By Niall Cunningham, Group Head, Precincts at Development Victoria
As one of Australia’s largest urban renewal and regeneration projects, Docklands stacks up against major renewal projects across the country – and indeed the world.
It’s easy to forget that not so long-ago Docklands was an ‘industrial wasteland’ of disused industrial warehouses and dock areas, home to Melbourne’s illegal, if somewhat burgeoning, rave scene.
Fast forward just three decades and Docklands has become a thriving employment precinct, a sports and leisure destination and a place thousands of Melburnians are proud to call home.
To achieve a change on the scale of Docklands requires the will and support of many, as well as a pragmatic view on how long change of this scale will take.
In the late 90’s Government kickstarted development in Docklands, investing in infrastructure to attract the private sector, as well as support residents and workers.
Over the next 30 years, more than $15 billion of private investment has contributed to the revitalisation of the Docklands precinct bringing homes, hotels, corporate businesses and entertainment venues such as Marvel Stadium.
And the numbers continue to stack up - today Docklands has more than 17,000 residents, over 73,000 workers, attracts millions of visitors to the precinct every year and is home to some of Australia’s largest companies including ANZ, Medibank Private, Myer and NAB.
There are more than 10,000 apartments completed or under construction and visitors have the choice of 1600 hotel rooms and serviced apartments.
These numbers easily show the benefits to Victoria’s economy from the government investment and vision for the future, through to the private sector and the ongoing oversight by Development Victoria.
That once derelict, neglected wasteland now has a school, a library, a community hub, parks, playgrounds and sports courts.
Importantly, it also has a sense of community and a sense of place within the broader Melbourne context.
And, while it’s true to say that the COVID pandemic was not kind to Docklands and its appeal as a destination was certainly challenged, the opportunities the precinct brings for continued regeneration and activation are significant. We need to make the most of those opportunities and should not, as a collective, lose our passion for this unique part of Melbourne’s history and future.
At Development Victoria, our immediate and long-term focus in Docklands is to continue to work with the community and others to progress the revitalisation of Central Pier and the adjoining waterfront.
In late 2022, we asked community what they thought was important in the future and almost 300 people provided their views through online and in-person workshops, as well as an online survey.
What was clear is that the shared long-term vision is for Harbour Esplanade and Central Pier to become a world class waterfront destination that reconnects the city to its harbour, attracting people from all over to experience and enjoy Docklands.
People consistently told us that we should create something “uniquely Docklands” and ensure we recognise the area’s potential as a cultural heart for Melbourne.
People also told us there was also the need to create a vibrant destination that embraces the water, a welcoming space, somewhere that is easy to get to and move around, a showcase of environmental sustainability and the rich history of the waterfront and the Pier.
The role of First Nation’s people, (as represented by the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation) is critical through the revitalisation. We will celebrate the heritage of rich Indigenous culture that prevailed for tens of thousands of years in the place now referred to as Docklands.
From here, we will release a Place Principles and Vision Strategy in coming months which will reflect the feedback from community and the input from experts in tourism, heritage, place making, sustainability and design. This strategy will guide us through the redevelopment to create a special place we can all celebrate, visit and enjoy.
It will not, by any means, be the last word for Central Pier and the waterfront. We will continue to talk to community and gather views as we work through options, design and delivery.
Docklands is ultimately a project for people, with the revitalisation of Central Pier and the waterfront the next important step in bringing this place to life for generations to come. I challenge any critic to have a good look the numbers, the people, the environment and see how far we’ve come and how far we can continue to go as we create something truly special for Victoria.
Read the Central Pier Engagement Summary.
Updated on 25 September 2023