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Docklands: the once unliveable suburb that people now won’t leave

A decade ago I confidently predicted that, in a few years, I’d be able to pick up a Docklands apartment for a bargain. Back then I’d turn up to poorly-attended events at what was a giant building site – events held, I assumed, to draw non-believers into Docklands to show us how great it was. But we’d come, and complain about having to pay for parking, despite all that space. And, yes, we’d moan about the blustery winds.

I was sure that the apartments that were sprouting up like grass after rain, would, once completed, lie empty, thousands of them. I mean, who would want to live in such a vacuum? I’d go there every so often, just to prove again to myself how unliveable it was, and it would live up to expectations. The wind would whip up leaves and throw empty takeaway coffee cups into my face.

When they built the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, I scoffed. When it broke, I scoffed louder. But I scoff no more. Melbourne Star might have its millionth customer this November and will celebrate its third birthday in December. Hop on; it’s essentially a half-hour reminder of how amazing our city (including Docklands) and surrounds are.

On a sunny Saturday, tourists snap photos of Cow Up a Tree (by John Kelly) on Harbour Esplanade while coffee-lovers enjoy Seven Seeds brews at Hortus, a “temporary” cafe that is still open after launching over two years ago.

Cyclists take their time, or zoom, along the Capital City Trail. Nearby is a sports hub, modern library, Olympic ice sports venue and dashes of reminders of its working past (but not enough). Fifteen years into a 20 to 25-year plan, people love Docklands.

That apartment I was going to pick up for a song? Well, according to City Residential Real Estate agent Glenn Donnelly, it ain’t happening today.

“There’s pretty much zero vacancy rate, and we can’t get enough apartments to either rent or sell,” he says. Can’t get enough apartments? But there’s billions of them! And more are going up. Even the space where I attended some of those poorly-attended events is morphing into a giant Banksia (no, not another sculpture, this one’s a nature-inspired 108-unit building) in a park.

Donnelly lives in Docklands himself, after making the move nine years ago. He wishes that people would be a bit nicer about his suburb.

“Docklands has a stigma from some people (err, sorry) that it has no infrastructure. There’s no post offices, no newsagents, no shopping centres – that’s far from the truth,” he says. “They’re all there now.”

Donnelly is convinced that those that move to Docklands stay in Docklands. “One hundred percent,” he says. “Especially in a precinct called Yarra’s Edge. You’ll find that the majority of those are owner-occupied. And they always stay in the development. They’ve [Mirvac] got a lot of social functions within the building, so people get to know each other and tend to stay.”

Apartment swapping in Docklands is popular too. As is renting before you buy. “A lot of people upscale,” says Donnelly. “For instance, they might have a two bedroom and circumstances change – they may have a child, so they’ll buy a three-bedroom apartment. In recent times people have downsized: they’ve got a three bedroom and their children are off their hands so they’ve purchased a two-bedroom apartment.”

My prediction was wrong; apartments here don’t go for a song. As Donnelly says, Docklands is a thriving area, a growing area. And I may have missed the boat.

Five things you didn’t know about Docklands

  • This week Good Cycles, a non-profit bike shop, opened its container shop on Harbour Esplanade – right by the Capital City Trail bike path.
  • This time of year the Yarra River is alive with the sounds of Dragon Boating. Give it a go at the one of the next “come and try” days. See
  • Library at the Dock is one of those new-fangled libraries with everything from modern meeting rooms to recording studios.
  • Renew Australia’s three-year project to “activate empty spaces” in Docklands by offering low-cost tenancies to creatives finished in June this year.
  • Outlet shoppers rejoice: there’s South Wharf DFO (Direct Factory Outlets), just over the border, the Spencer Outlet Centre (next to Southern Cross Station) and, under the Melbourne Star, Harbour Town.

Original article by Jayne D’Arcy – – Oct 12, 2016

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