Call for expressions of interest: Urban Melbourne Project Database subscription

Call for expressions of interest: Urban Melbourne Project Database subscription
Call for expressions of interest: Urban Melbourne Project Database subscription

Data portal now available

See our data portal launch article for more information.

Call for expressions of interest

For over two years, Urban Melbourne's project database has been the destination for tracking urban development across metropolitan Melbourne. This information will never be placed behind a paywall, as the data is too important to be locked up. It is and will always available at https://urban.melbourne/projectdatabase

We have received multiple requests for raw project data to be made available in more easily manipulable formats for analytic purposes, and with an eye toward taking the project database to the next level, today we're putting out a broad call for expressions of interest in a new subscription-based data product.

Our vision

A more frequently updated and greatly expanded database of urban development projects around metropolitan Melbourne.

The product

In a nutshell, the Urban Melbourne project database will be distributed in a comma separated values (CSV) file on a fortnightly basis to paid subscriber's inboxes. We will export and distribute all project data to subscribers on Monday mornings.

Every piece of data we have on a project will be included except renders - owing to impracticalities of sending hundreds of thumbnail-sized images in a single email; we will include the URL for each project so subscribers can quickly and easily view the render(s) for the respective project if they wish.

Each fortnight the CSV file will consist of the complete database encompassing and highlighting new entries and changes that have been made to individual projects over the previous 7 days.

For the first time, UM staff notes/commentary on each project will be made available within the raw data. Subscribers will be observing what we observe over time as we visit construction sites, council planning offices or when information is provided to us directly.

The price

$100 per month or $1000 per year - plus GST.

Sole traders/consultants, small, medium and large-sized firms, academic institutions, government departments, local councils, other media organisations, research firms, any interested party: one flat price.

To be clear: the license that will be associated with the weekly distributions will, among other things, emphasise the data is to be used for analytical purposes and it will not grant the subscriber the right to fully replicate our database on the public web.

The future

As our subscriber base grows we will employ more dedicated resources for information gathering and therefore have a greater ability to expand the type of data we aggregate.

Where to now?

The data portal is now available for subscription. See our data portal launch article for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is your data gathering methodology?

The Urban Melbourne project database simply aggregates public domain information.

Our primary source of data is planning applications and we are limited to the information contained within them unless information over and above what's included in a planning application is provided to us by developers, architects or sales agents. We monitor online sources - primarily local and state planning websites, in addition to face to face meetings with planning officials, developers, architects and the like. On some occasions we will create a bare-bones shell listing on the database if we observe data from another online source.

That's the process we've followed since the site went live and we now have 715 individual projects from right across the metropolitan area.

How frequently is the data updated?

The primary updates which occur to projects in the database are when projects transition through different statuses. We use the following project statuses:

  • Planning Assessment. When we cite a project's planning application either online or at a local council/state government planning office, a project starts its journey on our database with a planning assessment status.
  • Approved. Once Council or Spring Street have signed off on a planning application for a development, the project is transitioned to approved. This is confirmed by citing council meeting minutes and register either online, at the local office or if we are informed of a decision.
  • Registrations & Sales. When a developer begins marketing their project - be it offshore or onshore - the project transitions to registration & sales.
  • Under Construction. As soon as we see a development site being cleared or prepared for construction, the respective entry on the database will transition to this status.
  • Completed. The final status - these projects are not currently displayed in the project database (because it is no longer a project, it is a building!). The fortnightly distributions will include a seaparate tab of completed projects - this will be limited to only the projects that have been completed since we started tracking development two and a half years ago.

Each fortnightly distribution will be the entire published database and will prioritise and highlight new and updated entries along with any notes/commentary which explains the updates in more detail.

The frequency of project updates is limited to our ability to monitor multiple sources and up and until this point it has been shared among key UM staff as needed. The subscription revenue we receive will allow us to employ dedicated resources therefore increasing the frequency and quality of updates as well as allow us to expand the scope of data that we collect over time.

What criteria is used?

We track medium and high-density multi-level development right across the metropolitan area. The rule of thumb we use is that the database will include any residential, commercial or institutional project which consists of buildings which have three or more levels.

We do not as a general rule include townhouse projects (as they're more than likely to fall outside the scope of our three level rule) - however townhouse projects will make it into the database if they form part of a larger multi-level residential development.

We do not track detached housing projects on greenfields sites - we will add any multi-level apartment projects which may be located within those areas however.

How we count levels / floors / storeys in a building: the floor which contains the main entry to the building is the first level and the floor above the ground level is the second floor and so on - a building which has 4 levels above the ground level is a 5 level building.

What attributes are collected? How comprehensive is it?

Here's a list of attributes we have available, note: not every attribute is applicable to every project.

  • Project Name. By default project names are the street address and suburb until such a point where a project name is known, e.g. "Australia 108 - 70 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank".
  • Project Status.
  • Renders. The images will not be included in the fortnightly distributions, the project's URL will be included to enable quick/easy access to view them.
  • Building Type.
    • Low-rise. 1-5 levels
    • Mid-rise. 6-12 levels
    • High-rise. above 13 levels
  • Building Use.
    • Residential
    • Commercial
    • Transportation
    • Institutional
    • Mixed-use
    • Retail
    • Hotel.
  • Local Government Area (we further break City of Melbourne down in to precincts like CBD West End, Southbank, Docklands etc; City of Port Phillip is likely to have the same treatment as planning applications increase throughout Fishermans Bend).
  • Architect.
  • Developer.
  • Builder. Builder name is only available when a project is in Registration & Sales or Under Construction status.
  • Number of buildings
  • Number of floors
  • Building heights - metres. Not all these fields are applicable to every project but we currently have the capacity to capture these heights from planning applications if they exist.
    • Roof height
    • Architectural height
    • Antenna height
  • Amenities.
  • Number of dwellings. Total number of residential units in a project.
  • Net Leasable Area (NLA). Used only on commercial projects.
  • Other dimensional information.
  • Nearby Public Transport.
  • Bike spaces.
  • Car spaces.
  • Structured location Information. This information is used for the project name, however we also store it in a structured way for easy searchability.
    • Street Address
    • Suburb
    • Postcode

Based on feedback received so far, the following attributes have been requested be added to our road map:

  • More structure around Other Dimensional Information. At present this is a free-form field which can contain multiple attributes and it has been requested that this field perhaps be broken down into searchable attributes like development site size (in square metres).
  • Add new height (and depth) aspects of the building: podium height, basement level depth.
  • Add number of floors below the surface (i.e basement floor count).
  • Break down the total number of residential units in a project. Number of 1 bedroom units, 2 bedroom units, 3 bedroom units as well as capture the average size for each unit type.

We will continue to assess the viability of capturing this suggested data and will build a road map once the expression of interest period ends.

As we add attributes to our existing dataset we may not be able to add historical data to projects which have been added in the past - it will be dependent on original planning application information still being readily available / if we can obtain the information from another source. Once we've established our baseline and settled on our roadmap, we'll include the new attributes in new projects that are added.

How much data will be updated with each distribution?

The fortnightly distribution that will land in subscriber's inboxes every second Monday will include all new projects and updates that have been added to the database up until close of business on the Friday the week before.

Reflecting the urban industry at large we expect peaks and troughs will be present in the distributions: there may only be minimal change in one fortnight yet in other fortnights there will be a much greater volume. This will be dependent on the business cycle and likewise if we add new attributes to the database, subscribers should expect increased volume over a series of distributions in the latter case.

We will monitor this and assess whether the delivery frequency should be increased.

Will we be able to publish periodical analysis of the data contained in the distributions?

Yes. In fact we encourage other media outlets, think-tanks, academic institutions or any other organisation which publishes information on the public web to subscribe and set your data journalists/analysts to work - we'll be interested in reading your analysis! We would request that any organisation who may be thinking of going down this path quote the source of the data as coming from Urban Melbourne.

We will not allow total replication of our database - with all the individual attributes in granular form - to be published on another public website.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.