With Melbourne’s population continuing to grow at breakneck speed, many have voiced concerns regarding the city’s capacity to house all of the new residents flocking to Victoria’s capital.
It has been suggested that higher density living, not unlike that which is already common in Europe and America, will soon become the norm as more and more people opt to live in inner city areas where there is already a prevalence of essential infrastructure and employment opportunities.
Even though there has been a lot of press recently about an oversupply of apartment stock in Melbourne’s CBD, the Victorian state government has announced plans to re-zone around 200 hectares of land near the West Gate Bridge to provide residential housing for tens of thousands of people.
Currently consisting of vacant lots and factories, the light industrial area around Fisherman’s Bend the land is twice the size of the Docklands precinct. It has been earmarked by the Baillieu government as a 20 to 30 year project to be undertaken by the new Urban Renewal Authority that Planning Minister Matthew Guy plans to establish.
Guy says, “The Kennett government had a vision for Docklands, the Cain government saw [a vision for] Southbank – and now the Baillieu government has a vision for Fishermans Bend. It’s a big challenge and it will be a big legacy, but it’s one I think we have to get right now.”
The intention is to create an unprecedented suburb of high density housing never before seen in Australia that will evolve as, “Australia’s first inner-city growth corridor,” according to Guy.
“This is a revolutionary concept,” he says. “In the past governments have only viewed growth corridors through the prism of outer urban growth.
“The Baillieu government sees the opportunity to strategically place Melbourne as being the first city to have an inner-city growth corridor and that [Fishermans Bend] is an area with a large enough parcel of land to do that.”
Docklands developer VicUrban will be involved in the project, which will have a greater focus on providing affordable housing rather than creating commercial precincts mixed with residential accommodation.
Guy says development plans and the style of the precinct will be finalised in the next four years, with incentives offered to encourage residential development in the new suburb.
According to chief executive of the Property Council of Victoria Jennifer Cunich, 200 hectares of land could accommodate as many as 10,000 to 15,000 new dwellings, depending on the density of homes.
The government expects the development to take up to three decades to complete and would be, “a suburb that is a genuine growth area for Melbourne which can offer people a higher-density style of accommodation closer to the city that is different to an outer urban growth market, but one which might have a broader spectrum of people living there.”
Strategically, the biggest issues faced by the government planning authority will be the relocation of existing industrial businesses in the area – including the second largest Boeing factory in the world – and decontamination of the site, as well as providing adequate public transport infrastructure to service the thousands of new residents.
While the government is right in wanting to create much needed housing for our growing population, my concern is that their focus could be somewhat misplaced. The bottom line is, while more Australians are embracing the urban lifestyle offered by inner city living, many do not want to live in the very heart of the CBD.
We are a long way from the likes of London, Paris and Tokyo and whether or not we can become as city-centric as residents of these large cities is yet to be seen.
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