Growland goes west with $600m Project in Melbourne’s Footscray

PUBLICATION: The Australian Financial Review

THE gentrification of Melbourne’s inner west is about to take a big step forward with plans by local developer Growland for a $600 million mostly residential project overlooking the Maribyrnong River. The 1000-unit apartment complex is slated for the Joseph Road precinct, designated by planning authorities as a hub for development activity.

In years gone by, Footscray was a traditional working class suburb. In more recent decades, it has provided the first home to new migrants, who have contributed to its multicultural mix of shops and eateries. Its latest incarnation is the most intense yet. The local station is being redeveloped and the government has shifted state agencies into the suburb to bolster its economic base.

Developers have quickly followed. Among them is Growland, which acquires its 13,500-square-metre site from the state development agency Place Victoria for around $17.5 million. Led by the architect Stephen Yau, Growland is planning a series of six buildings, tapering in height from around 25-0 storeys as they approach the river. The project includes potential for a hotel. 4,000 square metres of retail space and a large component of public space.

Its most distinguishing feature may be an elevated Olympic-sized running track for residents. A pedestrian link is planned from Footscray to the Maribyrnong River, where, it is hoped, river taxis will one day ferry locals to the city. “Footscray is currently in the midst of a demographic shift,” said Mr Yau. A new wave of students, young professionals and working families are moving into the suburb “who are looking to reside in a well-connected community”, he said. “The inner west has been recognised as one of Melbourne’s most undervalued opportunities and is due for rapid growth over the next two to five years.”

The project, to be known as Joseph Place, will be under way by early next year if its wins final approval from planning authorities. Less than five kilometres from the CBD, the Growland development will eventually house more than 3,000 residents and 30 new retailers when complete.

Mr Yau compares the gentrification of Footscray with another formerly working class suburb, Richmond, which is a similar distance from the city on its east side. The transformation of Richmond into an upmarket suburb is now well under way. “Footscray has the river and all the amenity however the development has not been as quick as in Richmond,” Mr Yau said. “So we see there is demand for Footscray.”