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Docklands to become water transport hub like Circular Quay

The Age – Aisha Dow – 25 June 2015

Docklands is set to become Melbourne’s major water transportation hub, with plans for ferries and heritage ships to regularly dock at a revamped Harbour Esplanade.

It comes as Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle calls for the waterfront side of Etihad Stadium to be refitted with windows, in a significant redevelopment to embrace lost views of Victoria Harbour.

“Instead of being blank walls, it will be opened up and used as an exhibition and events centre,” he said.

The 90-metre wide boulevard that runs between the stadium and Dockland’s harbour has been described as “somewhat stagnant” and “windswept”.

But this month Melbourne City Council gave the tick of approval to a 10-year Harbour Esplanade master plan that envisages the wharf area transformed with new shops on both sides of the street, a maritime centre, a market and bustling ferry terminals.

Dockland’s harbour is said to have potential to become a water-transport hub comparable to Sydney’s Circular Quay, a popular tourist destination already home to five commuter ferry wharves.

But at 320,000 square metres, Victoria Harbour is twice as large as  its Sydney cousin.  Planners believe there is space for two or three large heritage ships to dock at the northern side of Central Pier, while ferries and other water transport can stop at number of floating jetties on the southern side near the NAB building.

Cr Doyle believes there is need for a commuter service between Point Cook and Docklands – an idea first suggested more than three years ago but which has so far failed to get off the ground despite investor support.

The lord mayor also wants future boat services to take Docklands workers from one side of the harbour to the other.

The esplanade will continue to be buffeted by Dockland’s strong winds. But an assessment has found if there is “dense tree planting” and other landscaping in strategic locations, the walking conditions will be considered tolerable.

Construction of two new sections of wharf on either side of the Central Pier (currently dotted with exposed white-tipped pylons) will begin early next year.

Council are considering whether to use the new wharf space to reinstate historic sheds, which are stored underneath the Bolte Bridge. There are also plans for an eight-metre wide pedestrian promenade to run along the waterfront and near a large linear park.

However, many of the specific details of the Harbour Esplanade upgrades are still yet to be decided – such as the type and location of new water recreation facilities.

Places Victoria’s Simon Wilson said this “flexibility” would allow attractions and services to be built in Docklands that today’s Melburnians might have not yet considered.

Visit Melbourne City Council’s website to see full the master plan.

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