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AN AREA more than twice the size of Docklands is to be opened up for inner-city housing under an ambitious plan to be launched within months by the Baillieu government.
About 200 hectares of land around Fishermans Bend - now a light-industrial area of factories and vacant lots near West Gate Bridge - is to be transformed into a suburb housing tens of thousands of people.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has told The Age he will establish an Urban Renewal Authority in the next four months to oversee a 20 to 30-year plan for the area.
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''The Kennett government had a vision for Docklands, the Cain government saw [a vision for] Southbank - and now the Baillieu government has a vision for Fishermans Bend,'' Mr Guy said. ''It's a big challenge and it will be a big legacy, but it's one I think we have to get right now.''
He said it would be ''a suburb of high-density accommodation that is unlike anywhere we've seen in Australia''.
The project fits in with the government's stated policy of refocusing some urban growth from Melbourne's fringes to its heart - a policy that state-owned developer VicUrban is to be involved in implementing.
Naming urban renewal as the new government's biggest planning challenge, Mr Guy said Fishermans Bend would evolve as ''Australia's first inner-city growth corridor'', exceeding the nearby Docklands development in size and scope.
''This is a revolutionary concept,'' Mr Guy said. ''In the past governments have only viewed growth corridors through the prism of outer urban growth.
''The Baillieu government sees the opportunity to strategically place Melbourne as being the first city to have an inner-city growth corridor and that [Fishermans Bend] is an area with a large enough parcel of land to do that.''
Unlike the Docklands project, which placed large commercial buildings with tenants such as the ANZ and NAB banks alongside residential apartment towers, the Fishermans Bend project would focus on more affordable housing, he said.
He said it was too early to give a figure on the number of houses to be built. The style and density of development would be determined in the planning stage, with precinct structure and development plans to be finalised in the next four years.
Land would be rezoned and incentives provided to encourage residential development.
Property Council of Victoria chief executive Jennifer Cunich said if the government managed to redevelop up to 200 hectares, depending on the density of the buildings, as many as 10,000 to 15,000 dwellings could be built.
''Fishermans Bend, the whole precinct there, is the most obvious next phase … but we need to start talking about how many homes we are putting into the marketplace,'' said Ms Cunich, adding that Victoria was delivering 6000 fewer homes than needed each year.
Mr Guy said development of the area would take up to three decades. It would not encroach on the Webb Dock facilities at the end of Williamstown Road but it would include the E- Gate precinct opposite.
''We don't have a vision for a suburb of multimillion-dollar apartments,'' Mr Guy said. ''We have a vision of a suburb that is a genuine growth area for Melbourne which can offer people a higher-density style of accommodation closer to the city that is different to an outer urban growth market, but one which might have a broader spectrum of people living there.''
Andrew Macleod, chief executive of the Committee for Melbourne, said it made sense to develop underutilised light industrial land so close to the city for housing.
The cost of decontaminating the land would be a critical factor, as would providing better public transport, possibly a myki-integrated water-borne system, to serve new residents, he said. ''We need to be very careful about how we relocate the light-industrial stuff that is already there … The Boeing factory is the second largest Boeing factory in the world.''
Fishermans Bend would benefit from an honest scrutiny of the strengths and weaknesses of the Docklands renewal project, Mr Macleod said.
Mr Guy said the project was an opportunity for growth in an area of the city similar to the urban renewal that took place in Vancouver, Canada, and some other North American cities. ''We have the opportunity to get this right, to put in place long-term structures that will outlast me as Planning Minister and run into successive governments in 20 to 30 years' time.''
They speak about homes in this article which sound suspiciously like quarter acre blocks, the Aussie dream etc. And considering that Fishermans Bend is larger than Docklands, 15,000 people seems a small number for that kind of area. Also the new residents would find themselves worse off than Docklands. The connection between this site and the city is very weak indeed and there is too much industrial land between. Residents would feel isolated on a very artificial development.