Merrifield, located just 30km from Melbourne CBD, is set to become one of Australia’s largest new masterplanned communities.
A joint venture between MAB Corporation and Gibson Property Corporation, the project will be divided into four precincts – living, parklands, business park and city centre – the culmination of which is a 770 hectare community.
Having already masterplanned the 350 hectare Business Park, international practice Plus Architecture has been appointed to masterplan the northern half of the city centre.
Plus’s plan for the northern city centre exemplifies visionary masterplanning based on a permeable grid, a variety of overlapping uses, human centred design and creating an inclusive and vibrant public realm.
To actualise a healthy urban living environment, Plus emphasises ‘street as place’, which when distilled can be thought of as the creation of streets as destinations in their own right rather than mere thoroughfares.
“We have designed Merrifield to be a walkable, dense and delightful city that focuses on the microclimate and biodiversity,” Plus Architecture Director Ian Briggs said.
“This creates ample opportunities for contact with nature to help facilitate a healthier living experience.”
“We have taken care to plan for green streets with rain gardens and direct storm water treatment, while also creating a street grid that favours pedestrian movement and cycling so as to encourage interaction and inclusivity,” he said.
Sourcing inspiration from many pedestrian-led towns found throughout Europe, Plus sought to reinvent elements of older urban precincts.
Mixed-function and traditional public spaces such as streets and squares are factored in to promote an active and connected lifestyle.
“Our masterplanning ethos at Plus is inspired by creating cities for people, not cars – while still dealing with the practical realities of an outer suburban city centre," Mr Briggs said.
“In cities such as Paris and Milan, public space is weighted to the pedestrian.
"With Merrifield, Plus has planned for a number of city squares where the community can come together. Streets are enriched with greenery and experiential elements that give people a reason to walk through them.”
“It is our hope that in doing so we help pedestrians better engage with their surrounds and their community.
“Over the course of our 20-year history we have refined our masterplanning approach and continue to concentrate on the delivery of well-planned, inclusive and dynamic cities and communities," Mr Briggs said.
The project also received praise and support from the Victorian government as part of a broader strategy to address housing supply and affordability in the state.
“This is one of the best examples of a truly masterplanned community, where economic and employment opportunities are just as important, and have been just as carefully planned as the residential amenity,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
With the business park alone set to produce 20,000 direct jobs and the living precinct set to house over 7,000 residents, Merrifield CBD will follow suit by including a courthouse, museum, art gallery, aquatic centre, library, town hall and bus interchange, with plans to include judicial, civic, commercial and residential buildings as well.