How to fix the Docklands? Free rent!


It’s well-documented that Melbourne’s Docklands is a pretty miserable place. It’s harsh, windy, soulless and (unsurprisingly) empty. Since the closure of the farcical observation wheel in 2009, shop owners and restauranteurs have been jumping ship, taking with them any reason to visit the doomed district. It’s a vicious cycle; no shops, no visitors – no visitors, no shops.

So how to coax a bit of life into the area? How about free rent? Docklands Spaces is the latest project by Renew Australia, a not-for-profit initiative that re-activates struggling areas by filling vacant retail spaces with local creative enterprises. Temporary residents pay a participation fee of $20 per week to Renew Australia, who cover insurance and overheads, at no cost to shop owners.

“Docklands Spaces will drive activity and innovation, creating new and interesting projects that will be great for the area”, Renew Australia’s Director, Marcus Westbury, said. “These projects are a win-win for the creative participants, property owners and the local community”.

The project is is seeking makers, designers, photographers, printmakers, painters, illustrators, architects, milliners, jewellers, animators, publishers, lap top businesses, video and music makers and other creative types to temporarily set up shop in Docklands’ vacant retail spaces. Architecture studio, Musk, are recent newcomers and hope to use the public interface to turn passers-by into customers. Batch 3D printing studio moved in last month and are using the space to design, create and sell 3D printing products, including jewellery and pendant lights.


Musk’s Super Ply installation for the 2012 ‘Light in Winter’ festival at Federation Square


3D printed pendant lamps by Batch

Docklands Spaces is based on the success of the Renew Newcastle project, which injected some life into a suffering city and provided opportunities for small, local enterprises. The brains of the operation, Marcus Westbury, tells the story here:



Tamarin Watson
Design Creative

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