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Fishermans Bend Forum reflections 1

A forum on the future of Fishermans Bend was hosted by the Community Alliance of Port Phillip on Sunday 7 July 2013.

A thoughtful panel addressed the theme of the urban renewal of this area from different perspectives.  Readers will need to forgive the clumsy acronym FBURA, the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area, which will be used in this and future posts.

Introducing the forum, Peter Mares set the scene. At 240 hectares, the FBURA is bigger than Docklands and Southbank combined. It is the largest urban renewal project in Australia – bigger than Barangaroo in Sydney. On the Melbourne planning scene, a new metropolitan strategy is anticipated.

Dr Rory Hyde kicked off the forum. That was appropriate. He has recently published Future Practice. Alone of all the speakers, he showed some familiarity with the area.  The current tabula rasa approach being taken denies what is actually happening in Fishermans Bend right now.

He spoke about the creative energy constellating around Globe’s refurbishment of the former Cadbury building in Fennell St. The Salford Lads Club has got people flocking from around Melbourne and even walking across Williamstown Road – something that rarely happened before.  That has been followed by a barber, the Matilda Bay brewery and a vintage car race. This approach has become a bit of a case study for the re-use of industrial buildings. He made the point that creative industries and the knowledge sector have a recognised role in urban renewal.

Hyde also highlighted the influence of Fishermans Bend’s underlying topography on future development scenarios. Port Places has always been fascinated by how the area’s topography has influenced activities in Fishermans Bend since white settlement.

Unsuited to housing because of its sandy, swampy nature, Fishermans Bend’s logistical advantages and proximity to the river made it well suited to the industrial focus of the post-war period. Those industrial uses have, in turn, left legacies of contamination that will add significantly to the cost of future development. In addition, the swampy character of the area will require expensive construction techniques which will likely lead to tower forms.

The creative industries are not only located in this part of Fishermans Bend. There is a very significant cluster of film related industries in the Montague precinct. These uses will be difficult to sustain with land value increases.

Hyde made the dire prediction that the (lack of) planning for the area ‘will lead to the worst part of Melbourne ever to be built.’

It is the intention of generating community debate on the future of Fishermans Bend to ensure that doesn’t happen.

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