When you mention Brunswick to anyone who's from the other side of the Yarra you're quite likely to get a rendition of the Franco Cozzo ad, a massive expletive-ladden anti-hipster tirade or hushed jibes about lefties.
However we need to question how long those stereotypes will last. Urban Melbourne labelled Lygon Street in Brunswick East a development hotspot in August 2013 and the picture today is dramatically different. Not that Lygon Street is seeing significantly less development, it's that the planning applications are flying in from all over Brunswick and increasingly Coburg.
A quick glance at the data portal for Moreland shows there are currently 69 projects across the municipality yielding a total of 5,575 units across all statuses. 57 of those projects with 4,293 units are located in postcodes 3055, 3056 and 3057: Brunswick West, Brunswick and Brunswick East respectively.
10 of the projects located in either of the three postcodes are under construction, 13 at sales, 18 approved and 16 are currently before council. Most of those projects are located on the Brunswick activity strips of Sydney Road and Lygon Street however this might just be about to change.
The City of Moreland has liberally applied the residential growth zone to many parts of the municipality outside its three key activity centres of Brunswick, Coburg and Glenroy and the draft neighbourhood centres strategy now viewable on Moreland's website seeks to clarify the council's vision for its second-tier activity centres.
In a nutshell the strategy aims to introduce controls to 11 of the 12 neighbourhood centres in Moreland. The neighbourhood centres are scattered throughout the municipality and include areas such as Grantham and Union Streets, Melville Road and Victoria Street in Brunswick West. Gaffney Street in Pascoe Vale, Merlynston, Fawkner and Oak Park are also on the list of areas where development will be encouraged.
The aforementioned areas come under the residential growth zone and in some part include mixed use and commercial 1 zones.
More than 50% of the draft strategy document is dedicated to design and built-form guidelines for the areas where development up to 4 levels is permissable.
Great urban initiatives like Revitalise Sydney Road are focused on reconfiguring the look, feel and operations of Sydney Road but is it time to think bigger and earmark sites on Sydney Road for future office-only uses?
Say a concept like that outlined by the Revitalise Sydney Road comes to fruition and the public transport capacity of the road is boosted, the amount of people who will be able to travel up and down from Moreland to the new Parkville Station will increase substantially.
Most of the office space on or near Sydney Road is contained above retail shops or as add-on components to warehouses west of the Upfield train line. A company with a requirement for 1000 square metres of modern office space would be hard pressed to find a site suitable in Brunswick which is curious given it is and will be a natural spill-over area for the biotech and health-focused Parkville area.
In a policy document dated 2011-2016, some of they key challenges for Moreland include 'continued loss of land for employment purposes to residential conversion', 'poor perception of the North as the place for business' and 'limited supply of quality office space'. Perhaps it's time for a commercial development and employment-focused strategy.