Southbank, on the south side of the Yarra River opposite Melbourne’s central city area, was first defined as an area for redevelopment by the State Government in 1984. Two years later the Government published a strategy document for there development process.

Southbank’s eastern and western boundaries are St. Kilda Road and Montague Street. Its southern boundary is irregular in shape, but south of the Westgate Freeway. Nearly half the area was owned by the State Government or its agencies when the area was defined.

Southbank is crossed by transport routes laid outwith no particular regard for Southbank itself. The reason for this is that the early routes originally traversed undesirable swamp or flat land: City Road more or less followed the track from Port Melbourne to Melbourne; the railway line (1854) followed the convenient ground from Melbourne to Port Melbourne; Kingsway was plotted to join King Street, Melbourne,to a south-eastern exit point; and the Westgate Freeway (1980s) was plotted to carry freight around instead of through the central city.

The industrial settlement of Southbank was part of the settlement of South Melbourne. Early wharves, building trades and a few noxious industries were displaced by manufacturers and warehouses. The wharves fell into disuse as port facilities were moved downstream, particularly after the low bridge joining Spencer and Clarendon Streetswas opened in 1929.

The completion of the Arts Centre complex at thenorth-east corner of Southbank in the 1980s was followed by the Jennings Southgate development immediately westwards. Southgate “Arts and Leisure Precinct” was opened in 1992 with 37 specialty shops, numerous restaurantsand 67,000 sq. metres of offices. It has a Yarra bank promenade and an attractivevista across the river. It is linked to the city by a `coathanger’ pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River. A Lutheran Church (1991) replaced the one nearby which was exchanged for the redevelopment.

In mid-1993 the Crown Casino was begun, replacing the temporary casino in the World Trade Centre. The casino complex was opened in 1997 and includes 350 gambling tables and 2,500 machines. There are a500-room hotel, the Palladium ballroom, shops, restaurants, a 14-theatrecinema and space for over 8,000 parked cars. Most of the complex runs 24hours a day. Kings Way is bridged by the complex. A 1,800 seat Lyric theatre is due for completion in 1999. The temporary casino’s gambling was considered to have reduced central city retailing and the effect of the entertainment and dining facilities in the Crown complex – as well as Southgate – are expected to put added pressure on central city retailing and entertainment.

On the west side of Clarendon Street, overlooking the Yarra River, the Melbourne Exhibition Centre was completed in 1996.It has 30,000 sq. metres of clear-span exhibition space. It absorbed a partially completed building for a new Museum of Victoria (1992-3), and the site contains the Polly Woodside sailing shop and maritime museum along the South Wharf.The Clarendon Street frontage contains the registered Tea House building,originally a stationer’s warehouse (1888).

Elsewhere in Southbank, new buildings include headquarters for the Herald-Sun and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, office buildings converted to apartments and newly constructed apartment buildings A notableapartments site is on the demolished Price Henry’s Hospital, nurses’ homeand car park. Underneath the Kings Way overpass the one time City Road primary school, later the J.H. Boyd Domestic College, became a campus of the Western Melbourne Institute of TAFE.

Further Reading:

  • Butler, Graeme, and Lewis, Miles, South BankArchitectural and Historical Study, 1983.
  • Priestly, Susan, South Melbourne: A History,Melbourne University Press, 1995.

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