Australia’s fastest-growing capital city is set to take over Sydney by the 2030s. To cope with Melbourne’s expansion (as well as a changing climate), city planners and architects have plans in motion that will change the way we live over the next decade. For a glimpse of Melbourne's futurescape, have a look at these seven major developments, some of which are already taking shape.
1. Metro Tunnel
What is it: An underground rail tunnel stretching from the Domain on St Kilda Road, through the CBD and into North Melbourne via Parkville.
When will it open? 2026
This is the big one. Construction of the $10.9 billion Metro Tunnel – Victoria’s biggest-ever transport project – commenced earlier this year, blocking off City Square and parts of the northern CBD. These works might be frustrating for now, but when finished, the Metro Tunnel will free up the City Loop bottleneck so that more trains can pass through. The five new stations will mean that getting from Flinders Street Station up to Melbourne University and Carlton will be faster than ever before. The new station of Arden will service the new suburb of the same name, which is currently an industrial corner of Melbourne’s inner west. You can visit the Metro Train website to see what the new stations will look like – all sweeping arches, wide skylights and screen doors separating the train doors in the platform.
2. Queen Victoria Market precinct
What is it: A controversial $250 million overhaul of the 140-year-old Melbourne landmark to position the market as part of the expanding CBD.
When will it open? 2022/3
As Melbourne’s rapidly growing CBD residential population moves northward, city planners are under pressure to free up more public space and land for housing developments. Given that it sits smack bang in the middle of this region, the Queen Victoria Market has to be a part of these developments. In July this year, the Andrews Labor Government signed off on new planning controls that will free up the City of Melbourne to upgrade the market under strict heritage controls. In the space surrounding the market, the City of Melbourne plans to transform the region into the northern hub of the CBD, with new public space (built over the current carpark, which is the site of Melbourne’s oldest cemetery), apartments, childcare facilities, a gallery, community centre and hotel.
3. Southbank redevelopment
What is it: A $35 million green transformation of Southbank Boulevard and its surrounding streets.
When will it open? 2020
The inner-city suburb south of the Yarra is the most densely populated suburb in Melbourne, with 20,000 residents and 50,000 office workers. With the number of residents expected to grow by 175 per cent over the next 15 years, keeping the suburb open and livable is a priority for the City of Melbourne. In July this year, they announced that 2.5 hectares of public space will be opened on Southbank Boulevard and Dodds Street, which could be used, according to Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, for “everything from street performances to farmers markets and medium-scale music festivals”. More green additions include new bike lanes, upgraded tram stops and wide tree-lined footpaths.
4. Footscray Road veloway
What is it: A 2.5km veloway above Footscray Road as part of 14km of new and upgraded cycling paths in Melbourne’s west.
When will it open? 2022
In April this year, the state government announced that, as part of the West Gate Tunnel Project, they would expand Melbourne’s network of bike paths so that it will be possible to ride from the CBD to Werribee entirely separate from cars and trucks. A particularly state-of-the-art neck of this journey is the Footscray Road ‘veloway’, which will begin at Shepherd Bridge in Footscray and pass over the main road. There’ll be escape hatches and stairs in case commuters need to leave the veloway, and cyclists will still have the option of using the existing bike path on the road.
5. Cato Square
What is it: A 9,000-square metre urban oasis on the site of Prahran’s Cato Street carpark.
When will it open? 2019
Currently, the City of Stonnington has the second-lowest amount of open space per capita in the state. That’s why they’re spending over $60 million to transform the large carpark located just behind Chapel Street into an urban hub that will include water features, gardens, lawns, a forest, and plenty of space for community events.
6. Green Your Laneway project
What is it: A $1.8 million green re-design of four Melbourne laneways.
When will it open? The next Green Laneway (Guildford Lane) is expected to open in 2018.
Last year, the City of Melbourne announced the Green Your Laneway project. Hundreds of public nominations and trucks of soil later, the first of these verdant laneways – Coromandel Place – was unveiled in July. The upgrade involved street murals, pot plants, underground irrigation and planter boxes, so that over time, vines will creep along the walls of the laneway. The next laneway is Guildford Place, which will feature a communal garden and a mural of an overgrown factory by Melbourne artist Mike Makatron.
7. Urban Forest Fund
What is it: A plan to improve livability with green canopies, more open spaces and rooftop gardens.
When will it open? The Urban Forest Fund is already in action, and the goal is that by 2040, urban canopy will be 40 per cent (as opposed to today’s 22 per cent).
The greener the city, the cooler, healthier and more livable it is. In May this year, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced that the City of Melbourne is on a mission to turn the concrete jungle into an actual jungle, with the $1.2 million Urban Forest Fund. Doyle has announced that the City of Melbourne will be matching any private investor in the Urban Forest Fund dollar-for-dollar, aiming to grow the fund to $10 million. With this money, Melbourne's urban planners will turn much of their attention skywards, with the creation of as many rooftop gardens as possible. The City of Melbourne hopes that in the years to come, Melbourne will boast 10 tennis courts worth of green rooftops and 4,600 hectares of green façades on buildings. And by 2040, the plan is that urban canopy will be 40 per cent (as opposed to today's 22 per cent).