Docklands transformation: today’s residents wouldn’t live anywhere else

It takes a bit of guts and a whole lot of vision to get in at ground level in the development of a new area or suburb. And Docklands, located on the doorstep of the Melbourne CBD, has been no exception.

Since the early 1990s, Melbournites have had a ‘love it or hate it’ relationship with Docklands – a former inner city industrial, waterfront area which has undergone a major urban renewal transformation.

For Docklands sceptics, the suburb’s lack of community-based infrastructure such as public parks, shopping and food hubs or schools has been a major drawback. Not to mention a lack of artistic character, which is synonymous with the laneways and graffiti of established parts of inner-city Melbourne.

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However, as many of these missing pieces are already in place – Docklands is now “coming of age” as a bona fide liveable Melbourne suburb that residents are loath to leave once they move in. This has been great news for investors who have got in at early stages within Dockland’s transformation, as they see demand in the area continue to strengthen.

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Domain reports that despite the many new residential buildings going up, there still isn’t enough to cater for demand.

“It’s not just that the area is transforming,” said Brodie Williams at Ironfish Property Management, Melbourne. “There’s simply not enough properties in the CBD to meet demand. Because of that, the CBD is expanding out into Docklands, and it means vacancy rates are quite low there. We keep hearing about oversupply in the CBD, but we haven’t felt that at all. In fact, we haven’t got enough properties and we have too many tenants.

“Over the last 8 years or so, rents have grown significantly, and we’re now seeing properties sit for only 10-14 days maximum before they are rented out. The Docklands rental market tends to perform best in January – March and July – August. University students dominate the CBD market during those periods and it’s when we see our strongest rents.

“Once upon a time, Docklands was a ghost town; there was nothing there. But now you’re close to everything – shopping at DFO or Harbour Town as well as all the lovely restaurants and cafes in Docklands – and there’s more and more being built now,” Ms Williams said.

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Etihad Stadium in Docklands – before and after

Shopping precinct overhaul

The former Harbour Town mall in Docklands (to be renamed as District Docklands) is undergoing a complete redevelopment, which will see the creation of a new entertainment precinct designed to bring Docklands alive at night.

An eight-screen Hoyts cinema complex and a full-line Woolworths supermarket will anchor the $150 million redevelopment, with other tenants including FunLab (the company behind Strike tenpin bowling), mini golf venue Holey Moley, as well as 8Eight Street, an Asian hawker-style restaurant, and pancake house Route66.

AFR reports that the new shopping precinct is “part of a $500 million revitalisation of the precinct, which like much of Docklands has suffered from an exodus of people at night. The precinct has been given a boost with the recent opening of the new Four Points by Sheraton Hotel and soon-to-be completed Marina Towers apartment development nearby along with other towers under construction.”

1st Australian Marriott Hotel in 20 years

Marriott international announced late last month that it will be breaking its 20-year development drought in Australia by opening a new-build hotel in Docklands, above the revamped Harbour Town mall.

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The Capital Alliance mixed use development will include 200 premium hotel rooms as well as 110 contemporary residences across 17-level dual towers above the new District Docklands shopping complex.

“This project will be a true destination in Melbourne and something special that will add to the city’s tourism potential,” Capital Alliance Managing Director Mohan Du said.

New primary school for residents’ families

The Victorian Government has announced a new primary school will be built in Docklands accommodating 475 students. With the number of school-aged children in Docklands tipped by the City of Melbourne to quadruple to 1537 children by the year 2036, the news couldn’t come sooner for residents.

“Local residents have been campaigning for years for a quality public school in the Docklands, inner-west area, so this news has been greatly received by the public. The government’s investment into a quality, modern school will attract more families to stay long-term in the area, which will influence capital growth and tighten vacancy even further over the long term,” said Ironfish Property Director, Grant Ryan.

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Herald Sun March 2016

Free tram connection to CBD

Dockland’s convenient location, close to Melbourne city-centre has always been a great strength. Residents can either walk to the CBD or hop aboard the free City Circle tram, which circuits Docklands Drive.

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Docklands lighting up

Docklands’ ease of accessibility and waterfront location is also now making it a natural choice for city events and festivals. This winter, Docklands was home to the Firelight Festival, which featured nightly sculpture burnings, fireworks, food stalls and more. There was also the popular Winter Glow series offering a gastronomical tour of Melbourne’s harbour precinct.

And as for arts and culture, Docklands is now an active participant in this part of Melbourne’s identity, with iconic public artworks and installations around the suburb.

“Cow up a tree” by John Kelly is a popular Instagram subject for Docklands residents and tourists.

Community spirit

A crucial part of creating a fully-formed suburb is public and community spaces. In 2015, the Government opened the Ron Barassi Senior Park, which accommodates a range of recreational activities, including children’s playground with water play area as well as sports areas.

Docklands property investment Melbourne parks

For Melbourne’s rainy days there is also the impressive “Library at the Dock” – a local library featuring the latest technology, modern meeting rooms and even recording studios.

Ranked in Australia’s top 20 Hotspots:

Earlier this year HIA revealed Australia’s fastest growing housing markets in its Population & Residential Building Hotspots 2017 report. Docklands came in at number 6, competing against other suburbs and areas right across Australia.

This demonstrates real strength from tenants and owner occupiers who want to move to this part of Melbourne. Development sites in Docklands are becoming more limited and in the coming years, will dry up completely which will have a big impact on capital growth and rents – as supply will not be able to keep up with the growing demand in the area.

property investment melbourne docklands

“Underrated and transforming”

For local residents, Docklands continues to offer a unique value proposition within the Melbourne market. As this resident wrote on suburb reviews site, Docklands is both “underrated and transforming.”

“We were impressed by the suburb’s strong benefits. Fantastic free public transport options (30, 35×2, 70, 75 and 86 trams at one end and 48 and 11 at the other end). Immediate access to Melbourne highways to the airport or south east suburbs. 15 minutes walk to CBD office buildings. Beautiful water surroundings. Good shopping options.

“After finding a 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car garage (88sqm internal, 10sqm balcony) with waterfront views, within our budget we were sold. From our experience, if this apartment was in any other inner city suburb it would have cost an extra $100,000 just from size alone, let alone views.

“One year later we are still super impressed with the suburb. Our interstate and international guests love staying with us and appreciate the suburbs amenities as well as proximity to the CBD. Since moving weve found some gem in the suburb including the library and ron barrasi park.

“The suburb is still evolving with a number of new apartments going up, adding more residents to what starting to become a bustling village atmosphere. The upgrades and renovations to Harbour Town are also adding value to the experience of living in the area. Looking forward to the new cinema, school, market and supermarket coming to the area soon!” – [sic] reviewed February 2017.

Ironfish National Apartments Manager, William Mitchell agrees.

“This is a true coming of age period for Docklands, where all the elements are now coming together to create a vibrant, liveable suburb, which appeals to a broad range of people, including owner occupiers, young families, students and professionals.”

Docklands – before and after

The transformation of Docklands is often compared to the development of Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour - from 1900 to present day

Darling Harbour from 1900 to present day.


If you would like to learn more about Marina Tower or other property investment opportunities in Melbourne, please contact us, or attend one of our property investment seminars in your local city.


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