Our plan for Melbourne's CBD recovery

When it comes to COVID-19 and lockdowns, Melbourne’s CBD and Docklands were some of the hardest hit areas in the whole country, with people working from home for the best part of two years, the loss of international and domestic students, and Melbourne experiencing the world’s longest lockdown.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of Melbourne’s CBD, yet governments don’t have a plan for the future, beyond just crossing their fingers and hoping things will go back to the way they were.

Instead, we must use this as an opportunity to reimagine what our CBD is for, and why people choose to travel to it, or live in it.

With working from home becoming more common, the CBD will be less  a place people travel to for 9-5pm work, just because they’re forced to come into an office.

Instead, we envisage it will be a place people come because of unique experiences they simply cannot get anywhere else - whether that be dining, the arts or visiting unique businesses and locations.

Our CBD should also be a great place to live long-term, with a thriving community of diverse residents connected to each other, and a great quality of life.

The Greens at Federal, State and Council level have come up with a plan to reinvigorate our CBD and Docklands, and make it a great place to live and visit. We’ve borrowed ideas from some of the best cities in the world, from Barcelona to New York to Berlin.

The Greens 4-point plan to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD:

  1. Attract innovative and creative businesses to the CBD with Government-subsidised rent for those who sign long-term leases.
  2. Make the city more liveable for long-term residents by better regulating traffic, construction noise and building design, and making our streets greener and more pedestrian-friendly.
  3. Make the city more affordable for a diverse population by mandating more public, social and affordable housing.
  4. Fund our iconic arts festivals and organisations with 5-year stable funding to ensure our city remains vibrant, better protect our heritage, and attracting people back with accommodation and arts vouchers in the short-term.

This is a radical and visionary plan, but that’s exactly the kind of thinking we need to build a better city after the pandemic. It will require investment from all levels of government, especially Federal and State Governments. But without this, the alternative is a city clogged with traffic, where apartment blocks lay empty and streets are lined with boarded-up shop-fronts. We can make our city amazing again, with a little bit of vision.

MORE DETAIL:

  • The Government should subsidise a percentage of the rent for new creative, tech and innovative businesses who sign long-term leases in Melbourne’s CBD and Docklands. Many businesses who rely on 9-5pm workers have struggled to survive, closed, and may sadly not come back. Empty shop-fronts are now a sad and common sight. We need to encourage innovative businesses to make the CBD their home. These are businesses that offer unique experiences - like creatives, artists, tech or gaming companies or medical and scientific research companies (to build on Melbourne’s existing strengths in these areas, where co-location and collaboration is a huge benefit). The Federal Government should pay 25% to 50% of the rent for the first five years for businesses who sign long-term leases. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Budget Office is currently costing this plan, making it open to cities over 100,000 people who have vacancy rates of at least 8% since Jan 2020, and it is expected to cost $490 million over 5 years, and will leverage many hundreds of millions more in private investment and revenue for our city's economy. A program just targeted for Melbourne would cost much less.
     
  • Make the city more liveable for residents by making streets more pedestrian-friendly, making it easier to get a good night’s sleep with better construction and traffic regulations. Regulating short-stay apartments, greening our laneways to create more open space, and better building regulations to require fresh air, sunlight and good quality apartment design in the city will also improve city living. Some of these (such as better regulating construction noise, in line with what happens in Sydney) should be enacted at the Council level and some (such as regulating short-stays and better building standards) at a State Government level. Many cities (like Barcelona and New York) are already banning or limiting vehicles from certain areas in their central cities to turn them into more liveable, pedestrian-friendly plazas both to protect our environment and health but also to create better quality of life for residents. We can take inspiration from their success. You can see more detail of our plan to give city residents a ‘Good Nights’ Sleep’ here and more about our plan for better apartment living here.
     
  • Make city living more affordable, to attract a wider variety of residents. Essential workers like nurses, cleaners and supermarket workers, as well as most people on modest incomes, are being pushed further and further out of the city due to a lack of affordable housing. A city is the most vibrant and thriving when people of all different ages and income levels can afford to live there. The State Government should introduce laws that require a percentage of affordable, public or social housing in all new developments (30% for developments over 100 dwellings, 20% for between 15-100 dwellings and 15% or a contribution in lieu of for under 15 dwellings). This happens in other cities around the world such as New York, London and San Francisco. This has long been talked about by the State Government but never implemented. You can see more detail about our affordable housing plan here
     
  • Fund our arts festivals and organisations with 5-year stable funding to ensure our city remains vibrant, and our creative industries and workers thrive and become sustainable long-term. The arts have a history of reviving cities after crises - from Berlin to Christchurch. Our arts organisations and festivals - from the Fringe Festival to the Comedy Festival to  the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival - often run on the smell of an oily rag or exist on unstable year-to-year government funding, when longer-term funding would give them the stability and security to thrive. State and Federal Governments should create a new joint fund that supports 20 festivals and arts organisations with stable funding for 5 years. We must also protect our arts communities and heritage buildings, yet right now one of our most iconic arts venues - the Nicholas Building - is about to be sold and is at risk of being turned into apartments. The State Government should provide a bond-rate loan for the City of Melbourne or Nicholas Building Association to buy the heritage Nicholas Building in the CBD so it can be retained as an affordable, unique arts and creative community. Melbourne should also follow NSW’s lead and provide accommodation and experience vouchers to attract people back to the city in the short-term, beyond just the dining vouchers that have already been announced, see more about this here.

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