Has Melbourne's High Line gone off the rails?

Slightly over three years ago City of Melbourne revealed its ambitions for a 'High Line' based loosely on New York's highly successful and popular adaptive re-use of its High Line: an elevated community-run public park. At a cost of $6 million, City of Melbourne was to invest $3 million into the project with the remainder to come from the Australian Government's Liveable City's Program Fund.

New York High Line. © Iwan Baan

It would create a unique public place like no other in Melbourne and bolster an important connection between our city’s north and south banks over the Yarra. This is what makes Melbourne one of the best cities in the world, we are always looking to enhance these unused spaces in our city to bring them back to life, that is why Melbourne is so liveable.

This project compliments all of our sustainability programs and will again build on the number of capital works projects undertaken by the city that champion green and sustainable design in Melbourne. This project would embrace our Urban Forest and Open Space Strategies and our Southbank Structure plan whilst complement and respect the design and heritage significance of the bridge.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, February 2012

Fast forward to 2015 and little has been heard of the project since, or any of the City of Melbourne's short term ambitions for the western section of Sandridge Bridge for that matter.

City of Melbourne concepts for Sandridge Bridge High Line.

As a result I decided to have a (very high level) crack at what a Melbourne High Line might look like. Keeping in mind this was a series of ideas thrown together over the course of an afternoon, I may one day revisit with a greater degree of rigor in future when time permits.

Drawing on the bridge's history as a rail viaduct it made sense in my mind at least to include an old Comeng train: stripped and converted into cafes, restaurants and bars, not unlike the End to End project in Collingwood. The idea is also a nod to an early concept for Sandridge Bridge from over a decade ago which had a replica of the Spirit of Progress sited on top housing a restaurant.

The western section would be more of a meandaring informal path with greater opportunity to dwell than the eastern section's Traveller's installation.

High Line concept at Sandridge Bridge. © Urban Melbourne

Additionally a 'Lantern' structure housing lifts and stairs sits at on the Southbank side where numerous temporary structures have been erected over the years for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival amongst others. It would provide a southern counterpoint to the signal box on the north bank of the river and bookend Sandridge Bridge.

High Line concept at Sandridge Bridge. © Urban Melbourne

With a mix of soft and hard landscape the linear park would provide an urban oasis above one of Melbourne's key natural assets while adding to Melbourne's open space.

The Arbory as a point of reference

You don't have to look too far for inspiration or to get a sense of what's possible for such a long linear space. ​It's worth noting that The Arbory, the outdoor bar designed by Jackson Clements Burrows and occupying the site of the former Sandridge Line next to Platform 13 has taken four years to come to fruition.

The 150m bar which only opened its doors last month features a large container accommodating a kitchen, bathrooms and two bars that runs half the length of the site. For comparison sake the Sandridge Bridge High Line would span a length of 178m.

The Arbory. © Broadsheet


I'm generally not one to champion copying other cities' concepts but when something as successful and popular as New York's High Line provides a perfect framework and point of reference, it's hard to look past the benefits to the city. First and foremost it's critical that any proposal for a Melbourne High Line addresses its context and the history of Sandridge Bridge and the role it played in the growth of the city.

It must be of its time and place while providing an opportunity to build a park in the centre of the city linking Northbank with Southbank, and building on the work City of Melbourne and the State Government have undertaken to improve the city's relationship/interface with its river.



Alastair Taylor's picture

PTV/Metro are going to need the Comeng trains for a while yet Laury!

Definitely like the previous idea with the Spirit of Progress replica:

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Martin Mankowski's picture

Great concept and love the idea of the Comeng cafe. However given the inertia on doing anything with this bridge, we might have to put an 'old' X'trapolis train on there by the time this gets built!

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Bilby's picture

It would be great to see the whole elevated line along Flinders St. turned into a High Line one day! While I'm at it, though, no one has answered my question, Mark - is the Richard Gu piece closed for comments? If so, why?

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