The pace of construction activity continues to quicken at Victoria Harbour as Lend Lease cashes in on the seemingly endless demand for apartments. Their Docklands precinct currently sees seven residential towers at various stages of construction, a far cry from the solitary project on the radar during 2005.
Add a number of ongoing infrastructure and civic projects within the precinct and the level of development activity within the waterside hub is truly impressive.
Leader of the pack is the Bates Smart-designed Concavo residential tower which is rapidly approaching completion, while the dual towers of 888 Collins Street directly opposite Concavo are making swift progress. 888 Collins Street's western tower has topped out while the 40 level eastern tower has nudged past a third the way to its eventual height.
Most impressive is the progress of 839-889 Collins Street which has seen four Koichi Takada-designed towers advance to construction in seemingly no time. Replacing intended commercial buildings along Victoria Harbour's waterfront, promenade works and foundation piling have commenced which will ultimately see an additional 1070 apartments added over the four buildings.
It's not all apartments at Victoria Harbour though with the Community Hub at The Dock set for completion later in the year. The hub will feature a new home for Docklands Yacht Club, the Victorian Dragon Boat Association and the Melbourne Outrigger Canoe club, plus a family services centre encompassing consulting, playground and communal facilities.
The Community Hub joins Library at the Dock which opened during 2014; both projects represent a shift toward providing community-based facilities within Victoria Harbour. In addition, demolition works continue further west along North Wharf Road in preparation for future development stages, effectively stretching construction along a roughly 500 metre front within Victoria Harbour.
Perhaps most interesting is the regeneration of Merchant Street. Near completed aspects of the project seek to add greater variety to the streetscape, with an eye toward creating a finer grain pedestrian experience and enticing workers to stay within the area post work hours.
Whether this is a natural progression of Victoria Harbour or an admission that the original builds were lacking where it matters - street level activation and design quality - is another topic altogether. Upon first viewing below the near complete corner of Bourke and Merchant is somewhat bland relative to the render which depicts a greater level of intricacy over the newly projected podium.
So what was the state of Victoria Harbour during 2005? Only John Wardle's impressive Dock 5 residential tower was on the menu, creeping skyward over the course of the year. It's purple facade and overhung metal crown complimented the 148 apartments within the project, giving the precinct a focal point upon its completion.
Dock 5 followed on from both the Ericsson and NAB low-rise commercial buildings representing the initial projects within the expansive Victoria Harbour precinct. Providing exceptional spaces internally, the buildings arguably offered little by way of design nous externally; a failing that could be applied to many builds within Victoria Harbour over the years to come, namely Myer Docklands, Montage, Mosaic and Forte.
If nothing else the seven to one ratio of apartment projects under construction over the decade-long gap serves to exemplify the rate at which apartment living has rocketed throughout Melbourne, particularly since 2000. Looking forward to 2025 and Victoria Harbour will most likely be complete as further projects creep westward toward the Bolte Bridge.
What the fully completed precinct will look like at that point is anyone's guess at this stage.