THE days of heavy state government investment in suburbs such as Footscray are over, according to Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
From 2007, after Footscray was earmarked as one of seven central activities areas, the former Labor government poured about $50 million into projects such as the station footbridge and Leeds Street redesign.
But in an exclusive interview with the Weekly while in Footscray on Thursday to officially launch Grocon's $350 million McNab Avenue development, Mr Guy said the government had no plans to follow suit.
Public-purse investment would be limited to the rebuilding of Footscray railway station as part of the Regional Rail Link with further spending dependent upon private interests.
"Obviously, the next stage is to get private sector investment, which is why it's so positive to see this [McNab Avenue] investment taking off today," Mr Guy said. "The suburb needs to start bringing on those attractions to get the private sector, like this project, to actually start to build in Footscray." He said permit conditions could ensure developers made appropriate contributions to community facilities.
With population projections showing Footscray growing from just over 13,000 people to 28,000-plus in the next 20 years, Mr Guy sees a big change on the horizon.
Mr Guy noted that his controversial approval of a 25-storey residential tower in the Joseph Road precinct had been positively received in the development industry.
"I've got a huge faith in the future of central Footscray because there will be a greater population base and there will be that greater level of jobs so I see it's got a huge potential," he said.
Maribyrnong Council has accepted the 25-storey tower but criticised a planned 31-storey development in the same area, flagging issues such as overshadowing of nearby
StMonica's Primary School.
Mr Guy said the Department of Planning and Community Development and the council were still in discussion over this project. "Six storeys won't have a major effect. I want to make sure the council is comfortable with what we put through for that location."
The minister said discussions were also taking place over the Binks Ford site next to Footscray railway station; the site has been flagged for a $500million development. State government development agency Places Victoria is finalising a master plan to convert the 0.9-hectare site into medium and high-density residences, including a deck over the rail tracks.
Mr Guy acknowledged that Footscray was losing hundreds of car-parking spaces through the Regional Rail Link and this would have a flow-on effect on local traders.
The government has also come under heavy criticism for cutting all new funding to cycling infrastructure this year. Mr Guy conceded the inadequacy of Shepherd Bridge for the booming number of cyclists travelling into the CBD, but he wouldn't be pinned down on a solution.
Read the full interview with Mr Guy by clicking on the link in 'related coverage' (top right)