Renew Australia Tackles the Docklands

The 'Renew Australia' model for urban renewal is cited as a success, particularly based on it's role in revitalising parts of Newcastle. But how will it work in  Melbourne's Docklands?




The Docklands receives a hefty amount of criticism, and is described as being uninviting and empty. Creative businesses are notably lacking in the area.  According to Marcus Westbury (founder of Renew Australia), there's a vicious cycle thing going on; "Nothing is there so no one goes there. No one goes there so no one wants to open anything there".

The Dockland Spaces project (a collaboration between Renew Australia, MAB, Places Victoria, and the City of Melbourne) is attempting to change this. The aim is "to create fertile ground for experiments and see what happens". Basically, they do this by negotiating with property owners of vacant spaces and matching them with local creative initiatives who will use the space for teensy tiny rents ($20 a week).

He explains, "We don’t actually set out to make the area “cool” or “hip” or whatever but to unpack the process and lower the barriers to entry so more people can try more things. We aim to make the place maleable and responsive to the initiative and experimentation of individuals or small groups who have imagination but have no capital."

So far, the Spaces project has a 3D Printing Studio on board, a bunch of young architects, and a place that produces organic picnic hampers.  Several other creative types are on the waiting list (artisans etc).

The premise behind this initiative is that the cheaper rents will entice unique, creative businesses, and each business will attract people, and those people will attract other people, eventually resulting in a vibrant, unique and interesting place (this is the case in Newcastle for instance, where Renew Australia was born).

I'm interested to see what eventuates from this.  Although there's just a few tenancies involved now, who knows what we could see down there if the project takes off?

Read more on the Spaces project here.

Read Renew Australia founder Marcus Westbury's blog post about it, or see more in The Age article.

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