By 2051, Melbourne’s population is projected to reach eight million, a number that got three key players thinking of ways to adapt to this inevitable urban growth. The City of Melbourne, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne are joining forces to establish Australia’s very own Silicon Valley, attracting more small businesses, startups and social enterprises to the northern side of the city.
Through community events and improved public spaces, the ‘urban innovation district’ promises to provide more opportunities for the city’s knowledge workers, researchers, students, businesses and community organizations to connect and collaborate.
“We want to inspire students, staff, alumni, companies, investors, community partners and governments to get involved in creating new knowledge and city experiences,” says Martin Bean, the vice-chancellor of RMIT University. There are 227,000 students in Melbourne (35,000 of which are international students), with the majority based north of the city’s Central Business District. According to Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, this adds even more reason as to why the urban innovation district is essential to the area.
The district — as part of the Melbourne Innovation Districts (MID) initiative — will add upgrades to streets, parks and other public spaces. However, at the same time, it promises to preserve the district’s suburban character by engaging green spaces to encourage walking and cycling, leaving behind the old destructive traits that come along with urban innovation. The district will rely heavily on technology since it will incorporate greater use of sensors, apps and other networking technologies, such as WiFi connectivity.
Melbourne has observed an unprecedented level of investment pumped into this mega-project. The New Academic Street transformation will be finalized next month at a cost of $220 million, followed by the renewal of the Queen Victoria Market precinct, which will be completed by 2022 at a cost of $250 million. During the same year, an $8.8 million investment will be used to renovate University Square, while the Melbourne Metro Tunnel will be completed four years later at a cost of $11 billion.