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AMBITIOUS plans to link Melbourne's arts and sporting precincts with a deck over Jolimont rail yards, creating a new riverfront precinct to the east of Federation Square, have been revived by the Baillieu government.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy confirmed that a formal proposal would be launched by Major Projects Victoria, following community consultation and discussions with urban planners and developers.
A similar vision by former premier John Brumby was shelved last year by the Baillieu government, after more than $1 million had been spent on feasibility, engineering and design reports since 2006.
Mr Guy said the previous research would be incorporated into a new planning framework for the site bounded by Flinders and Russell streets, Batman Avenue and Birrarung Marr.
'We are very interested and excited about the second phase of Federation Square, which has become the heart of Melbourne over the past 10 years. We're now looking to expand on that success and we think this could also become significant Melbourne landmark and community meeting place,'' Mr Guy said.
The cost of the decking has been estimated at up to $300 million, with the project expected to involve a partnership with a private developer. Eventually, the platform over the rail yards could be extended past the MCG to Richmond station.
Mr Guy said any development proposal would include open public spaces and civic buildings such as galleries.
Grocon chief executive Daniel Grollo has long been a vocal advocate of the plan, known as Federation Square East, and recently met with Mr Guy to discuss the project.
''This is an iconic opportunity for Melbourne - at little or no net cost to government - with substantial employment and economic benefits. What has been a wasteland for decades should become a vibrant mixed-use connection between the city, the parkland and the river,'' Mr Grollo told The Sunday Age.
While conceding the construction of a massive deck presented significant engineering challenges, Mr Grollo was confident it could be completed without major disruptions to train commuters.
In 2010, Major Projects Victoria released a scheme for the three-hectare site based on Chicago's Millennium Park, which included galleries, commercial space, a boutique hotel and parkland.
While in opposition, Mr Baillieu, a former architect, ridiculed the plan as ''a bit like the desal plant with a lot of grass and a lot of trees and a tiara on top of the car park''.
Federation Square architect Donald Bates, who also worked on the Brumby plans to develop Federation Square East, welcomed the new announcement. ''We're pleased to hear the government is looking at this important site,'' he said.
The decision to reactivate development plans has also been welcomed by former state architect John Denton, but he warned that any funding agreement would be difficult to negotiate.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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