Docklands (also known as Melbourne Docklands to differentiate it from London Docklands) is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2 km (1.2 mi) west of the city's Central Business District (CBD).
- Area:3.148 km2
- Elevation:12 m
- Local Government Area:City of Melbourne
Docklands (also known as Melbourne Docklands to differentiate it from London Docklands) is an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2 km (1.2 mi) west of the city's Central Business District (CBD). Its local government area is the City of Melbourne. At the 2016 Census, Docklands had a population of 10,964. Primarily a waterfront area centred on the banks of the Yarra River, it is bounded by Wurundjeri Way and the Charles Grimes Bridge to the east, CityLink to the west and Lorimer Street across the Yarra to the south.
The site of modern-day Docklands was originally swamp land that in the 1880s became a bustling dock area as part of the Port of Melbourne, with an extensive network of wharfs, heavy rail infrastructure and light industry. Following the containerisation of shipping traffic, Docklands fell into disuse and by the 1990s was virtually abandoned, making it the focal point of Melbourne's underground rave scene. The construction of Docklands Stadium in the late 1990s attracted developer interest in the area, and urban renewal began in earnest in 2000 with several independent privately developed areas overseen by VicUrban, an agency of the Victorian Government. Docklands subsequently experienced an apartment boom and became a sought-after business address, attracting the national headquarters of, among others, the National Australia Bank, ANZ, Medibank and the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as the regional headquarters for Ericsson and Bendigo Bank.Known for its striking contemporary architecture, the suburb is home to a number of heritage buildings that have been retained for adaptive reuse, and is also the site of landmarks such as the aforementioned Docklands Stadium, Southern Cross Station and the Melbourne Star Observation wheel.
Although still incomplete, Docklands' developer-centric planning has split public opinion with some lamenting its lack of green open space, pedestrian activity, transport links and culture.
## Early history
Before the foundation of Melbourne, Docklands was a wetlands area consisting of a large salt lake and a giant swamp (known as West Melbourne Swamp) at the mouth of the Moonee Ponds Creek. It was one of the open hunting grounds of the Wurundjeri people, who created middens around the edges of the lake.
At Melbourne's foundation, John Batman set up his home on Batman's Hill at Docklands, marking the westernmost point of the settlement. However, the rest of the area remained largely unused for decades.
The advent of rail infrastructure in the late 1860s saw the city's industry gradually expand into the area.
The earliest extensive plans to develop the area was in the 1870s, when a plan was prepared to extend the Hoddle Grid westward, following the curve of the Yarra River and effectively doubling its size. The plan proposed several gridlike blocks with an ornamental public garden and lake in the shape of the United Kingdom, occupying the site of the salt lake. However, expansion of the grid westward was abandoned in favour of a northward extension.
## Construction of Victoria Dock
Under the guidance of British civil engineer John Coode, a major engineering project began in the 1880s to reroute the course of the Yarra River, which resulted in the widening of the river for shipping and the creation of a new Victoria Dock (the name was previously used by one at Queens Bridge as early as the 1850s). The dock was lined with wharves and light industry grew around the nearby western rail yards of Spencer Street railway station (now Southern Cross railway station), which were used for freighting the goods inland.
## Early to mid 20th century
During the wars, Victoria Dock was used as the main port for naval vessels and most of the Victorian troops returned from both wars to the docks.
By the 1920s, with shipping moved from the Yarra turning basin at Queensbridge, Victoria Dock and surrounding port had become Melbourne's busiest.
## Disuse and rave epicentre
With the introduction of containerisation of Victoria's shipping industry in the 1950s and 1960s, the docks along the Yarra River, east of the modern Bolte Bridge, and within Victoria Harbour immediately to the west of the Central Business District, became inadequate for the new container ships.
The creation of Appleton Dock and Swanson Dock in an area west of the Moonee Ponds Creek, now known as West Melbourne, closer to the mouth of the Yarra, became the focus of container shipping, effectively rendering redundant a vast amount of vacant inner-city land to the immediate west of Melbourne's CBD.
Docklands became notable during the 1990s for its underground rave dance scene. The growth of the warehouse rave scene carried on from the earlier gay and lesbian warehouse party scene which had started in the early 1980s, and continued in the Docklands through parties such as The ALSO Foundation's Red Raw, Winterdaze, New Year's Eve, and Resurrection dance parties.The site was also host to a number of dance parties by Future Entertainment and Hardware Corporation. DJs and performers such as Paul van Dyk, Carl Cox, Jeff Mills, Frankie Knuckles, David Morales, Marshall Jefferson and BT headlined these events. The biggest event hosted, in terms of attendance, was the "Welcome 2000" New Year's Eve dance party hosted on 31 December 1999.
## Urban renewal
Docklands was seen as a large urban blight by the Cain State Government. Property consultants JLW Advisory carried out the first market demand assessment of the site.The size of the Melbourne Docklands area meant that political influences were inescapable. The Docklands project was on top of the government's agenda, however, due to the poor condition of the wharf infrastructure, a further investment was required to initiate the project, which the government at the time could not afford. Nevertheless, the Docklands project stayed on the drawing board, but with little progress. In 1989, several architectural firms were invited to discuss how the area could best serve the Melbourne public.
In 1990, the Docklands Task Force was established to devise an infrastructure strategy and conduct the public consultation process. The Committee For Melbourne, a not for profit organisation that brought together the private sector of Melbourne for a public good, was pursuing another planning strategy. It involved a bid for the Olympic Games and another proposal to turn the Docklands into a technology city, known as the Multifunction Polis (MFP). Both bids fell through in late 1990. Nevertheless, the Committee For Melbourne's approach became the preferred model in the proceeding strategies for the Docklands development, leading to the formation of the Docklands Authority in July 1991.
### Kennett era
With a government running in budget deficits, not much progress was made on the Docklands project. In late 1992, Jeff Kennett was elected Premier. Kennett instituted many changes and turned the government's financial position around. He then embarked on a multitude of projects, which included Docklands. It was politically imperative to get the project rolling, the Docklands Authority opted for the concept of having leaving all design and funding of infrastructure to the developers. The development industry supported this, and claimed that the project would be more efficient. Docklands was divided into sections or precincts, which were to be tendered to private companies to be developed.
May 1996 saw the relaunch of the tender process. Few restrictions were applied to the bids from developers, and as the vision was to make Docklands 'Melbourne's Millennium Mark', the key criterion for a successful bid was to get projects going by 2000. It did not take long for the realisation that the lack of government coordination in infrastructure planning would create problems. Developers would not invest into public infrastructure, where benefits would flow on to an adjacent property. This was corrected by allowing developers to negotiate for infrastructure funding with the government. The Docklands Village precinct was planned for a residential and commercial mixed development, but, in late 1996, that plan was scrapped when it was announced a private football stadium would be built on the site. The site was chosen for its easy access to the then Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station), and it was intended to be an anchor for the entire project and provide for a clear signal to the long-awaited start of the Docklands project. However, this would create a huge barrier between the City and Docklands.
In 1997, the Docklands commission engaged architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall to design the Docklands masterplan.
With the exception of Yarra Waters (later Yarra's Edge) bid by Mirvac, bid for every other precinct between 1998 and 1999 fell through, reasons for which were often unclear due to secrecy provisions and a change of government.
Through the tendering process for the sites, the business park was split once more and awarded to two consortia, becoming Entertainment City (renamed Paramount Studios) - a movie theme park with film studios, to be developed by a Viacom led consortium, and Yarra Nova (which later evolved into NewQuay), to the MAB Corporation consortium. The Paramount Studios proposal fell through, and the site was put to tender once more, as Studio City, and later awarded as two parts, becoming what is now the Central City Studios and Waterfront City.
Yarra Waters/Yarra Quays was awarded to Mirvac, later becoming Yarra's Edge.
The technology park was renamed Commonwealth Technology Port (or Comtech Port) before finally becoming Digital Harbour.
A number of other sites also encountered false starts, with Victoria Harbour originally being awarded to Walker Corporation, before being put out to tender again and finally being awarded to Lendlease in April 2001. The Batman's Hill precinct was originally awarded to Grocon, which had plans for what would have been the world's tallest building rising 560 m, dubbed Grollo Tower and featuring a mix of office, apartment, hotel and retail. This deal also fell through with the site being subdivided into 15 parcels as well as No 2 Goods Shed.
On 1 July 2007 Docklands became part of the City of Melbourne Local Government Authority, however, VicUrban retained planning authority until 2010.
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