Where is Melbourne’s CBD? 

By Ree Maloney

In some documents the CBD includes Docklands and Southbank and in others it only includes the Hoddle Grid.  So, officially, what area does the CBD actually cover? 

The original Hoddle Grid boundaries included Spencer, Spring, LaTrobe and Flinders streets. It was later extended to include the area up to the Queen Victoria Market.

But there are discrepancies in the way the City of Melbourne defines the CBD. In particular, this can be seen when looking at its maps:

Its mobility map of the CBD extends beyond the grid past Spencer St including the World Trade Centre which is located south of Spencer St on Flinders St;

CBD camera locations includes Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, and part of Southbank along Southbank Bvd;

On other occasions, it calls the CBD the “Central City”, as in a proposed mid-block pedestrian crossing map which references the Hoddle Grid;

Another area defined as “Central Melbourne Area” includes Melbourne, Docklands, Southbank and South Wharf;

A Small Area Profile infographic defines the Hoddle Grid only as the CBD; and

A bike plan map manages to intersect the Hoddle Grid with City North.

Since there is no one official definition of what counts as the CBD, this appears to cause confusion within other institutions and businesses alike:

The Victorian Government planning maps reference the “Capital City Zone” which includes the grid, Southern Cross Station and Southbank;

Google Maps defines the CBD as the grid, plus the Botanic Gardens and areas adjacent to St Kilda Rd up to just beyond Albert Park Lake;

Public Transport of Victoria’s map labelled “Free Tram Zone – CBD Map” includes the Hoddle Grid and Docklands;

In a recent media release from the Property Council of Australia, Docklands is included as one the CBD districts – yet Southbank is not; and

Since 2003, the City Circle Tram – which takes tourists around the city outskirts – has included Harbour Esplanade and Docklands Drive in its circuit.

When Melbourne’s original surveyor, Robert Hoddle, created what later became known as the Hoddle Grid, he couldn’t have imagined to what extent the city would grow. Today, when we refer to the CBD most people probably think of that original Hoddle Grid but in actuality, especially for business development, it now extends to include Docklands.

This is not formally recognised by the City of Melbourne.

David Bowden, managing director of commercial real estate group JLL, said: “There is no official recognition (that Docklands is part of the CBD) from council that I am aware of and it is most probably unlikely."

"Our view is simply that this will be seen as part of the grid upon completion because there will be a seamless frontage to Collins St up to Batman’s Hill Drive and Docklands Park.”

The main issue here is one of terminology and definition. If City of Melbourne could agree upon whether it’s the CBD, the Hoddle grid or the Central City Zone and define an official area, then perhaps other organisations would know how to define their maps as well.

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