited by the opportunities this agreement presents at the site”.

Mr Chun told a Property Council of Australia event in October last year that there were opportunities to “go high” at its current headquarters at AFL House, as well at the Channel 7 building.



While it remains to be seen how the project will unfold, the proposal would however be separate to state government’s $225 million investment in the redevelopment of Marvel Stadium, which was completed in 2023.

That revamp included new facilities for players and guests, a Town Square precinct, more hospitality and catering options, and better screens and lighting.

Minister for Planning Sonya Kilkenny has lodged a planning scheme amendment application to change the Melbourne Planning Scheme to include potential building outlines and design requirements for future buildings at Marvel Stadium, AFL House, and the Channel 7 site.

Under the latest proposal, a transformation of the waterfront would be key to the redevelopment of Central Pier, in which early removal works are under way.

The state government is developing a strategy to revitalise Central Pier and the adjacent waterfront following its permanent closure in 2020, with its redevelopment being crucial to the future of the precinct.

The state government and the AFL were contacted about how the proposed development would integrate with the western side of Harbour Esplanade and Central Pier, however a state government spokesperson referred Docklands News to the press release, adding the plans had not advanced at this stage.

Late last year Development Victoria’s acting group head of precincts Niall Cunningham said feedback from the community about the future of Central Pier spoke of a need for a “vibrant space”.

He said this included embracing the water and creating a welcoming space, as well as showcasing the environmental sustainability and the rich history of the waterfront and the pier.

A Docklands Representative Group (DRG) spokesperson questioned the development of Harbour Esplanade and Central Pier, saying it would be an “open sore for Docklands”.

“While the DRG understands that the media release depicting a new high-rise development along Harbour Esplanade is at the concept stage currently, the next stage of Marvel Stadium redevelopment does bring opportunities for better access between Harbour Esplanade and the Stadium Precinct, meaning that it is imperative that this area is managed as a whole,” the spokesperson said.

“As regards the proposed height of the new construction, care will need to be taken to ensure that another series of wind tunnels are not constructed and that natural light to the concourse is not entirely blocked otherwise the surrounds will become very bleak.

“What is imperative is that meaningful engagement is started early with local stakeholders.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Dan Hibberd said Marvel Stadium’s recent developments and future integration with the waterfront was a “fantastic thing” for Docklands.

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