How does your city grow? Can you visualise it?

By Susan Saunders, Residents 3000

Remember scrolling through monthly building approvals lists? Seeing a sign on the street about a new development and wondering why you didn’t know about it?  Those days are gone.

In June, the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC unveiled a new online 3D interactive tool, which, for the first time, provides a visual representation of buildings that are existing, approved, under construction or under application in Melbourne. The tool allows the user to zoom in and out and view the city from different angles.

The web address for the Development Activity Model as shown below is

“It’s like Google Earth, except some of the buildings don’t exist yet. For the first time, we can see the level of building activity in Melbourne’s CBD in context. This is the first time an Australian council has undertaken this kind of modelling and made it public,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The data behind the model, from the City of Melbourne’s Development Activity Monitor, reveals a large upswing in office construction in Melbourne as our reputation as a knowledge city and business hub continues to grow.”

“There was 9000sqm of floor office space completed from January 1 to May 1, 2017 compared with just 6000sqm for the entirety of 2016.  The future continues to be positive as we also have 254,000sqm of floor office space under construction, 704,000sqm with town planning approval, and town planning applications have been lodged for a further 209,000sqm of office space.”

“On the residential side, 5300 residential dwellings were completed from January 1 to May 1, 2016, a further 36,600 residential dwellings have received town planning approval and town planning applications have been lodged for a further 18,300 residential dwellings.”

The Lord Mayor said that the demand for student and family accommodation was driving residential construction.

“The interactive model shows there has been a surge in student accommodation over the past 12 months to May 2017, with 4100 student beds currently under construction and a further 2400 approved. This compares with the 12 months to May 2016 when there were just 791 student beds under construction,” the Lord Mayor said.

“There are more than 30,000 international students living in the municipality. Students want to live in the world’s most liveable city and this demand is reflected in the record level of student accommodation being built.”

“Of the apartments being built, 52 per cent contain two bedrooms, 41 per cent are one-bedroom apartments, and more than six per cent contain three bedrooms or more. Three-bedroom apartments are being built at the highest rate in the past five years, reflecting the number of families who want to live in the inner city.”

The illustration shows a close up of a section of the city.  By clicking on a building, a dialogue box springs up to give details of the particular building.

The 3D model includes all development activity across the City of Melbourne, including developments the State Government has approved.

It uses the following colour coding:

  • Grey – existing buildings;
  • Green – approved buildings;
  • Yellow – buildings under construction; and
  • Blue – buildings under application.

Highlights of the Development Activity Monitor data include:

  • Retail space remains strong, particularly within mixed-use residential developments: From January 1 to May 1, 2017, 14,800sqm of retail space was completed. As at May 1, there was a further 37,400sqm of retail space under construction, 104,000sqm with town planning approval;
  • Hotels: From January 1 to May 1, 2017, very few hotel rooms and/or serviced apartments were completed. However, hotels and serviced apartment construction is now booming, with approximately 2700 rooms under construction as at May 1, 2017. A further 5350 have received town planning approval; and
  • Office floor space: From January 1 to May 1, 2017, 90,000sqm of office floor space was completed, compared with 6000sqm in 2016.  As at May 1, there was a further 254,000sqm of office floor space under construction, 704,000sqm with town planning approval, and town planning applications have been lodged for a further 209,00sqm of office space.

The City of Melbourne has been tracking residential and commercial development since 2002. To coincide with the Development Activity Monitor moving to 3D, data will be updated monthly, instead of every six months, allowing people to gain a more accurate picture of development happening in Melbourne.

The City of Melbourne developed the 3D model in partnership with the US-based mapping platform Mapbox, after being selected for the Mapbox Cities program in 2017. The partnership includes access to Mapbox’s web and mobile mapping tools, 2D/3D visualisation platform, and dedicated Mapbox staff support and resources.

Residents 3000 along with several other community groups took part in a focus group last November to provide feedback to the City of Melbourne team about the usability of the tool and the information it provides.

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