Northbank and the shape of things to come

As part of Melbourne Design Week and Open House Melbourne Waterfront, held in March, Seafarers was the setting for a panel discussion, ‘Collectivity Talks: Northbank and the shape of things to come’. Exploring the urban renewal that is changing the riverbank and this part of the city that sits between the CBD and Docklands, David Lee, development director at Riverlee, was joined by other leaders that are contributing to the future of Northbank.

Northbank is the area along the Yarra from Spencer Street to Charles Grimes Bridge, encompassing the former MCEC, the World Trade Centre, the new home of Melbourne’s first sky farm and the soon the be Seafarers.

Here, we share insights from our panellists on what makes Northbank unique and their united vision for it to become a destination to live, work, visit and relax.

“Everyone involved is committed to activating and investing in the precinct but also the waterfront,” says Lee.

“It’s quite extraordinary that the Northbank precinct has been underutilised for decades and all at once, we now have a various major developers and stakeholders investing in this precinct at the same time. Each of us are doing delivering different project types, but we have a joint vision which is most vital.”

Nicky Drobis, director at Fender Katsalidis, who is designing Seafarers and numerous other buildings at Northbank agrees. “There is a wonderful mix of built typology coming into this precinct, including hotel accommodation, residential, commercial and retail. This precinct is importantly underpinned by the inclusion of significant green and public open spaces, adjacent to the river, which enhances that experience of that river corridor greatly,” she says.

“I think it’s very rare in Melbourne’s history where there’ll be a precinct such as this. It fills that very important missing link for Melbourne’s CBD connection right down to the Northbank, to the western edge of the city.”

Oculus is currently working on delivering 20,000m2 of open space within the broader Northbank precinct, including Seafarers Rest Park, alongside 700m2 of green facades. Claire Martin, associate director at Oculus, says, “The projects that make-up Northbank, and the green infrastructure they provide, assist in terms of the climate adaptation and mitigation, whilst also promoting wellbeing, creating a connection to place and celebrating community and culture.”

“Northbank is located by the Yarra River, Birrarung, and has been recognised in Australian-first legislation as a single living and integrated natural entity for protection and acknowledging Traditional Owner custodianship of the river and their unique connection to the lands through which the river flows.”

Working on a new commercial and build-to-rent complex, Sarsha Durham, National Manager, Development BTR at Mirvac believes that Northbank’s location is vital and the outcome to be realised in the years to come is through a joint effort.

“In four to five years, the Northbank precinct itself is going to come to life as there is just so much investment in that part of Melbourne. The combined efforts of all the developers in the precinct are going to improve that part of the city immensely,” she says.

“When you look at the city plans, Northbank is the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be connected and regenerated. For us, the connection to Southbank, being on the water and still being within the city removes some of those challenges that the Docklands faces. We believe this will be the new heart of the city in years to come”.