Saturday, December 24, 2011

The King of Christmas Tree

You can find the largest Christmas tree in Altona at the corner of Pier Street and the Esplanade, marking the entrance to Logan Reserve and near the playground. If you are not observant enough, you may not realize that it is a Christmas tree. But when darkness comes, it comes alive with all the lights turned on and sparkles like a jewel in this night garden.

Logan Reserve Christmas Tree 01

Not to be mistaken, this Christmas tree is well living and breathing! My wife is adamant that it is not a Norfolk Island Pine that adorns the long coast of Altona. She believes that it is an "actual" Christmas tree - the same tree species that is used for Christmas decorations. However, I found out from Wikipedia that Norfolk Island Pines are also used as Christmas trees. The most common tree used for Christmas trees in Australia is Pinus radiata, also known as the Monterey Pine.

Logan Reserve Christmas Tree 02

There is a 56-hectare farm at Moorooduc in the Mornington Peninsula called the Christmas Tree Farm, which sells Christmas trees direct to the consumers. Many families treat the visit as a day outing. The farm has Christmas-themed buildings, decorations and entertainment, including Santa and sausage sizzle during the weekend. The owner Craig McClellan said: "We used to do tractor rides for the kids but then the fun police put a stop to that." (Ref)

I will like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Altona Coastal Scenic Drive

Whenever the weather is good and we have the time, we will drive along the Esplanade in Altona just purely for the sake of enjoying the coastal scenery. We can afford to do this because the sea is just 2 minutes drive away from our house. I would not imagine anyone living further away to be doing this on a frequent basis.

We will usually drive along Maidstone Street to its southern end, then east towards Pier Street. The coast is hugged with the majestic Norfolk Island Pines and you can see the curve of the Altona Bay as your vehicle traces its contours. On a clear, windy day, you can see the sky above the sea dotted with dozens of colourful kites as Altona is a favorite haunt with kite skiing lovers. Depending on the weather conditions and air quality, the sky can be crispy blue forming a picture-perfect composition with an azure body of seawater. The sea can be calm or torrential, with waves lashing at the coast. Or it can recede far out, leaving behind an expanse of exposed seabed during low tides. You can often see seagulls swirling above the sea or black swans frolicking in the water. If you are not that fascinated by nature, you can focus your attention on the other side of the road - at the multi-million dollars mansions sprouting up along the Esplanade. I had once told my wife that the facades of these mansions are predominantly glass, many without curtains. When night falls, you can clearly see the furniture inside some of these homes, apparently a design flaw in the selection of the glass material.



The speed limit on the Esplanade is only 50 km/h, which I greatly appreciate because I can drive leisurely enjoying the coastal scenery without feeling pressured to drive fast. I have tried driving along the coastal roads in the eastern bayside suburbs and this is not a wonderful experience. My adrenalin levels are always kept high. If my car is a bit slow (e.g. trying to look for street names, parking or landmarks), I will get honked from behind. People always seem to be in a hurry to get to somewhere else. I can understand why this is so. Altona is unique in that it has no throughput traffic. This is not so in the eastern bayside suburbs where these coastal roads serve as major thoroughfares and traffic conduits and not intended for leisurely driving.

When my wife was learning how to drive, she is not confident enough to drive on Civic Parade, the main arterial street through Altona as its speed limit is 60 km/h. Instead, she chose to drive from Maidstone Street to the sea, then through the Esplanade all the way east to Altona Sports Club and to return on the same route.

I hope the speed limit on the Esplanade will always be kept at 50 km/h as I really enjoy this scenic driving route. There are bumps near Pier Street which will further slow down cars to 40 km/h. Just like the Yarra Scenic Route (through Newport and Williamstown) and other scenic driving routes in Melbourne, I think it may be a good idea to promote this coastal drive in Altona as a tourism attraction so that more people will be aware of such a superb drive.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Code One

The Victorian Police Rock Band Code One performs regularly in Hobsons Bay venues. The following 2 videos were taken on 20th December 2011 at Logan Reserve, Altona.

The band aims to reinforce safety messages to the community and project positive image of the Victorian police. It plays pop music from early 50s through to the current top charters.

There are 5 members:
  • Brian Carbery - lead vocal, with Victoria Police since 1972.
  • Lorena Novova - lead vocal, from Argentina.
  • Richard Bennett - drummer, from New Zealand, previously a teacher.
  • Simon Deppeler - guitarist, previously a teacher.
  • Rick Varlet - guitarist, with a Mauritian heritage.

Video 1



Video 2



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Claus Lane

See also:

I wrote this post about the Christmas festive mood in Altona Meadows last year. The photos and videos were taken with my 10 years old Canon camera, which do not turn out as good as I would have desired. There was a JB Hifi sales on digital SLRs a few months ago so I upgraded my camera to a Nikon D7000. Armed with my new camera, I decided to pay an annual pilgrimage to this mesmerizing street in Altona Meadows.

The most spectacular lighting goes indisputably to 30 Markham Way. You can read the story of Percy Smith in my previous post. With this new camera, I can produce much higher-quality and longer-duration video.



The photos are also of much higher resolution.

Markham Way Christmas A

The host welcomes visitors to explore his beautifully-decorated verandah.

Verandah 05

My wife told me that people have to wait in a long queue to see animated Christmas window displays outside the Bourke Street Myers store in the City, which are similar to what you can see here (but minus the crowd).

Window Display 02Window Display 03

She had told her friend living in Burnside Heights about this street, who subsequently paid a visit with her family. They are all very impressed. I will greatly appreciate if you can share any knowledge of beautiful Christmas lightings.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hobsons Bay Endoscopy and Day Surgery Centre

I was having abdominal pains during the last 3 weeks and went to see Dr. S.K. Chan in Altona (Blyth St) who is our family doctor. She is a Malaysian Chinese and can speak English and Cantonese, but not Mandarin although her father can. Her father has run this Altona clinic for 30 years. Our family finds her very good. She has limited the number of patients she is seeing, presumably so that she can provide better attention for each patient.

I was prescribed antibiotics and took a CT scan which shows infection of the left colon. The pain went away with the antibiotics but recurred. Dr. Chan advised me to take a colonoscopy to ascertain whether there are any underlying problems causing the infection and to confirm the Irritable Bowel Syndrome that I had been diagnosed in Singapore a long time ago.

A colonoscopy was booked for me today at the Hobsons Bay Endoscopy and Day Surgery Centre located at the corner of Queen St and Sargood St. This centre, together with Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre and Doveritch Pathology, occupy the building vacated by the former Altona Community Hospital. It does colonoscopy and gastroscopy.

I was put to sleep under general anaesthetic and the procedure took about 20 minutes. I learnt that the centre sees many patients each day and there are 2 other locations in Hoppers Crossing and Sydenham. The doctors and nurses are very friendly. I told the nurse that I would go for a lunch at Sapa Hill Restaurant in Footscray as I am famished due to the fasting required for this procedure. I was led to a resting room and was given coffee and biscuits while waiting for my wife to fetch me and for a debrief from the doctor.

I am glad that this service is so conveniently located in Altona and I do not need to go far away.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Carols by Candelight

Carols by Candlelight is an Australian Christmas tradition in which people gather, usually outdoor in a park, to sing carols by candlelight, accompanied by a band. It originated in the 19th century in Moonta, South Australia, where Cornish Miners would gather on Christmas Eve to sing carols lit with candles stuck to the brims of their safety hats.

The tradition spread through Victoria and Melbourne until it was popularised in 1938 by Norman Banks, a radio announcer then with Melbourne radio station 3KZ. Whilst walking home from his night-time radio shift on Christmas Eve in 1937, he passed a window and saw inside an elderly woman sitting up in bed, listening to Away in a Manger being played on the radio and singing along, with her face being lit by candlelight. Wondering how many others spent Christmas alone, he had the idea to gather a large group of people to sing Christmas carols together by candlelight. The first such event, held in Alexandra Gardens the following Christmas in 1938, was attended by around 10,000 people.

Following World War II, the event became so well patronised that it was decided to move it to the neighbouring park in King's Domain. In 1959, the newly-constructed Sidney Myer Music Bowl provided a permanent venue, where they are still held to this day. Funds raised from donations, ticket, and candle sales go to Vision Australia.

The City of Hobsons Bay also celebrate Christmas by having Carols by Candelight at various locations throughout the municipality. One such event took place at Logan Reserve, Altona on Sunday 11th December starting at 8 p.m.

It was very cold that night and we were late but managed to listen to the last few carols. This event was organized by the Altona/Laverton Council of Churches. The proceeds from the sale of electric candlelights go to the Christmas Bowl Appeal and local charities.

O Holy Night sung by Laura Zammit



Do you hear what I hear sung by by John Connors




Here are details of the Christmas worship at the various churches reproduced from the brochure.

Christmas Eve    Christmas Day Other Dates
St Eanswythe's
Anglican Church

7 Bent St
11.00 pm Carols
11.30 pm Sung Eucharist
7.45 am
Holy Communion
Sun 18th 7 pm
Nine lessons & Carols

Wed 21st 6.30 pm
Children's Service
St Clement's
Anglican Church

Central Ave,
Altona Meadows
9.30 am
Holy Communion
Fri 23rd 5.30 pm
Children's Service
Altona Trinity
Uniting Church

7 Seves St
9.00 pm 9.30 am
Salvation Army
Corner Queen &
Bent Streets
9.30 am
Family Service
St Mary's
Catholic Church

97 Railway North St
6.40 pm Carols
7.00 pm Nativity Play
7.30 pm Mass
9.00 pm Carols
9.30 pm Mass
9.00 am Mass


Friday, December 16, 2011

New Melbourne Suburbs

The Committee for Melbourne has projected Melbourne's population will double to 8 million by 2060 (Ref 1, 2). Currently, Melbourne receives more than 1500 new residents each week. If Melbourne sustains its 2001-10 growth rate, it would overtake Sydney as the largest Australian city in 2028, when each city would have around 5.6 million people (Ref 3). The population boom is placing enormous strain on the infrastructure and services, such as roads, public transport, housing supply, schools and hospitals.

To accommodate the population increase, the following strategies have been adopted/suggested:
  1. Expand the urban growth boundary into greenfield sites - green wedges, agricultural and rural conservation land. 43,600 hectares of green wedge land, described as the lungs of Melbourne, are at risk of being cleared. Spanning 150 km east to west, Melbourne suffers from urban sprawl with emerging fringe estates lacking services, including public transport and located too far away from centres of employment (Ref 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).
  2. Public open space (local parks, gardens, public golf courses) making way for residences. The Metropolitan Melbourne Investigation report recorded 22,360 hectares of public open space inside Melbourne's urban boundary across 29 councils. However, community responses indicated a strong feeling that open space is essential to the liveability of Melbourne (Ref 11).
  3. High-density, high-rise residences, smaller land lots (Ref 11a). A recent survey of 706 people across Melbourne and Sydney shows most people want to live in a large detached house (Ref 12). Hence, the Melbourne suburban dream of owning a quarter-acre block with backyard garden is still pretty much alive (Ref 13, 14).
  4. Infill developments in established suburbs which could be greyfield precincts - ageing, rundown, obsolescent, underutilized residential areas in need of regeneration (Ref 15, 16). Urban infill can be encouraged through legislated incentive policies (e.g. reducing government charges) and accelerated planning approval. Obstacles include community opposition (Not In My Back Yard syndrome), high demolition, construction and holding costs, planning restrictions, preserving local character and measures to ameliorate interruptions to surrounding services (Ref 17, 18, 19, 19a). A study of the City of Monash revealed the majority of its infill developments are small-scaled, opportunistic rather than strategic, dispersed, not concentrated around activity centres and focus on large lots with old dwellings (Ref 20, 21).  
  5. Brownfield sites refer to abandoned, derelict, underused or outdated industrial and commercial sites available for reuse. Challenge Melbourne, the discussion paper to kickstart the Melbourne 2030 process, estimated brownfield sites could contribute 65,000 dwellings over the period 2001 to 2030. The decontamination and remedial costs as well as potential environmental risks and associated liabilities pose the greatest deterrent to their redevelopments. Their redevelopment potential may also be limited by unattractive locations and costs of servicing (Ref 22, 23, 24, 25)
  6. Encouraging people to live in regional centres (Ref 26), spreading out the population (Ref 26a) and improving the transport links between these centres and Melbourne. The success of this strategy is contingent on the availability of good, suitable employment opportunities, infrastructure and services in the regional centres. I believe the majority of overseas/interstate migrants still prefer to live in capital cities. However, a much faster, reliable, frequent and cheaper rail connecting Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo to Melbourne would attract many people to these regional cities.
  7. Contain population growth through reducing migrant levels (Ref 27). There are 2 camps in the big vs small Australia population debate. One camp argues the continued prosperity of  Australia hinges on migrants to meet skill shortages due to an aging workforce (Ref 28, 29). In fact, a Treasury briefing to PM Julia Gillard warns that strong future immigration is probably unavoidable. The briefing says: "Strong population growth is not necessarily unsustainable. It need not adversely affect the environment, the liveability of cities, infrastructure and service delivery, provided the right plans and policies are put in place now in anticipation of it.'' (Ref 30, 31) The other camp disputes the importance of migration to the economy, saying that an increase in productivity and participation rate can resolve the problems of skill shortages (Ref 32, 33).

En-bloc development, which is the collective selling by different property owners from the same estate or area to a developer, is very popular in Singapore but not in Melbourne. Its economic viability is dependent on a massive increase in unit density, brought about by demolishing older and smaller dwellings or by an upward governmental revision of the plot ratio for the precinct.


As you can see, there is no single perfect solution as each strategy has its own problems and difficulties. As such, a variety of approaches was employed across a range of planned or proposed new suburbs and large-scale residential projects that had been reported in the newspapers and which I have summarized in the table below. You can read the detailed descriptions for each project later in the post.

Project (Location) New Suburb? Distance from CBD Land Area
(Ha)
No. of Dwellings
(People)
Value/Devt Timeframe
Fishermans Bend
(Port Melbourne)
4 mini suburbs Expanded CBD 240 24-30,000
(50,000)
30 yr
E-Gate
(West Melbourne)
Y 2km W 20-25  6–9,000
(12,000)
$6 billion
over 12-18 yr
Richmond Train Station N
Toolern
(S & SE of Melton)
Y 35km NW  2,200 24000
(60,000)
Truganina South Y 19km SW 250 2500
(7000)
Greenvale North & South Y 20km N 363 1570
(6000)
Maribyrnong Defence Site Y 10km NW 128 3000 >$1 billion
over 10-15 yr
Caulfield Village
(Caulfield Racecourse)
N 7km SE  5 1200 $1 billion
over 7-10 yr
Moonee Valley Racecourse ? 6km NW 8.1 3000 (6000) $1.4 billion
over 16-20yr
Yarraville Gardens Est
(Bradmill Precinct)
Y? 8km W  26 1000 $1 billion
over 10yr
Nelson Place Village
(Williamstown Woollen Mills)
N 8km SW  2.7 >400 $200+ million
3yr (2015-8)
Alphington Paper Mill N 7km NE 16.5 2000 $1 billion
Lockerbie
(Kalkallo)
Y 35km N 1,121 11500
(30,000)
$4 billion
over 30 yr
Taylors Hill West Y 23km NW 220 2300
(6500)
Melton North Y 100 1300
(4000)
Highett CSIRO Site
(betw Highett & Bay Rd)
N 16km SE  9.4 280?
Kew VicRoads Site
(60 Denmak St)
N 6.5km E 2.5
Abbotsford Honeywell Site (677-679 Victoria Street, Abbotsford) N 3.5km E 586 $150 million
The Place Camberwell
(Camberwell Train Station)
N 13km E  118 $100 million+

The Precinct Structure Plans for various new developments (at completed, planning amendment and pre-planning stage) can be viewed here while a PSP Status Map can be viewed here.



I am particularly excited by the Fishermans Bend and E-gate projects, which are similar to the type of large-scale projects popular in Singapore.


Fishermans Bend

Fishermans Bend is a locality within Port Melbourne on the south bank of the Yarra River, primarily a 7 km2 industrial estate at the foot of the Westgate Bridge.

In February 2011, the Baillieu government announced the redevelopment of Fishermans Bend into a new high-density inner suburb over 20-30 years and the establishment of the Urban Renewal Authority in the next 4 months to oversee the development. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said, ''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.'' Mr Guy said Fishermans Bend would evolve as Australia's first inner-city growth corridor, exceeding the nearby Docklands development in size and scope and would focus on more affordable housing (Ref 34, 35, 36).

The pluses include:
  • the opportunity to spur Melbourne's growth through large-scale urban renewal and creation of an inner city growth corridor.
  • phasing out of industries to maximize use of prime land close to the City and beach and to beautify the City.
  • urban design facilitated by presence of large lots.
  • less potential for conflict due to small residential population (Ref 37).
  • may alleviate the pressure on fringe developments.
  • the potential to have urban planning starting on a clean piece of paper, yet learn from the experience and lessons of developing Southbank and Dockland.

The difficulties and challenges include:
  • costs of land decontamination.
  • relocation of the industries (Fishermans Bend is an important industrial hub, home to head offices of leading manufacturers and nationally-important clusters in defence, aviation and aerospace. For example, it sites the second largest Boeing factory in the world).
  • providing access, including public transport, to an eventual 50-60,000 people located in what is now a dead-end precinct, poorly connected to the City (Ref 38, 42a, 42b)
  • this may affect the operations of the Port of Melbourne, with more traffic added to the truck-clogged roads and the traffic noise levels too high for a neighbourhood (Ref 39).
  • challenge of providing affordable housing due to its prime location and the need to finance massive redevelopment costs, meaning average income earners will be priced out of this suburb (Ref 37, 40).
  • avoiding the mistakes of Docklands development, such as its lack of community infrastructure, open space, trees, residential variety and "soul" (Ref 41, 42).
  • this project will not provide enough housing to obviate the need for further fringe development (Ref 37).

In June 2012, Mr. Guy expanded the CBD boundary to include Fishermans Bend by rezoning this development site to capital city zone (Ref 42a, 42b, 42c, 42d, 42e, 42f). The 4 new mini-suburbs of Wirraway, Sandridge, Montague and Lorimer would include high-rise apartments, townhouses, offices, parks and galleries. They are located in Port Melbourne and South Melbourne and not near the General Motors Fishermans Bend facility on the banks of the Yarra River (Ref 43, 42a). The western end of the precinct will be named Wirraway in honour of the 700 Wirraway planes made by the former Commonwealth Aircraft Factory during WWII for the war against Japan.

The following public transport options (Ref 44, 42c) were mooted:
  • Tram bridge across the Yarra, linking Fishermans Bend with the Collins St extension in Docklands.
  • Connections to existing tram lines in Port Melbourne and South Melbourne.
  • A light rail loop of Fishermans Bend using the disused Webb Dock rail line.
  • Smart bus services linking the area to Southbank and stations such as Footscray, South Yarra and Richmond.
  • Integrated transport linking Fishermans Bend with Docklands and the planned E-Gate urban renewal site in North Melbourne.
  • A Myki-integrated water ferry system.



E-Gate

This 20-hectare site in West Melbourne is located at Gate E of the Melbourne Rail Yard, north of Footscray Road and south of North Melbourne Station. It is owned by VicTrack, the government body that owns the state's rail assets and leased to Bluescope Steel until 2014 mainly for logistics and transport-related purposes. A redevelopment masterplan was initiated during 2008-9, after VicTrack appointed Major Projects Victoria in early 2007 as the project manager  to identify the site's development opportunity. Major Projects Minister Denis Napthine said work could begin on the E-Gate project as early as 2014, preceding the Fishermans Bend development.

Commissioned by Major Projects Victoria and drawn up by the consultant AECOM, the proposed plan features the following:
  • Carbon-neutral suburb with open spaces at its heart. 
  • Footscray Road would become a boulevard, in the style of St Kilda Road, Royal Parade and Victoria Parade.
  • A new tram line along Footscray Road.
  • A mix of housing styles, ranging from upmarket apartments to low-rise that suited families and a balance of affordable housing.
  • A suburb layout inspired by the Hoddle Grid.
  • Lack of large roads and street parking aims to limit car use. 
  • Pedestrian-friendly.
  • Would take advantage of proximity to Moonee Ponds Creek.
  • Possible to extend E-Gate even further north over rail stables.

This proposal is much less revolutionary in innovative thinking compared to ideas unveiled in 2009 by the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL), a university-based thinktank funded by the Government. The VEIL's vision is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable eco-suburb of the future having the following characteristics:
  • 80% reduction in carbon emissions.
  • No cars with the site made for walking and cycling.
  • Free, small, electric vehicles that can be picked up by any resident and roamed around on the site.
  • Cars available on the suburb's fringe for residents to book.
  • Medium-density suburb with buildings of up to 8 storeys.
  • Centralised heating and cooling system.
  • The site would also treat all its own sewage and use some of the resultant methane for power production. Urban wind towers and solar panels to produce electricity.
  • Ability to produce food, with mini urban-farms spread across the development and a multi-storey farm - a carpark with lots of glazing to let the light in and then growing instead of parking cars.

I am actually more excited by the VEIL's vision as the eco-suburb would probably be the first of its kind in the world. The experience gained from this unparalleled venture may lead to Melbourne gaining an edge in innovating, implementing and exporting new green technology and urban design. What should we call this new suburb? New York has a Ground Zero, maybe Carbon Zero will be a good name?

Ref: 45, 46, 47, 48


Richmond Train Station Redevelopment

Along with the Fishermans Bend and E-Gate projects, the redevelopment of Richmond Train Station will serve as a flagship project under the Baillieu government's move towards inner city developments. Preliminary plans reveal a 20-storey residential and office building and a walkway linking the station to the MCG. Mr. Guy said the station was run down and ripe for regeneration and would be good for both football fans and locals fed up with the difficulty of crossing Punt Rd and Brunton Ave.

In 2009, professional services firm GHD had proposed developing a 19-storey emission-free office building, dubbed the Zero Building, above Richmond Train Station. This building can generate all its own energy through massive solar panels and wind turbines on its roof. GHD estimated it would cost about $165 million to develop the building.

Ref: 49, 50, 51, 52


Toolern

This new suburb (located south and southeast of Melton) was approved by the State Government in October 2010. It will be Melbourne's largest suburb, of around 2,200 hectares, with more than 24,000 dwellings for 60,000 people by 2030. The plan includes a major activity centre, rail station and regional employment precinct.

The development comprises 3 major components, in which Melton Shire Council partners with:
  • Delfin Lend Lease to develop more than 4,500 housing units for about 14,000 people on 381 hectares of council-owned land south of the Melbourne/Ballarat railway line.
  • Harness Racing Victoria and Ecnam Properties in what is known as the Pegasus Project, focusing primarily on the land north of the Melbourne/Ballarat railway line.
  • Parks Victoria to create the 130-hectare Toolern Regional Park in Melton South, which extends from Bridge Road to Greigs Road.
Ref: 53, 54


Maribyrnong Defence Site Redevelopment

On 9 April 2009, the State Government announced the decision to develop the former 128-hectare defence site at Maribyrnong for about 2000-3000 dwellings and significant office developments, employing up to 2000-3000 workers. This site is bounded to the north, east and west by Maribyrnong River and to the south by Cordite Ave and Raleigh Rd, which also provides road and tram access. The site has been used as an explosives and propellant manufacturing facility by the Federal Department of Defence but has been mostly vacant for 10 years.

VicUrban will purchase and develop the site once the Defence Department has cleaned up contamination associated with its former defence use. The remediation will take at least 3 years and construction is not expected to commence until 2014. VicUrban will work closely with the City of Maribyrnong and other agencies on the project.

This project presents opportunities to:
  • Increase housing supply, choice and affordability, with at least 20% affordable to low and moderate income households.
  • Re-integrate a site which has been isolated for more than a century.
  • Provide public access to 3km of frontage to Maribyrnong River and significant open space, completing the existing regional park network.
  • Restore and reuse significant heritage buildings on the site, incorporating many of the existing 400 buildings into the final design and layout.
  • Deliver a range of community facilities such as education, health and recreation.
  • Provide significant employment opportunities, creating about 7500 jobs.
  • Provide project partnering opportunities for the private sector.

There was a suggestion of extending the railway line to Flemington Racecourse 3 km to this new suburb and Highpoint Shopping Centre and even further to East Keilor.

Ref: 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61


Caulfield Village

Melbourne's racecourses are turning to residential developments to shore up their financial viability. Since 2007, Melbourne Racing Club has been contemplating developing a 5-hectare carpark north of Caulfield Racecourse, near the Caulfield Railway Station. Approval of this $1 billion development called Caulfield Village was announced by Mr. Guy on 28 Jun 2011.

Comprising of 3 precincts (residential, mixed use and Smith Street precinct), the development will provide for 1,200 residential units including a 55+ lifestyle village, over 15,000m2 of retail space including a supermarket, speciality shops, cafes and restaurants, a 100-bed short-term accommodation offering, 20,000m2 of commercial/office space and 2,000 car parking spaces. Buildings range from 2 to 20 storeys. A feature is a village-styled street called "The Boulevard" within the retail precinct, with safe pedestrian access, cycling lanes and wide open footpaths.

The centre of Caulfield Racecourse will be transformed into a $1.8 million publicly-accessible park with a lake ringed by a boardwalk, fishing spots, picnic areas, a children's play area, an off-leash dog area, walking and jogging paths and a junior soccer pitch.

The project will generate about 3,000 jobs during the 7-10 years construction and 2,000 ongoing jobs upon completion.

Local residents have fought the development plan since it was first mooted, raising concerns about car parking, congestion and a lack of infrastructure to cope with so many new residents.

Ref: 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67


Moonee Valley Racecourse Redevelopment

First announced in 2009, the Moonee Valley Racing Club (MVRC) has since expanded the proposed development of its racecourse to provide 3000 apartments and townhouses for 6000 residents (a 52% increase in local population) over 15-20 years. This will result in 13,000 extra vehicle movements per day and up to 1500 extra public transport passengers during peak hour, which is sufficient for one extra train service. The developments range from generally 2-3 storeys at the street edge up to 25 storeys within the central parts of the site. Costing $1.4 billion, MVRC would receive $300 million.

Central to the plan is a realignment of the track 50 m eastwards towards Citylink freeway and extending the home straight from 173 m to 350 m. The existing grandstand and facilities on the western side will be demolished to make way for the apartments and community space. A new south-facing, 120 m long, 4-tiers grandstand will be built to the site's northern boundary.

The plan also features the following:
  • A multi-purpose community centre with a kindergarten, early learning centre and maternal child health services
  • A new 3000 m2 neighbourhood park fronting McPherson St.
  • Improved streetscapes to McPherson, Dean, Thomas and Wilson streets.
  • The new track will have its width increased from 24 m to 32 m, allowing MVRC to stage up to 40 race meetings a year and position itself as a key night racing venue alongside Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore.
  • Dwellings at an affordable price, presenting an alternative for first home buyers.

Local residents, including the local MP and ex-Planning Minister Justin Madden, have formed a Save Moonee Ponds group opposing the plan. They feel that the proposed development is a ''severe case of overdevelopment'' and would stretch infrastructure beyond breaking point, add to traffic congestion and not fit within the character of the neighbourhood.

Flemington Racecourse, with its own dedicated rail line, is also keen to unlock its abundant land for residential developments.

Ref: 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76.


Yarraville Gardens Estate/Bradmill Precinct

After a long delay with planning approvals due to state and local government bureaucracy, the De Lutis Group bid to convert its family-owned 26-hectares Bradmill industrial precinct - once home to Australia’s largest textile factory - into the Yarraville Gardens Estate and Shopping Centre was finally approved in April 2011 by Mr. Guy who said: "This site offers a huge new opportunity for inner city urban renewal.

About 1000 homes and associated retail and community infrastructure will be built on the site, bound by Francis St, McIvor Reserve, the West Gate Freeway and the Newport goods railway line, located only 8 km from Melbourne’s CBD. Housing will vary from 1-2 storey dwellings fronting Francis St to high-density 2-6 storey apartments within the central part of the site, possible aged care accommodation and will also include a social/affordable housing component. The precinct will be built over 10 years.

Some features of the precinct include:
  • A neighbourhood activity centre incorporating a supermarket, library, medical centre and specialty shops.
  • Retention of the iconic boiler house to accommodate commercial/recreation or cultural use.
  • Adaptive reuse of some existing heritage buildings, on the McIvor Reserve side of the site, for residential warehouse conversion and home offices. The Bradmill site also hosts the textile factory, a dyehouse and a conveyer.
  • A new fire station.
  • Pedestrian and bike linkages.
  • Water-sensitive and environmentally-sustainable design initiatives
  • Widening Francis St across the length of the land and include “garden islands” on the street.
  • Extending Roberts St to connect Francis St and The Avenue.
  • A new linear road to link to the McIvor Reserve.
  • Re-routing buses at the intersection of Roberts St, Francis St and the newly-created linear road.

As part of its approval, Maribyrnong City Council had encouraged the De Lutis Group to pursue opportunities to promote public transport to the precinct which has no direct public transport access.

The State Panel Report and Maribyrnong City Council estimated the redevelopment would reduce truck traffic on Francis St by 1500 vehicles a day (but replaced by 13,000 cars) with the relocation of the Chalmers and Maersk container depot sites and the creation of a new link between the West Gate Freeway and the Port of Melbourne via Hyde and Whitehall streets.

In a submission to Maribyrnong City Council, the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development said the development:
  • is too close to the Newport freight rail track, used by trains all night. This would expect to generate noise complaints from the 1000 new residents, thereby reducing the efficiency and effectiveness of the freight line.
  • would worsen traffic congestion of nearby roads e.g. adding about 13,000 cars to Francis St.
  • would reduce the amount of employment land and hence the number of jobs in an area where unemployment is already above average.
  • is inconsistent with government policy on transport and freight, including its $38 billion Victorian Transport Plan and the area should remain zoned industrial.

Other government departments have also raised concerns. The Environment Protection Authority says the planned development is in close proximity to the Brooklyn Industrial Estate that is the source of innumerable complaints on odour, dust and noise issues from existing Yarraville residents. It points to a major abattoir less than 1 km from the site and a compost plant within 2 km. The Port of Melbourne Corporation’s submission says the development will only exacerbate existing freight movement concerns within the western suburbs until alternative truck routes develop

There are mixed views from residents, with some fearing a flood of extra traffic while others think that the redevelopment is necessary to prevent the site becoming a container yard. De Lutis Group director Colin DeLutis said the development was “going to be the best thing that’s happened in Yarraville for decades”.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the long wait for approval was because the site was trapped between the West Gate Freeway and one of the busiest truck arterial roads. He said the former Labor Government would approve the rezoning only after finalizing the Truck Action Plan and investigating possible site contamination. Mr Guy said the government had factored in transport issues.

Western Metropolitan Liberal MP Bernie Finn said Roads Minister Terry Mulder had “taken an interest” in the problem but not necessarily the Truck Action Plan. Asked whether the problem would be addressed before people moved into Bradmill, which is not expected to be until after 2016, Mr Finn said: “I’m not sure whether I’d go that far”. Maribyrnong Mayor Sarah Carter said she could not say the congestion issue had been “conclusively addressed”. Maribyrnong Truck Action Plan spokesman Peter Knight said that without the West Gate on and off ramps, it would be “utter chaos”.

Ref: 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88


Williamstown Nelson Place Village

This is a contentious redevelopment of the former Port Phillip Woollen Mills site in Williamstown's naval precinct, a 2.7-hectare site that is bounded by Nelson Place, Kanowna St, Ann St and southeast sections extending to Cecil St. The developer Nelson Place Village Pty Ltd is one quarter owned by former Liberal Party heavyweight Ron Walker, who is also chairman of Fairfax Media, owner of The Age. The last proposed development consists of 412 dwellings, including 329 apartments, 84 townhouses and 4 towers that vary in height from 11.5-46.5m or 3-12 storeys. The latest maximum height may be 16 storeys based on what the developer Ashley Williams (Evolve Development) had told Hobsons Bay Weekly in this 30/11/2011 news coverage. There will be 667 car parking spaces according to the last plan that was removed from the developer's website but kept by the Save Williamstown lobby group.

The site was rezoned by the former Minister for Planning, Justin Madden, to Residential 1 in March 2010. He also appointed an independent advisory committee to recommend planning controls for the site. The recently-released committee's report suggests lower intensity commercial premises facing onto Kanowna Street and possibly parts of Nelson Place adjacent to the Titanic Theatre Restaurant. It also suggests these premises could include small retail, community, commercial or health-related facilities.

The current Planning Minister Matthew Guy recently rezoned the site from residential to mixed use but handed the site decision back to Hobsons Bay City Council. He said "The developer will now need to seek approval from the council and, by extension, the community".  He recommended a height limit of 8 storeys but stopped short of making the limit mandatory.

Hobsons Bay City Council and the Save Williamstown group expressed concerns about the lack of mandatory height restrictions. Williamstown ward councillor Angela Altair said: "Without a mandatory limit, developers will inevitably seek to go higher than the ‘indicative height. Not delivering clear mandatory height limits will only lead to uncertainty for the community, the developer and the council."  She said the developer had agreed to a contribution of $900 per dwelling to be used for the community facilities. The council claimed Mr Guy has waived this requirement, which would have amounted to more than $350,000.
The development has been strongly opposed by residents, including former premiers Joan Kirner and Steve Bracks. There are concerns that the size of the development will adversely affect local infrastructure, roads and destroy the special nature and character of Williamstown, the low-rise built forms along the Williamstown peninsula, the unique views from Point Gellibrand and the attractions that it has on residents, tourists and film makers.

Ref: 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96


Alphington Paper Mill

In February 2008, paper recycling giant Amcor announced it would close its orange-brick factory in Alphington which it runs for the last 90 years and move operations to Botany, New South Wales. It engaged Colliers International to put the property on the market. The sale was conducted through expressions of interest, with the mill continuing to operate on the site before commissioning of its new $400 million plant at Botany. The site is attractive to developers because it is only 7 km from the city, regarded as one of the last big development opportunities in the inner city and has a 300-metre frontage on to the Yarra. It was then expected to fetch $150 million.

In April 2009, the then Planning Minister Justin Madden bypassed Yarra Council to fast-track the site’s rezoning from industrial to mixed use to allow major housing development, offices and shops. Walker Corporation (owned by billionaire developer Lang Walker) announced in September 2009 that it was in exclusive negotiations to buy the site for building 2000 homes, a shopping centre and offices in a $1 billion development. Mr Walker is the same developer who is redeveloping the controversial Kew Cottages site across the river from the mill.

Once the sale is finalised, Walker Corporation will sell a small section of the site at Parkview Crescent to the State Government for building a junior campus for Alphington Primary School in return for fast-tracking the development. This move could appease critics of one of Melbourne's largest residential projects who are particularly concerned about the impact of development on the riverfront and its natural environment.

However, the negotiations broke down due to Walker Corporation's concern about the cost of cleaning up environmental contamination from almost a century of industrial use, including two massive underground fuel tanks that were drained decades ago. Walker remained interested in the site but his priority was development on land he owns at Docklands.

As recently as March 2011, Colliers International claimed that a sale was imminent: "We have had a number of high-profile local and international developers lining up to bid for the site. It could sell for as much as $200 million." But nothing came out of the supposed $200 million sale. Three years after the sales process began, the Amcor site remains on the market. 90 workers continue to work at the mill due to heavy rain delaying construction at Amcor’s new mill in Botany and pushing the Alphington mill’s closure to the first half of 2012.

The company that eventually purchases the site will have the rare opportunity to reshape a whole suburb and will also have a highly interested council and residents’ group to work with. Yarra Council has been vocal in its demands that the site be developed to follow principles of sustainable living and urban design, including affordable housing. The design should take into account the nearby Yarra River and keep the neighbourhood character. The Amcor Taskforce member Eve Williamson said it was vital for residents to maintain access to the river frontage and any developer should ensure the building was well set back and low relative to the tree line.

Residents' groups have been complaining for years about smells and noise coming from Amcor's operations.  The Alphington Paper Mill Action Group, which represents the broader community surrounding the Alphington mill site, was established in late 2008. It wants a development that is sympathetic to Alphington’s character and that respects the river and bushland setting. It will constructively influence local, state and federal government, and potential developers to adopt a quality, world leading model of socially, environmentally and economically sustainable living in the development of future uses for the site, integrated with the local community.

Ref: 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106 


Lockerbie

In 1979, furniture maker Ernest Henry Leonard Burgess bought the 1121-hectare sheep grazing farmland Lockerbie at Kalkallo, 35 km north of Melbourne CBD, for $920,000. The property fronts the Hume Highway and the Sydney to Melbourne rail line, and straddles 3 key growth municipalities: Hume, Whittlesea and Mitchell.

The property group Delfin Land Lease first proposed to the Brumby government in 2007 to turn this site into a new suburb the size of Shepparton, that would controversially stretch the city's boundaries. Delfin is pitching Lockerbie as an innovative, green community with measures to reduce drinkable water use by 70% and energy use by more than a third. As a sweetener, it is offering to pay for public transport infrastructure, including a V/Line railway station and a bus network. Delfin also highlighted the project's economic benefits for the north of Melbourne and its boost to housing supply. The State Government did not approve the proposal as it would have to extend the urban growth boundary it introduced to slow urban sprawl as part of its growth strategy, Melbourne 2030. Delfin Lend Lease's purchase option on the farmland expired in September 2009 after it failed to agree on a price.

In July 2010, the State Government expanded the urban growth boundary to include the Lockerbie site. In December 2010, Burgess' daughters sold the property to rival property group Stockland for $300 million. Stockland will acquire the property in a number of staged parcels over 31 years on largely deferred-payment terms.

The plan for the site includes about 11,500 residential lots and a 85-hectare city centre including a shopping centre, neighbourhood centres, retirement living, schools, healthcare and childcare. The development has a total end value of $4 billion and will occur over the next 30 years, with the first settlements due in late 2014 or early 2015.

Ref: 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118


Highett CSIRO Site Development

As part of a grand plan to merge government facilities, the Federal Government is planning to sell its 9.4-hectare Highett site, home to CSIRO Land and Research Highett Laboratory, in early 2012. This site runs between Highett Rd and Bay Rd, about 16 km from Melbourne CBD, near Southland Shopping Centre and a mooted Southland train station.

A 3-hectare area on the southern part of the site between Graham Rd and Middleton St, known as the Highett Grassy Woodland, is considered valuable because of its rare flora, including yellow box gum trees and other precious plants. There is a lobby group to save this woodland.

According to industry sources, the state government’s development arm VicUrban is negotiating to buy the site for redevelopment as a joint venture with a private-sector partner. In March 2011, VicUrban paid $7 million for a 15,000 m2 site at 329 Bay Road abutting the southern edge of the CSIRO laboratory. Currently configured as an office showroom, this site is now expected to form an entrance to a major residential redevelopment of the CSIRO site. Supermarket giant Woolworths had also invested in the Vantage Highett mixed-use project to be developed on land abutting the northern edge of the CSIRO site on Highett Road.

Bayside council expects preservation of the Highett Grassy Woodlands to provide recreation space for residents. The remainder of the site is expected to make way for medium density housing (of up to 280 dwellings) with a maximum of 4 storeys at the centre and 2-3 storeys at the edges, which should be developed in a manner that complements the council-designated Highett Neighbourhood Activity Centre.

Ref: 119, 120, 121, 122


Abbotsford Honeywell Site Redevelopment

This controversial Honeywell site redevelopment is located in Abbotsoford at 677-679 Victoria Street,  on the northern side of the street and bounded by the Yarra River on the east and north. It is zoned Business 5, which aims to encourage the development of offices or multi-dwelling units with common access from the street.

Under the $150 million development by property group Hamton, two office buildings will be replaced by 3 separate buildings rising up to 11 storeys on a 3-4 levels podium. There will be about 586 apartments, 2 restaurants, a cafe, office suites, medical centre, yoga studio, bike hire shop and convenience shop. The developer will also create a new cyclist and pedestrian pathway from Victoria Street through to the Yarra River and the Capital City Trail.

The development is carried out in 3 stages. Construction of the first stage called Eden, comprising a  11-storey, 201-apartment block, began in late 2011. The second stage called Haven, comprising a 11-storey 148-apartment block, was launched on 5 Nov 2011. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012 and completed in early 2013. Haven will include resort-like features to cater for high-end owner-occupiers, including a hotel-like lobby with concierge service, bar and lounge, a panoramic rooftop with landscaping and plots available for resident gardening, a heated rooftop pool and spa, indoor cinema, gym and outdoor adventure gear available for hire. Acacia Place is a series of landscaped spaces and a public walkway between Haven and Eden, connecting the Yarra to Victoria Street. The third stage is being planned for in 2013.

Yarra Council approved the development in April 2010 despite 1418 objections and opposition from the Yarra River Action Alliance, Protectors of Public Lands and Boroondara Council, whose municipality is directly opposite the site. Concerns were raised regarding excessive height, setbacks, impact on the river and noise. An appeal was made to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in Sep 2010, which subsequently approved the development in Nov 2010.

Ref: 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129


Camberwell Train Station Redevelopment

The Camberwell station redevelopment was one of the first high-profile planning disputes to arise when the state government released its Melbourne 2030 plan to boost urban housing density.

In 2002, state government agency VicTrack, the owner of  the Camberwell station site, chose Tenterfield in 2002 as the site developer, with the proposal developed by architects Wood Marsh, town planners URBIS, heritage consultants Lovell Chen and landscaping consultants John Patrick. The original plan sparked community protests and became a celebrity cause when actors Geoffrey Rush and Barry Humphries led a community march against the development from Camberwell Junction to the station in 2004.

Tenterfield applied to Boroondara Council in April 2008 to build 2 buildings (6 and 7-storey high, including offices, retail space and 20 apartments) on the south side of the station and a 3-storey office building to the station's north, linked to Burke Road via a public plaza. The Council refused the application on 31 grounds, including the lack of traffic management and public toilets, an unacceptable standard of architectural and design merit and the development being out of place in the Burke Road streetscape.
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Tenterfield challenged that decision in a VCAT hearing in April 2009 with revised plans, proposing 118 dwellings instead of 20. VCAT overruled a decade of unrelenting opposition by approving the development plan in April 2010. The VCAT panel has found the proposal strikes the right balance between creating a more sustainable urban form for metropolitan Melbourne, increasing housing density in activity centres close to transport and meeting the desire of the local community to respect the historic and cultural character of the area.

Key features and benefits of this $100 million-plus development called The Place Camberwell include:
  • 118 apartments, office and retail space.
  • A 9-storey building atop a multi-level car park.
  • A 3-storey building on the corner of Burke Road and Cookson Street. 
  • New public plaza providing direct pedestrian access from Burke Road to all station platforms.
  • New station entrance.
  • Improved security for commuters and residents.
  • Preservation of the heritage station and footbridge.
  • Unification of the vacant land adjoining the Camberwell Railway Station.
  • Invigoration of an important section of Burke Road.

Camberwell residents are devastated that their railway station will be home to Melbourne's ''ugliest tower''. The Boorondara Residents Action Group said the development would be a ''scar on the face of Camberwell''. The group spokeswoman Mary Drost said. ''The people of Camberwell are weeping for what they will lose.''

Ref: 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136