“Just an entrée”: AFL flags “density” for Marvel Stadium’s waterfront edge
The AFL’s general manager of property development says there’s a “massive opportunity” to help bring Harbour Esplanade to life through added density along the water-facing side of Marvel Stadium.
In a presentation to the Property Council of Australia on October 25 on the $225 million redevelopment of Marvel Stadium, the AFL’s Matthew Chun said its current project was just “the first step on the way to the water”.
With both of the stadium’s major city-facing entrances now “virtually finished”, Mr Chun said the AFL was now working in partnership with Development Victoria (DV) to open the rest of the stadium precinct to the Docklands waterfront.
“This whole project is really just a bit of an entrée into how we’re going to redevelop this whole precinct. This is the first step on the way to the water, and then in partnership with Development Victoria we now want to open to the whole waterfront,” Mr Chun said.
“Harbour Esplanade at the moment is a really great place for people to ride up and down, but that’s about it. But if we can bring that to life with some density, we think that’s a massive opportunity.”
Mr Chun’s presentation on Marvel Stadium was part of the Property Council of Australia’s Melbourne’s High Profile Projects event, which also featured presentations on Queen Victoria Market and Greenline, as well as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, from the City of Melbourne’s Roger Teale, and Hassell Studio’s Ingrid Bakker, respectively.
The AFL’s Matthew Chun (second from left) at the Property Council of Australia event on October 25.
During a follow-up panel discussion with the other speakers, Mr Chun elaborated on the AFL’s ambitions for the waterfront, by stating that there were opportunities to “go high” at its current headquarters at AFL House, as well at the Channel 7 building.
“For those who have maybe been to a function there [Marvel Stadium’s waterfront edge], or even looking from the concourse, the views even from there are amazing,” Mr Chun said.
“We’ve got some surplus land there [AFL House] and in conjunction with Development Victoria [we’re in discussions] about potentially redeveloping the Channel 7 site and our offices, which again, was the old Development Victoria offices way back when Docklands was first developed.”
So, there’s the ability to go high there and the ability to go high with Channel 7. So, we’re doing a lot of work on that at the moment – that’s the next stage and that really is where we’ll see a fundamental shift in Docklands because of what that development will bring.
While Mr Chun didn’t specify what sort of use and scale was being considered for both of the sites, his comments provide further weight to long-held views that Harbour Esplanade’s future is very much tied up with the AFL’s plans for the stadium precinct.
DV is the responsible authority for Harbour Esplanade, and while a master plan for the area was completed in conjunction with the City of Melbourne back in 2016, no further plans have since been released.
Following the closure of Central Pier due to safety issues in 2019, DV led a community consultation process in 2022 into the pier’s future which included the adjoining precinct along Harbour Esplanade.
The AFL’s current redevelopment of Marvel Stadium was made possible thanks to a deal with the Victorian Government in 2016, which saw the government commit $225 million to the project in exchange for keeping the Grand Final in Victoria until 2059.
Mr Chun said that $225 million didn’t “go very far” when it came to redeveloping a stadium, and that current efforts around the most heavily patronised entrances to the stadium were about getting best value for money on a “very tight budget”.
He said that one of the big drivers for the AFL and the state government was about finding a “space in Docklands that people can use and enjoy in a protected environment that has some energy about it”.
Namely, its Town Square precinct, located between gates one and three near Victoria Point, has been designed with the ambition to increase the stadium’s number of annual events held from 80 to between 200 and 250.
“We want this to be active every single day of the year,” Mr Chun said, adding that Town Square would become “the City Square, or the Fed Square for Docklands”.
“It’s [the stadium’s] become a bit of a blocker because of how physically imposing it is, and when there’s no-one playing there it is quite desolate. The whole idea of this redevelopment is to change that,” he said.
“The current look is very defensive. Stadiums are designed to keep people in and keep people out, but that’s changing.”
“That’s something we’ve been working with the City of Melbourne on, is how can we have more public events in that part of town. So, we’re looking at a Christmas event, New Year’s Eve is spectacular in that part of town – there’s a lot of fireworks that get set off around our precinct so we think we can engage with that.”
“Bringing back some community activities like the markets and those sorts of things, which hopefully when Central Pier gets redeveloped that could then lead to that. So, we could be an entrée with whatever happens with that redevelopment.” •