Green shoots in Batman’s Hill

Green shoots in Batman’s Hill

By Tim Martin - Batman's Hill resident

For some time now, it’s been impossible to avoid COVID-19 related news. I have deliberately avoided writing about anything COVID except in passing because I suspect everyone is as over it as I am. Sadly, I’m about to cave!

Docklands News and other outlets have mentioned on a number of occasions that Docklands is one of the worst-hit areas in Australia in terms of the number of street front businesses that have closed.

Dwelling on the associated pain and damage it has no doubt done to people’s lives is heartbreaking.

With the current lockdown and the Delta variant seemingly unstoppable, it’s difficult to see an end-point at times.

Nevertheless, the end will come and I’ve been wandering the local streets wondering what Batman’s Hill (and the rest of Docklands) will look like when it does.

Amid the gloom I’ve actually been struck by what I optimistically perceive as “green shoots” which gives me some hope that while Docklands may not be what it was, it will be just as good, but different.

During the past few months in Batman’s Hill I’ve noticed a number of businesses and buildings which appear to be looking up rather than down.

I want to highlight them in an attempt to focus on a positive future rather than the depressing present. I’ll start with the renovations which have been going on for many months at the old AMP building on the corner of Collins St and Batman’s Hill Drive. Turns out it is now a Monash University campus which appears to be awaiting the return of international students. I always think that university students bring a lot of life and activity to an area so I am pleased to see this facility awaiting their presence.

Not far away, down on Village St, a large O-Bento sushi restaurant has just opened. It appears to be a very expensive fit-out and I’ve no doubt that it serves up great sushi. I’ve yet to try it out, but certainly will.

The Melbourne Quarter development on Collins St is beavering away at its next tower which will include an extension to the existing sky park as well as extending the forecourt. It’s not due for completion until 2024, but nevertheless, it’s good to see work under way. Still in Melbourne Quarter, there’s a little laneway tucked away off the Collins St forecourt called Gunpowder Walk where a few businesses have just opened; Destination Roll which appears to serve Asian-inspired rolls, and a barber – Da Barber House.

Adjacent to the laneway is another new sushi shop; Sushi Sushi. Again, on Village St, number seven near the corner of McCrae St, a dental practice has just opened and it appears the rest of the space is awaiting occupation by a medical practice. On McCrae St adjacent to the entrance of the Village V1 building a laundromat is being installed which looks like it will be opening imminently. I’ll be using that to wash and dry my doona!

On top of the multi-storey Siddley St carpark, they have started work on the urban sky-farm that was proposed a few years ago. It is supposed to include a working farm, bee hives, a licensed café and an eco-education centre. That will be a very interesting addition to the area once finished.

Just down the road from there, scaffolding and a large crane have just gone up on the Flinders St side of the old World Trade Centre and it appears the interior has been gutted. There have been a few proposals over the years for redevelopment but exactly what is going to occur, I’m not sure. I enquired but they were pretty closed-mouth about it.

While it is moving very slowly, preparatory work has started on Seafarers Residences which is the hotel/apartment development to be built above the refurbished Goods Shed 5 next to the Mission to Seafarers building. I’m guessing that due to the substantial hotel component they are not in too much of a hurry to finish for obvious reasons. For those into skin art, it looks like a tattoo studio (T.Ink Tattoo Studio) might be imminently opening on Waterview Walk at the base of the Watergate apartments.

Around the corner, on the Bourke St side of the Watergate apartments Ginger Leaf Thai restaurant had been closed for some time. It now appears to have reopened with a pared-back interior fit-out. Lastly, I’ve noticed that the heritage-listed Queen’s Warehouse, which formerly held the incredible Fox Classic Car Museum, has been tidied up and cars moved back into it after having been empty for a couple of years. I hope this means the car museum will shortly be reopening. It is a pretty amazing collection. There was supposed to be a new building constructed adjacent to the warehouse to expand the collection but I believe the site has to be remediated prior to construction beginning. Here’s hoping there’s some movement on that front soon.

So, all in all there is quite a bit of action in Batman’s Hill which must be a positive sign. I clearly don’t know the background behind some of these business decisions; while some may have been forced into action by contractual obligations, I prefer to think that they are a sign of things to come.

Here’s to hoping that in the next few months life in Docklands will again start to approach something resembling normalcy and that the locals and the local businesses will again be thriving •  

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