“A good city is like a good party. People stay for much longer than is really necessary because they are enjoying themselves.”

These are the words of Jan Gehl, Danish architect, urban design guru and pioneer of Places for People, a groundbreaking study undertaken in Melbourne in 1994, and then every 10 years since. The deep dive into how people use their cities was pioneered by Gehl in Oslo in the ’80s and has steered urban living strategies all over the world. Melbourne’s study is considered one of its biggest success stories.

The Places for People study helped map out a plan of aspiration for Melbourne and has been credited with turning the city into a place declared the world’s most liveable for seven years in a row. Our rating might have slipped a little on that index, but we aren’t done yet.

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Over the next five years, dozens of public and private initiatives and developments are planned; they’ve all been conceived to help enrich the lives of CBD residents, draw in visiting crowds from Melbourne’s vast suburban sprawl (and beyond) and help bring the city roaring back to life after the pandemic. Here are four of the most audacious and exciting plans for Melbourne’s future.

The Fox: NGV Contemporary
The Fox: NGV Contemporary will be an instant landmark when it opens in 2028. It’ll also be the largest gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design in the country. It gets its name because of a $100 million philanthropic gesture by Lindsay Fox, Paula Fox and their family – the most significant cash donation made to an Australian art museum by people still living.

The architectural marvel will have more than 13,000 square metres of display space for art and design across galleries, a rooftop terrace and a sculpture garden. Dramatic arched entryways will draw visitors into a “wondrous” 40-metre-high central hall known as the omphalos (the Ancient Greek word for the centre of the Earth). Soaring through every level of the building, this enormous spherical gallery will give way to what the NGV is calling a “lantern in the sky”. It’ll house large-scale artworks and allow visitors to make their way through the building via a spiralling pathway.

The exhibition spaces are dynamically primed for both traditional and emerging ways of showing art. This will enable the NGV to “present significant works of contemporary art and design of unprecedented ambition and scale,” according to a media release. The project will also have a cafe that’ll open onto the adjacent public parklands. And on the roof, views from the public terrace have quite literally never been seen before, sweeping expansively around the city and to the Yarra Ranges.

Sth Bnk by Beulah
When it’s completed in 2028, Sth Bnk by Beulah’s Tower One will be the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, at 102 storeys. A second tower, its twin, will be 59 storeys, and together the twisting facades will feature five-and-a-half kilometres of continuous vertical gardens.

Rising out of the ashes of a former BMW dealership on South Bank, it’ll have stacks of residential space, loads of retail, striking green public spaces, zones designed for kids and families and a state-of-the-art 3000-seat auditorium. Melbourne’s first Four Seasons Hotel will be there, as will a 3000- square-metre gallery space with events and exhibitions programmed by Paris’s renowned Centre Pompidou.

Pocket parks will feature on all eight residential levels, and residents will be able to access a fleet of 50 luxury share cars, including Telsas, Porsches and Range Rovers. The complex recently sold Melbourne’s most expensive apartment for a cool $35 million to an undisclosed buyer. The $2.7 billion development is being cocreated by the City of Melbourne and is part of the broader redevelopment of the Arts Precinct.

The Vic Market precinct
A $268 million restoration and redevelopment project is happening at the Vic Market, including a new public open space nearly the size of the MCG that will become the city’s largest public square. A pedestrian-friendly plaza at Queens Street is progressing, with more trees and seating, and the food court is getting a top-to-bottom makeover too, with a layout refresh, more greenery and a new floor and roof. It should be finished later this year. Twelve “retail containers” have been added to String Bean Alley to create a new laneway experience.

The affordable housing and car parks of the expansive Munro Development (which is part of the precinct, adjacent to the market on the corner of Therry and Queen Streets) are already open, and they’ll soon be followed by a multi-level community hub with a library, public rooftop terrace, family health services and a commercial kitchen. A large-scale public artwork by local artist Rose Nolan envelopes the building. Also in the works is a boutique hotel. Experimental art space Testing Grounds has settled into its new location after moving from Southbank last year.