Melbourne CBD on course to be the most densely populated area in Australia

Melbourne CBD on course to be the most densely populated area in Australia
Alastair TaylorMarch 31, 2016

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its updated regional population growth figures on Wednesday and at 14,114 people per square kilometre, the Melbourne CBD sits as the second most densely populated area of the country behind Pyrmont-Ultimo in Sydney (15,117 people per square kilometre) .

Based on development underway and in the pipeline - in the sheer number of projects and the size of them - the Melbourne CBD is likely to be in pole position within 12-24 months.

The density statistics are based on the ABS' "SA2" regions and the Melbourne CBD SA2 area is bounded by the Yarra, Flinders Street, Spring Street, Victoria Street, Peel/William Street, La Trobe Street and Spencer Street (refer to the lead image above).

The merits of eventually being the most densely populated part of Australia - using the ABS methodology - are likely to be contested, however the oncoming ascension to the premier position is notable given the state of affairs in Melbourne's CBD 30 years ago.

I wonder if the City of Melbourne would have thought it possible in the 1980s that their heartland was to one day become the country's most densely populated?

We've come a long way since the early days of postcode 3000.

On June 30th 2015, the population of Melbourne's CBD stood at 33,433 according to the ABS data and the area bounded by the streets and river mentioned above measures 2.4 square kilometres.

Looking ahead over the next five to ten years it's not going to be a gradual ascension to the top of the ABS' SA2 density league tables, it's more likely to be akin to a violent, out-of-control steamroller driven by an angry mob that is going to set the bar incredibly high.

Melbourne CBD on course to be the most densely populated area in Australia
John Brack's "Collins Street, 5pm" painted in 1955. Image via NGV

Consider the following.

We're tracking 68 residential, student accommodation or mixed-use projects on the Project Database located within the Melbourne SA2 and they have a combined 27,000-30,000 dwellings.

18 of the projects are currently under construction which together will produce 6000-7000 dwellings. According to the City of Melbourne, the average household size in the CBD standas at 1.91 and is forecast to decrease to 1.44 over the longer term.

The number of dwellings under construction could equate to a further 8500 to 10,000 new residents when using the longer-term household size forecast, potentially boosting the total population to 42,000-43,500 and increasing the population density of 17,500-18,125.

11 projects have a sales campaign underway and that, in total, is another 5000 dwellings in the pipeline with the potential to provide space for 7,200 new residents.

The remaining 39 projects being assessed by council or the Minister and those that are already approved total 16,000-18,000 dwellings; creating enough living space for 23,000-26,000 new Melburnists.

Even if only half the projects in the pipeline - everything except what's currently under construction - were to eventually be built and tenanted, that's could equate to a further 15,000-17,000 new Melbourne CBD residents.

Doubling the population and therefore the population density of Melbourne's CBD over the next 5-10 years? It's very much realistic and the numbers above broadly correlate with the City of Melbourne's own forecast.

In ten years the population density of Melbourne's CBD is forecast to between 26,000 and 27,000 people per square kilometre, comparable with 10th and 14th arrondissements of Paris, and similar to the projections for the 'half-sized' Fishermans Bend based on public domain information from 2013.

That's what I meant by it's going to be violent ascension above all other national peers. No wonder the Lord Mayor was keen to see 447 Collins and its new green space approved.

Alastair Taylor

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

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