What’s the best way to improve the Docklands?

Photo: Joe © via Flickr
Photo: Joe © via Flickr

The Docklands are a controversial area of town. Some argue that the area has been developed in an illogical manner… others complain that there aren’t enough attractions to entice locals to spend more time down there.

Everyone’s got their own theories on how the area can be improved, so what would you do to improve the Docklands area, and why?


  1. That place is dead. All it needs is trees, good parking and a bohemian makeover. I promise you, if you made that place a hipsters dream complete with string lights, late night jazz houses and all night pancake bars a la Stokers, it would be buzzing, as hipsters and twenty-somethings have the most disposable income. Unfortunately, the theme colours are yellow and blue, the wind is unbelievable, there is no parking and the set-up is too clinical. Warm it up!!!

  2. I myself work on Harbour Esplanade at the Docklands. When it isn’t too windy to venture out (which is many days, it’s always windy over here), I go to New Quay to get some sun during lunch. You’d be amazed how many days visitors approach me and ask what to do, or where they can get some nice and affordable lunch, with the expectation that the Docklands is some kind of cultural hub.

    It isn’t. In fact the only thing it really has going for it is the office population. The docklands doesn’t have activities to occupy visitors (or those of us here more regularly). It doesn’t have great places for coffee or food. Much of its retail and hospitality occupants have vacated.

    It is also a hassle to get to, out of and around. Etihad stadium, apartment buildings and Southern Cross station sit as giant road blocks between the Docklands and the city. A walk from Southern Cross to my office in the heart of the docklands is close to 15 minutes as a brisk walker. Trams take long detours around said roadblocks before they hit the city.

    Truth be told, people go to the docklands to be close to the city, but not the other way around. While we have great cultural, foody hubs near the CBD such as Carlton, Brunswick/Fitzroy, St.Kilda and Richmond; it’s hard to see people trekking over to a half-deserted wind tunnel and scouring the streets for a decent feed.

    So far I feel the Docklands has attempted to compete on the same level that Melbourne already excels. Food, wine, outdoor eating etc. In order to pull people away from excellent venues that achieve the same formula requires and outstanding space and easy access; criteria that do not describe the docklands. They need to find a new way to differentiate, and to be more accessible in doing so. Create family value – $80 Wilson Parking? $14 pints? That’s not family friendly.

    The area has some BIG inherent flaws. So the council really needs to focus on developing an idea that will bring people out of their way to be here. And I suspect whatever that is (I don’t have the answer) won’t come from the same formula as the rest of Melbourne. I’d say it’s time to get creative.

  3. Docklands needs:
    – accessibility – more parking
    – mystery – Melbourne CBD is popular and interesting because there are alleys and arcades where new program’s can be discovered – Docklands is too open and it’s program too obvious
    – too internalised – the tall buildings focus on their internal private program’s and have no relationship to the exterior environment, they could be picked up and placed elsewhere and the internal program would be unchanged

  4. I have worked in Docklands for 6 years. It has improved somewhat, but really needs to:
    A) Have more on- street parking
    B) Definitely more trees, it looks like a concrete jungle
    C) Widen the road on Harbour Esplanade – in peak hour one lane to get in and out is ridiculous

    It would be awesome if once a month they secured a new up and coming band to play in an outdoor area, similar to that area with the fake grass and steps which would get a crowd into Docklands. Otherwise it’s so big and everything scattered so far from each other it always looks empty!!!!

  5. i knew, when i saw them cutting a hole in the middle of the Goods Shed, just to build a road to nowhere, i knew then, what a shithole it would become.

  6. There needs to be a seamless interface with the city. Why not build over the spencer st and west melbourne rail yards. At the moment there is no intuitive access to the precinct, the rail yards and Wurrendjerri way are real obstacles to making docklands feel anymore than a poorly planned after thought.

  7. Better after hours transport links to city so we can go for dinner/drinks without ha ing to rush for tram by 9pm- something up LaTrobe would be awesome, affordable parking, cinema, a proper art gallery, free fri/sat night black and white movie screenings, and impossible but an apple store would lure people down.

  8. This may seem like an obvious one, but if they want to make it a popular tourist precinct, it wouldn’t hurt to have some actual hotels there. There’s really nothing that exciting there to pull crowds at the moment, and it’s the reason every restaurant and cafe is half-empty most of the time.

    I’m not sure it will ever be a place that attracts many locals — so sterile, very little to compete with the CBD, Fitzroy, St Kilda, etc — but I’m pretty sure that if you brought the tourists TO the area, they’d stick around and you could build a pretty lucrative local industry around that.

    A variation on this would be to stick a bunch of cheap backpackers/hostels there. It wouldn’t do much for all the overpriced restaurants, but it would pretty much give the place an instant nightlife (albeit a fairly seedy one) and plenty of the young, single (or otherwise) office workers would stick around for the prospect of an easy lay (you know it’s true) and nasty backpacker happy hours.

  9. Docklands is like a glass that has been filled with stones. Between these stones is cavernous space, empty, devoid of matter. Now if you fill the gaps between the stones with pebbles, and the subsequent gaps left by the pebbles with sand, you have one full glass. Bear with me here.
    If Docklands is the glass, then the stones are big f***-off buildings and monstrous sculptures. If you add culture – represented in this analogy by the pebbles – in the form of a school, art colleges or artist lodgings, a library, maybe even a farmers market, amongst others, it then becomes much easier to fill that glass with sand. Or, as is the problem here, people.
    If you don’t add the pebbles, all you have is a bunch of sand wondering around aimlessly with nothing to do but buy groceries in bulk. Who wants to do that?

  10. Get rid of the wind in Docklands by shifting it back to where it comes from – Port Melbourne. 

    All that icy air from Antarctica finds its way to Port Melbourne before it gets swirled up into Docklands. Docklands then ends up acting as a windbreak for the rest of Melbourne, more or less. 

    You could try to shift it back to Antarctica but what with climate change and everything, it would be pretty silly. And it’s a long way from Docklands, so cost considerations would be significant.

    Port Melbourne, though, well that’s a little more achievable, plus there’s a win for Greater Melbourne –  reducing the number of people who grumble about how windy it is in Docklands. 

    There would be a few of ways to stop the wind in Port Melbourne before it reaches Docklands, the easiest would seem to be putting up a MASSIVE wall along the beachfront at Port Melbourne, Truman Show style. 

    Like any improvement plan, there would be some logistics to deal with but on balance it would work out. For example, the Spirit of Tasmania would need a new home. Wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient for almost everyone in Melbourne if it berthed in Vic Harbour? And of course there wouldn’t be the wind problem to contend with there any more. 

    Let me know it you’d like ideas for sorting out the Southern Star Observation Wheel problem.

  11. I remember there used to have a sand sculpture festival down there a long time ago. Maybe bringing it back might be a good start. Though not a big whoop for attraction, still might offer something to the area. Summer is coming, good outdoor activities for family would be an ideal (but cheaper tickets/fees would be best).
    Basically, I guess they attempt to make it similar to Darling Harbour. Unfortunately, when there are cracks on southern star observation wheel (my friends call, wheel of joke) and need to be taken apart, their plan seems to go down hill since then.