Going Up in Growing West

PUBLICATION: The Age, Domain Online

Footscray is set for a fresh boom in apartment construction, with two of the suburb’s largest residential projects to further transform the skyline of the gentrifying suburb.

A mixed-use development of about 940 apartments in planned for an old car dealership at 8 Hopkins Street. The development, Joseph Place, is subject to state government approval because of its scale. Construction is scheduled to start early next year. Local developer Growland acquired the 13,500-square-metre site from state development agency Places Victoria for about $18 million in late 2013. The developer’s first foray into Melbourne includes six towers ranging from nine to 25 levels, overlooking the Maribyrnong River.

Nearby, a residential project on the Kinnears Ropeworks site is poised to add a further 1400 new dwellings. The finer elements of the final proposal for the 3.3-hectare Ballarat Road site are being negotiated between the developer and the council under mediation at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. There were 1371 units approved in Footscray last year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows – a tenfold increase on the number of building approvals in 2013.

The two projects combined would translate into approval for more than 2300 apartments.

Growland’s proposal for the Hopkins Street site would see the residential towers connected by five-level podium, ground-floor shops and include a pool, bowling alley and 400-metre running track. One and two-bedroom apartments make up 95 per cent of the mix.

Growland chief Stephen Yau said “underdeveloped” Footscray offered an opportunity for a large-scale development not available in the east. He likened Footscray’s demographic shift to the transformation seen most recently in Richmond. Mr Yau hoped to differentiate his project from others in the Joseph Road precinct – including a 968-apartment development under construction at 22 Hopkins Street – through architectural design, amenities and retail.

Maribyrnong City Council director of planning services Nigel Higgins said the local population was expected to increase to 156,000 by 2041 – more than double that of five years ago. Mr Higgins expected the housing capacity of their redevelopment sites to meet the demand, but said the growth would come with challenges. They included job availability, people to fill skilled jobs and reliable, accessible transport.

RMIT University senior lecturer of global, urban and social studies Joe Hurley said Footscray was the right place for new supply. “The other alternative is that those 1000 dwellings get put out n the edge of Werribee, and (people) have to drive to the train station or along the freeway to get to work, and that’s not an ideal situation,” he said. “(Footscray) has very good public transport infrastructure to link it to the CBD, but also to the western region. It’s got high-order services already there, it’s got a thriving retail and growing commercial sector with lots of employment opportunities.”