Anyone who remembers the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills 20 years ago, will know how much the suburb has changed. Surry Hills is incredibly well located – bordering the CBD; it’s close to many public transport options including Central Station, all the major universities and easily connected to local parks and beaches.
Over the last two decades of gentrification, Surry Hills has transformed into a ‘place to be’ – with some of the best bars and chic restaurants in Sydney. Old warehouses have been converted into smart apartments, more families and professionals have moved in, and property prices have soared alongside the increasing demand.
If you look for parallel suburbs in Melbourne – a city now outpacing Sydney in terms of population growth – there is one suburb that comes to mind.
The inner Melbourne suburb of West Melbourne offers the same walk-everywhere lifestyle, ‘hipster cred’ and vibrancy of city-living as Surry Hills – and like its Sydney counterpart – it is transforming fast.
Situated right at the north-west edge of the city, West Melbourne has all the charms of the city right at its doorstep. Like Surry Hills in Sydney, West Melbourne borders the CBD and it’s also only a 750m walk to Australia’s top university, the University of Melbourne. Residents can walk to Flagstaff Gardens, Victoria Markets and the waterfront at Docklands.
West Melbourne is also similar demographically to the old Surry Hills, with a lot of young professionals in residence. Currently, 65% of residents in West Melbourne are aged between 24 and 39; well above the Melbourne average of 31%. The vast majority (84%) of West Melbourne residents are employed in white collar industries.
A growing suburb
Melbourne as a whole is already the fastest growing city in Australia, with a population growth rate of 2.7%.
West Melbourne’s population is projected to grow at more than double this rate: 5.8% per annum over the next two decades, increasing by 15,300 people by 2036.
Why is West Melbourne changing?
West Melbourne is a suburb in transformation, evolving from its light-industrial past to a lively residential suburb with its own ‘destination’ dining and retail.
With its growing population, the City of Melbourne Council has developed a West Melbourne Structure Plan to guide the suburb’s future development.
“Melbourne is growing fast and there is increasing demand from people to live and work in our inner city neighbourhoods,” said City of Melbourne, Cr Reece and Cr Leppert.
In accordance with this growth, the vision for the West Melbourne Structure Plan was created:
“West Melbourne will retain its unique identity, varied areas of character and mix of uses as it evolves into one of Melbourne’s distinct inner urban neighbourhoods, and a counterpoint to the central city. Its wide green streets will provide excellent connections and a network of local places and spaces to rest and play with Spencer Street as a vibrant local high street.” – West Melbourne Structure Plan 2018.
The vision for West Melbourne
Source: West Melbourne Structure Plan 2018
According to the Plan, five new precincts, each with their distinctive character will be created within West Melbourne. Central to the plan is to transform Spencer Street into a lively and dynamic high street. The new Spencer Street vision will feature: modern restaurants, cafes, cosmopolitan retail experiences and increased pedestrian, cycling and transport access.
The Five Precincts of West Melbourne
West Melbourne Structure Plan 2018
One of the most exciting aspects of this is the proposal to extend the CBD tram network along Spencer Street, right through the heart of West Melbourne.
Spencer Street: BEFORE
Spencer Street: AFTER
Further to this, the existing North Melbourne train station will be renamed West Melbourne station – to better reflect its location.
The West Melbourne Structure Plan has already been endorsed by the Future Melbourne Committee, and is now seeking community feedback.
“West Melbourne as a suburb has flown under the radar for some time now, however the new West Melbourne Structure Plan is sure to change that,” said Ironfish Head of Property, William Mitchell.
“The suburb has been given a new direction, one that will create better transport, greener streets, and importantly a bigger and more vibrant retail scene and community atmosphere. As the plan is adopted over the coming years, it will be fascinating to watch West Melbourne transform. As new cafes, restaurants, parks and potentially a tram line along Spencer Street arrive, more and more Melbournians will realise this is an incredibly well-located suburb, with big potential.
“Being adjacent to the CBD, and a stone’s throw from Melbourne University and the hospital precinct along Flemington Road, this undiscovered pocket won’t stay undiscovered for long.”
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