Customs Square’s new life

By Meg Hill

A piece of dead space CBD land has been picked as the site for Melbourne’s first “social enterprise cluster” in a new proposal by Good Cycles.

The Customs Square precinct, opposite the Immigration Museum, is in the centre of Melbourne but is not well known by its name. The piece of land underneath railway tracks by the Yarra River has been neglected for years.

But soon it could host a cluster of social enterprises in 16 shipping containers, ranging through offices, dining, retail and community engagement - a project backed by local not-for-profit the Committee for Melbourne.

The plans for the site have been submitted to the City of Melbourne.

Behind the project is the social enterprise and bike shop Good Cycles that provides young people at risk of disengagement with employment opportunities.

CEO Jaison Hoernal said the project would focus on employment, “providing real jobs to disadvantaged Victorians”. 

“This project is world-class and will demonstrate the power of social enterprise and strong partnerships,” he said.

“Tracking the employment and social impact will be paramount.”

Social impact specialists Think Impact are also on board.

“Think Impact have been engaged to develop a social value framework that will predict and measure the social value created across employment, collaboration and more,” Mr Hoernel said.

The project is also designed to fit into the City of Melbourne’s 10-year transport strategy through the promotion and education of active transport like cycling.

“We’ll be promoting the benefits of riding a bike – not only is it great for our wellbeing but it contributes to reducing carbon emissions and congestion by replacing vehicles on the street,” Mr Hoernel said.

Committee for Melbourne CEO Martine Letts said the not-for-profit was backing the project because it would enhance Melbourne in a variety of ways.

“This will enhance Melbourne’s economic, social and environmental future and is a great example of social innovation,” she said.

“It’s good to see the City of Melbourne, another Committee member, throwing its support behind this venture, which is consistent with the City’s vision for the future of the CBD.”

The proposal aligns with ongoing efforts by the City of Melbourne to revitalise the northern banks of the Yarra River, which it outlined in its latest strategy for the city section of the river last year •

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