Arctic Park gets warm relaunch

Austadiums   |  Wednesday 11th February 2004

Waverley Park, the football ground that fans loved to hate, was yesterday relaunched as Melbourne's latest "planned community" and one of Australia's largest.

Resented as a place where it always rained, the AFL's own ground for 30 years until 1999 is now being billed as a $1 billion housing project that promises "a wonderful suburban lifestyle".

The notorious car park, which took drivers hours to escape from, has been turned into a housing development of up to 1500 dwellings for 4000 people.

In one of the more amusing heritage gestures by property developer Mirvac, a sense of the car park layout has been retained in the design of the road networks.

But the streets would not be named after famous players because market research warned against such an overt display of footy nostalgia.

Instead, Mirvac has adopted the names of famous streets in various clubs' suburbs, such as Carlton's Rathdowne Street.

"We have been a lot more subtle in the way we have used the heritage link in football," said Tom Ormerod, Mirvac's marketing manager.

Hawthorn Football Club will still have the use of the public oval, where trees and a running track will replace the fence.

The mural of legendary footy players will also stay, Mr Ormerod said. Mirvac, which bought the site from the AFL for $100 million in December 2001, has also promised to keep 15 per cent of the 80-hectare site public and that includes a lake and wetlands. "Middle Melbourne" is being targeted in the marketing campaign and 151 houses in the $400,000-to-$600,000 price bracket have been sold off the plan.

But while Premier Steve Bracks hailed Waverley Park as a new suburb that fitted the Government's urban planning strategy, specialists in environmentally sustainable building said it was less than ideal.

Dominique Hes, the head of the Sustainable Building Program at RMIT's Centre for Design, said families in general were becoming smaller while houses were getting larger.

"There's only 2.3 people per household, yet they are getting four-to-five-bedroom houses," she said. New house buyers were seeking to maximise capital gain by building the largest possible house, Ms Hes said.

One buyer, Corrine Holmes, said that was exactly why she had spent $548,000 on a four-bedroom house in Waverley Park rather than something smaller yet closer to central Melbourne.

"It has better resale value than a smaller place," said the 48-year-old mother, who has bought as an investor. "Everyone knows what Waverley Park is, so to us it was a great opportunity to be in with Victoria's history."

NSW Premier Bob Carr complained of the big-house trend last week. "We need to demonstrate that the best home is not always the biggest home," he said. NSW is looking at imposing environmental laws for new buildings, which discourage the construction of larger houses. Victoria is not. "The individual will have the size they want," said Planning Minister Mary Delahunty.

Mirvac's development already conforms to Victoria's laws, known as the 5 Star Standard, that will be introduced in July. Urban planners also criticised the site for being too far from public transport. The area is serviced only by buses.

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