Some of your ideas for Docklands …
In the October edition of Docklands News, we asked you, members of the local community, to share some of your thoughts and ideas for the future of our precinct post-COVID. As we emerge from the pandemic, we invite as many locals as possible to add their voice to the discussion by emailing [email protected]. Enjoy just a smattering of responses received this past month …
My thoughts on Docklands
Hello, I’m Cliff Steele, a resident of Victoria Point on Harbour Esplanade for eight years now. The Docklands News asked for local feedback on Docklands. Here are my thoughts.
I don’t see Docklands as a suburb. It may be semantics but suburbs to me are the outlying districts of a conurbation. Places of little houses with gardens and people mowing their lawns on Sunday. Docklands is not like that. It’s a very urban environment on the west side of the Central Business District. It may be outside the Hoddle Grid but it should be seen as much a part of the city centre as Spring St on the east side is. That’s what makes Docklands unique. It’s where the city centre meets the water.
The first thing that should happen to make Docklands better is to fix up Harbour Esplanade. It should be the jewel in the crown of the district but it’s a forlorn mess. Remnants of the first aborted attempt to create a grand avenue are still visible. Old tram lines, abandoned street furniture and cheap, nasty coloured patches of concrete, gravel and bitumen look terrible. Attempts to patch things up over the years with pockets of lawn and cheap structures haven’t helped at all. It’s a bleak place that is even bleaker when it’s raining and the wind is blowing off the harbour. From LaTrobe St to Bourke St on the east side of Harbour Esplanade there are just the blank windows of Marvel Stadium offices and the Bendigo Bank. This part of the street overlooking the harbour should be activated with shops and cafes. It would mean liaising with the owners for a change of use but it’s feasible. The views are good and the wide footpath could take plenty of outside seating. The pine trees are growing well and would be beautiful to sit under on a hot day.
It may be an unpopular view, but I really think that Central Pier should be demolished. It’s not an attractive structure at all. The ugly sheds with cream brick walls and tin roofs have no architectural merit and the stained concrete deck is hideous. It would be far better to clear away the piles and have an open expanse of water. I know there are many who would see the loss of the pier as a loss of heritage but the rotting piers the structures stand on are the only things of real heritage and they’re finished.
There is a genuine piece of living heritage operating on North Wharf Rd, and that’s the boat builders. Their workshop should be incorporated into any new development because what they do is the only original Docklands activity that still survives.
The new transport hub that will be erected on the harbour should be an exceptional piece of architecture but I doubt that it will be. That’s a shame. Exceptionalism is lacking in Docklands. The hub is a great idea and perhaps a ferry to Frankston and Mornington could be added to the services already operating to Geelong and Portarlington.
The car museum on Collins St and Harbour Esplanade, as it stands, is an eyesore. Collins St is arguably the best street in the entire city and this museum lets the street down badly. The building itself is attractive but shabby and unloved and the landscaping is non-existent. It has the potential to be something really nice but a bit of lawn, a high fence sometimes covered in graffiti and a gravel surface car park doesn’t belong on such a lovely street.
There is a severe lack of diversity in Docklands shops. Where are the fine food delis, patisseries, clothing shops or gift shops that are found in places like South Yarra and Carlton? Where are the types of shops one finds on any suburban high street? Estate agents and fast food outlets seem to be the only places operating here. There is also a lack of quality in the shops that are here. There is no shop or restaurant in Docklands that people would cross town for. There are a few exceptions, like Saluministi, but it seems that many owners think that a good view of the water is enough. It’s not.
Car parking is another self-made problem. In Carlton, parking is free after 12pm on Saturdays right through to Monday morning. In Docklands people have to pay high prices for parking on weekends or have limited times even though few shops are open. It turns people away.
The tram bridge and the freight bridge proposed to run along the Bolte Bridge should never be allowed to be built. There is a genuine need to span the river but it should be done with tunnels. If the Bolte Bridge had been built higher, Victoria Harbour could have had a cruise terminal like Circular Quay in Sydney. That would really activate Docklands.
Unfortunately, the bridge is too low for that now but as a result of COVID, there may be a trend in the future for smaller cruise ships of a size that can fit under the Bridge. Closing off that stretch of water by building a low bridge for freight trains would literally turn Victoria Harbour into a backwater. Even sailing boats couldn’t visit. It can’t be allowed to happen. As for the tram crossing: Charles Grimes Bridge might be able to be re-engineered to take trams. Alternately a lifting or swing bridge could be built in the position already allocated but a tunnel would be better. All of these things have been done in cities abroad.
The pedestrian bridge between Spencer St and Marvel Stadium on the northern side of Southern Cross Station could be made into a far more welcoming thoroughfare with new paving and landscaping. The striped two-tone bitumen might look interesting when viewed from above but at pedestrian level it looks dated and very unwelcoming. A good example of what can be done is the private gardens at the base of the Medicare office building adjacent to the footbridge. If these gardens were continued all along the pedestrian bridge, the bridge, like the Highline in New York City, could become a destination in itself and a perfect way to entice people to explore deeper into Docklands.
On a map, Docklands looks like it must be the best area in Melbourne. It’s the centre of the metropolis but it’s on the edge of a harbour that leads to the sea. The building stock is shiny and new and the streets have been well planned with underground power. It has such potential but things need to be done to realise that potential and they need to be done now. Not in five or 10 years’ time. We’ve waited long enough already.
We need alfresco dining!
We need to activate alfresco dining along the harbour (piggyback Melbourne’s CBD which will use laneways for COVID-safe dining). But we have a phenomenal harbour … I know which I would prefer!
The Docklands Chamber of Commerce needs to engage with the City of Melbourne to get the correct licensing to use the existing NewQuay Promenade for dining. It must be right on the harbour.
One row of tables (similar to the picture above), should be placed right on the water to guarantee waterfront views (plus we have the length to offer many patrons this experience), with tablecloths that are the same regardless of restaurant to create a unified look along the waterfront. Portable gas heaters and umbrellas optional. Bring European alfresco dining to Docklands!
Implement QR ordering and payment from your table (like what Cargo and Berth were doing prior to the latest lockdown, it worked really well). You simply take a seat and order what you like from that restaurant for food and beverage with table service. It could be Renzos, BHOJ, Solitaire, Stakehouse, etc). This will work along Victoria Harbour Promenade too (Squires Loft, etc).
We don’t have time to wait for lightshow/laser activation, that will come in and will assist with visitation during the winter months. From November 5 we will be welcoming back dining, particularly outdoors, so we have enough time to arrange this. Clean up the promenade (pressure wash and scrub) so it presents nicely. There is no better place than right on the water between 5pm and 10pm when daylight saving kicks off.
Yes, weather dependent, but we will have a run of good weather over the coming months. This is a tourist attraction and like the places below, they have a peak season of trading which is summer. Cost effective, quick to activate, and we have the F&B operators who desperately need to hit the ground running when dining is allowed.
EUROPEAN DINING @ DOCKLANDS! We can do this and show Melbourne what alfresco dining is all about … just imagine.
Activating our waterways
It was interesting to read your article “Docklands: We need a plan” in the October ‘21 issue and read what the thoughts are around the lack of activity by Development Victoria.
You are right in that the main subjects about Central Pier and Harbour Esplanade are points that should have been corrected and/or activated long ago. There seems to be very little if any interest by the governing bodies. When we came here into Docklands, the southwestern part of Central Pier was used heavily as car parking, which was quite handy for some of the visitors coming here. Now it is sometimes used quite easily for large numbers of seagulls.
This is the most horrible spot in Victoria Harbour. Central Pier by now should have been corrected and opened up long ago as well.
My next subject needs to be the use of the waterways into and out of Victoria Harbour. I attended a meeting some months ago led by Jackie Watts about Victoria Harbour and
the usage of the waterways. I was able to let them know my thoughts about the ferry service. Some time ago I worked in Sydney and I was, and still am, impressed how Sydneysiders are able to use their ferry service. I told the meeting that I have been watching how many people arrive here coming out of Geelong and Portarlington early in the morning.
The Portarlington ferry carries about 60 to 90 people depending on the days. Whereas the Geelong ferry gets here with about 10 to 20.
My suggestion was to somehow get those small numbers over to Portarlington and rename
one of the boats with the name “Mornington” and let the ship come here from the other side of Port Philip Bay. The ferry could run from Mornington via Frankston, Sandringham and/or St Kilda and into Victoria Harbour. Okay the ferries are privately-owned so you would need to talk to the fellow. But I look at the road traffic up into Melbourne out of that Peninsula, it is huge in the morning and the same on the way back home in the evening. A large number of people could and would use that kind of transport. This would even help with current discussions of climate change.
The railway crossing over the Yarra River will need to be discussed a lot if we want to keep Victoria Harbour an interesting place for visitors to come to in the future.
Karl Berberich •