The Docklands urban renewal precinct is set to get its own cinema and supermarket.
Sydney-based finance house Ashe Morgan is poised to roll out a major Hoyts movie complex and large format supermarket in the heart of the precinct as it sets about rejuvenating its Harbour Town shopping complex.
The cinema will be built opposite the city’s 120-metre tall Melbourne Star Ferris wheel, adding another significant tourism and consumer drawcard to the north-western end of Docklands precinct.
The wheel became Melbourne’s best known white elephant after it was shut in 2009 only weeks after opening before finally being recommissioned by its Japanese owner, opening again in 2014.
The proposed cinema complex will also house a large tenpin bowling venue and shops in a two-storey structure tucked behind the Costco hypermarket, the country’s largest bulk retailer that borders Footscray Road.
Ashe Morgan, a property-focused private equity player that specialises in turning around troubled commercial assets, acquired the 40,000-square-metre site in 2014 after it was offloaded by ING Real Estate.
A year later Singapore-based firm SC Capital Partners snapped up a half share of the $146 million portfolio and has since worked with the finance house to reposition the centre’s shops, 3000-bay car park, ice skating rink and portions of the land that can be redeveloped.
That redevelopment process is expected to come to fruition next year and also includes plans for a $28.5 million supermarket and retail outlet bordering Waterfront Way.
That proposal, also approved by Melbourne City Council, includes a fresh food market with a full-line 3900 sqm supermarket, a neighbouring 2600 sqm fish market and 2500 sqm of smaller format food retailers.
Both new structures will require partial demolition of existing buildings.
Ashe Morgan would not confirm which supermarket major it had signed for the new location.
Harbour Town’s location along a key arterial route between the central city and Footscray, and its proximity to growing populations in North and West Melbourne, is likely to help boost patronage.
The combined project value is expected to top $62 million.
The plans were a “significant milestone”, Ashe Morgan’s Alton Abrahams said.
“We are excited to see the realisation of the vision for the new centre … this is just the start of something much bigger,” he said.
Docklands is rapidly shedding its “windswept and barren” reputation.
Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle said significant investment in community infrastructure was transforming the precinct.
“Docklands has turned the corner from seven or eight years ago, not just in the jobs that are there but also the people who not only live there, but come to visit and enjoy facilities,” he said.
About 35,000 people arrive each day to work in a growing number of prominent, architecturally designed offices, mainly concentrated in the suburb’s southern end.
Retailers have responded with cafes, restaurants, bars and other services.
Meanwhile, opposite the new Docklands library a 3000 sqm urban park and boating hub is under construction and plans have been mooted for a primary school.
“If you build it [a school] the families will come,” Mr Doyle said. “It’s not a matter of if, but of when. We would prefer to see it in the near future.”