Two recent announcements by the Victorian Government could dramatically increase opportunities for higher density residential and mixed use development in inner Melbourne and give greater planning certainty for higher density development across other activity centres in Metropolitan Melbourne:
- The rezoning of Fisherman’s Bend Urban Renewal Precinct – around 240 hectares in the Fishermans Bend Precinct, just south of the Melbourne CBD, has been rezoned to ‘Capital City Zone’ to ‘kick start’ the urban renewal process. The area has been declared a site of ‘State Significance’ and the rezoning is accompanied by strong new state planning policy to support major development of high scale, high density mixed residential and commercial precincts. The Fisherman’s Bend precinct vision is slated to accommodate 50,000 residents and 25,000 employees.
- Proposed Reform of Planning Zones, including new planning zones for mixed use retail, commercial and high density residential development – The Victorian government has announced a major reform of planning zones including a new, more flexible ‘Commercial 1 Zone’ which replaces, and consolidates into a single zone, the existing Business 1, 2 and 5 Zones to create vibrant mixed use commercial centres for retail, office business and high density residential development. A new ‘Residential Growth Zone’ is also proposed to allow for medium-density housing at increased densities. The government is seeking submissions on the new zones and intends to introduce the final zones in October, 2012.
The rezoning at Fisherman’s Bend opens up exciting new opportunities for investors and the property development industry. The rezoning from Industrial 1 Zone Capital City Zone specifically provides for medium to high residential density development and a mix of other high value land uses. In the short term, this can be expected to have an immediate effect on underlying land values and to stimulate market interest in key redevelopment sites or opportunities for site consolidation.
However, the long-term significance of this decision should not be underestimated. The Capital City Zone is a special zone which recognises the role of Melbourne’s Central City as the capital of Victoria and as an area of national and international importance. The scale of the rezoning and elevation of the role and function of this precinct means the Capital City Zone’s long-term future is a further extension of Melbourne’s CBD, as opposed to simply another opportunity for redevelopment of former industrial sites.
Like the Southbank or Docklands urban renewal precincts, the renewal of Fisherman’s Bend hasthe potential to change the whole identity of this part of the city and the way the city functions. Southbank has encouraged Melbourne to re-embrace the river, and Docklands has reconnected Melbourne’s eyes to its harbourside history. Melbourne has also learnt some valuable lessons from these other urban renewal projects; while both projects have had elements of success, they have also highlighted some of the challenges in successfully creating large-scale, high-density precincts that capture the essence of Melbourne and human activity at ground level. The long-term success of the Fisherman’s Bend precinct will require a bold and imaginative vision. In this regard, Places Victoria will also have a important role to play in ensuring development of the area is properly planned for, supported with physical and community infrastructure, and offers something that is uniquely Melbournian while also recognising its role as part of an international city.
Successfully delivering projects in Urban Renewal Precincts requires not only the right planning zones and framework to be in place, but also the ability to imagine and see the vision and to navigate a complex web of physical and practical issues and challenges.
Melbourne has already seen several successful high density development precincts begin to take shape, proving that it can be done. This includes large-scale renewal projects such as Docklands and Southbank, but also smaller scale, but still significant processes of urban renewal in other parts of the city.
At Doncaster Hill, the vision has been to create a high-density, mixed-use sustainable, contemporary urban village with a strong sense of place and civic identity. Central to this was the development of the Activity Centre Zone for the centre, the first of its kind to be applied in a metropolitan area. The result is that Doncaster Hill is now ‘on the rise’ with numerous cranes on the skyline.
Similarly, with the Victoria Street East Urban Renewal Precinct, the urban renewal vision has been to transform a former riverside industrial area into a vibrant, high-density riverfront area with a high-quality built form interface and strong pedestrian links to the river, improved amenities and public open space. Here, the realisation of the vision for the precinct centred on the implementation of the Urban Design Framework and development of new site-specific planning controls which streamlined planning approvals processes, as well as extensive coordination of input from different government agencies. It is now undergoing extensive private sector redevelopment resulting in the transformation of former riverside industrial sites.
This sort of redevelopment is a critical component in ensuring Melbourne is well-positioned to continue to meet demands for new housing and population growth. The rezoning of Fisherman’s Bend is expected to ultimately accommodate around 50,000 new residents, and will make an important contribution to meeting Melbourne’s future demand for housing. It is important that as an industry, we continue to provide high quality higher density apartment living options for new communities in inner Melbourne. However, it is certainly not the whole solution and it is equally important to continue to provide choice and diversity in housing in existing communities across the broader metropolitan region.
The Victorian Government’s recently announced ‘Planning Zone Reform’ is an important step forward in ensuring we plan for delivery of additional new housing in areas where people are already living in order to provide options for people to downsize, or buy their first home, close to their families, communities and places where they have lived or grown up. The new ‘Commercial 1 Zone’ seeks to provide for a vibrant mix of commercial, retail, office, and high-density residential uses, and can be expected to be applied in existing activity centres across Melbourne.
The Residential Growth Zone will provide medium density housing at increased densities. Councils will have an important role to play in identifying appropriate locations for more intensive residential growth, for example in areas with good access to public transport or unconstrained by heritage or other physical limitations.
We have recently been undertaking work for a number of Councils in relation to their housing and settlement strategies. The new Residential Growth Zone will provide an important tool to assist in implementing these strategies. Most importantly, it provides clarity and certainty to both developers and local residents regarding likely expected development outcomes, reducing the potential for objections and costly or lengthy planning battles for individual development proposals.
The new zones have the potential to have a significant impact on land use and planning outcomes across the state, so it will be important to get them right. It will be especially important to ensure the new zones provide the right balance of flexibility and certainty so clients can continue to deliver development projects in a feasible and viable way.