The Docklands debate: An inner-city gem or soulless experiment?

Say the name Docklands to 10 different Melburnians and you're likely to get 10 different responses. Docklands divides like few other suburbs. To some it's a soulless experiment that never worked, while to others it's an undiscovered gem right on the doorstep of the CBD.

One notion about Docklands achieves consensus; it occupies prime waterfront land in what should be one of Melbourne's social and cultural epicentres.

When the Kennett government kick-started the Docklands renewal project in the 1990s, the brownfield site was touted as a gold rush, not only for the developers but the early residents who were regularly profiled in newspaper lifestyle supplements for their radical lifestyle choice.

Twenty years on, apartment living is far more normalised but the Docklands experiment continues to deliver mixed results.

Some of its retail and leisure precincts have never really fired - plus there's that famed wind tunnel effect bedevilling the area.

Owner and editor of Docklands News Shane Scanlan says Docklands is still notable for different quality, evidenced by its distinct precincts.

"Yarra's Edge is quite residential and north facing, which is a benefit for the promenade along the river," he says.

"It doesn't have a problem with short stay apartments, which is a significant residential issue in New Quay, which is full of serviced apartments.

"It's a real hierarchy - some are investor stock, some are owner occupier, and it's really up to prospective buyers to figure out which is which."

Says Scanlan, "If I had a lazy million I'd spend it on an apartment in Docklands.

"It's so close to the CBD but it doesn't have the chaos. It's got a village atmosphere.

"It's windy - of all the criticisms levelled at Docklands that's the one that's most true - but 30 per cent of people here walk to work."

Domain group chief economist Dr Andrew Wilson believes its artificial beginning has been the handbrake on Docklands' success.

"Melburnians have a strong connection to neighbourhood tags and haven't taken particularly well to one that's regenerated what was an industrial area."

It remains attractive to investors, he says, with attractive yields and no shortage of tenants lining up for its apartment stock.

"It's an interesting dichotomy between what people are prepared to pay to own it and what people are prepared to pay to rent it," Wilson says.

So what of the future of Docklands? It's brighter, say some observers, than the naysayers might think.

Glenn Donnelly, an agent with City Residential Bourke Street who has lived in Docklands for 12 years, says the proportion of owner-occupiers has grown to around eight out of every 10 apartments he sells in postcode 3008.

"We're experiencing major growth," he says.

"The sense of community has grown along with the population - it doubled in size to around 11,000 between the 2011 and 2016 census.

"Most importantly it's important to judge it as a work in progress that is only around 60 per cent finished."

Docklands News' Scanlan says: "When it's projected to finish by maybe 2025 this place will only ever have fewer than 20,000 residents.

"It will be scarcity that drives the market. Once it's finished you'll find it becomes very valuable and sought after."

1401/1 Point Park Crescent, Docklands

$1,050,000-$1,125,000
2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 car spaces

This 14th floor apartment boasts million dollar views. The angular floor plan creates zones from from which different vantages of water and skysrcaper vistas take centre stage.

Two balconies - one off the main bedroom and the other, overlooking the swish yachts below and CBD beyond - open from the living and meals area. The gourmet kitchen with Miele appliances is just the ticket for the keen home cook, but walk towards Crown Casino for a selection of eateries and bars (with Polly Woodside as a charming backdrop) which have reinvigorated this part of Melbourne.

Rare for a city pad are the two secure car spaces. New owners will also have access to the gym, pool, spa and more. Ride the Collins Street tram to the CBD.

Private sale
Agent:Real Estate Services by Mirvac, Baden Lucas 0418 888 751

This story The Docklands debate: An inner-city gem or soulless experiment? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.