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A Master Plan for Expansion

A Master Plan for Expansion

Click here to read the original article written by Brent Balinski for Manufacturers’ Monthly, October 1 2015.

It doesn’t get said all that often, but there’s a boom on in industrial construction in Melbourne, especially in the north.

According to research from Knight Frank released in June, industrial supply (600,000 square metres) under development is up 32 per cent on last year’s figures for the city, and (for sites above 5,000 square metres) 46 per cent of it is in Melbourne’s north.

The city is growing briskly, note policymakers; Melbourne’s population is gaining around 100,000 a year, and roughly half will end up in the north, according to Victoria’s government.

The $1.2 billion, 330-hectare Merrifield Business Park – a joint venture between MAB Corporation and Gibson Property Corporation and about 30 km north of the CBD – had its first sod turned earlier in September. Its owners hope the park will play a large role in the northern growth corridor.

The anchor tenant is DuluxGroup, which announced in March it would move production of nearly all its water-based decorative paints to a 17-hectare site, expected to be completed in 2017. It is investing $165 million in its facility, will eventually employ around 60 full-time, and is looking to start production in 2017.

Director of Business Parks at MAB, Tony Blazevic, said that his company – which has been had an industrial presence in Melbourne for two decades – has started to see the emergence of reinvestment in “smarter forms of manufacturing”.

Early enquiries at Merrifield had also come from food manufacturing and agribusiness, construction-related manufacturing and automotive aftermarket sectors, as well as from transport and logistics businesses.

It is in its very early stages, but MAB hopes to capitalise on the long-term population and economic growth forecasts for the region. It also hopes to provide something that many other industrial parks do not: a mixed-use development, covering a total of 770 hectares and coming with a wetlands and a 110-hectare city centre (including a proposed shopping mall joint venture). The residential part includes 4,000 lots, designed to accommodate 12,000 residents.

Building of the first stage of the city centre will begin in 2019, with the goal of creating office-based jobs, amenities, and to “bring a city feel to the suburbs,” the company has said.

“That goes beyond simply saying Merrifield Business Park is in the right location, has the labour force benefits and flexibility in terms of creating all sorts of land sizes, but also the ability to be part of a mixed-use master plan,” Blazevic told Manufacturers’ Monthly, adding that it was the largest such development in the state.

 “And the benefits that a mixed-use development brings to a business park and for industries such as manufacturers and others looking to locate there, there is quality amenity and a workforce that’s within a two- or three-minute drive of their place of employment.”

Its second master-planned, mixed-use community after Bundoora’s University Hill, Blazevic’s company is very much trying to put the word out that Merrifield is very much open for business.

The potential for filling the site is large, with research by Essential Economics commissioned for MAB finding it could eventually host 25,000 direct jobs. Hume figures predict the city would grow by 43,000 new jobs to 2036, with 26 per cent of employment growth to come from Merrifield.

For attracting investment to the park, Blazevic said that MBP satisfies several needs.

These included a growing labour force of 350,000 within a 20 – 30 minute drive and the availability of flexible land lots between one and 50 hectares, as well as flexibility in holding these, using the example of a company that might be linked to Dulux.

“[Flexible arrangements] present land adjoining to Dulux or across the road from Dulux for businesses, when they’re supply-side businesses to Dulux – it allows them the ability to co-locate with Dulux,” he said.

 “In particular to some of the businesses that might be reviewing their business and are looking to plan their next investment, that Merrifield Business Park offers the ability to work through that process.

 “That process with Dulux was a good 18 months, so there’s not too many business parks or developers that have the ability to work in closely and over such a long period of time.”

There is also location.

“It enables you to deliver goods and services to approximately 80 per cent of Australia’s population within 12 hours, whether that’s by road and/or airfreight; certainly a supply chain or a logistics advantage for those businesses,” said Blazevic.

The drive to the rest of Melbourne or the southeast industrial markets was an uninterrupted one.

 “From Dandenong to Merrifield Business Park there’s only one set of traffic lights,” he added.