Living the dream: Melbourne’s most liveable suburbs in 2015

So what does the 2015 Liveable Melbourne survey tell us? Apart from East Melbourne’s rise to the top, in part due to a boundary change, there have been some significant shifts, and the usual contentious results. The planning disaster that was Docklands appears to be turning around, thanks to a retrofit with key services. In 2005, it was ranked 207, moving to 134 in 2011. Today it ranks 88.

Melbourne has traditionally been a city that has turned its back on the water, and Docklands held out the great hope of a shift in the way Melbourne could develop. Grand ideas, however, failed to materialise, and the area became the place for a sports stadium and office buildings and apartments and nothing much else. Windy and deserted were popular descriptions.

But as the listing shows, something of a transformation may be occurring. Factors working for Docklands are better tram services, telecommunications coverage and shopping.

Meanwhile, the central city itself is now firmly entrenched in the top 10, at No. 5, compared with a ranking of 33 a decade ago. The increase in the population of central Melbourne has been one of our big demographic changes. The city’s population has doubled since the turn of the century, and improvements in tree cover, schools and open space – such as the Royal Botanic Garden’s inclusion – have helped improve its ranking. The list throws up surprise after surprise. Gardenvale makes a big leap from the 40s into the top 20, at No. 17. The survey shows this is mostly due to reductions in crime and good telecommunications, but also improvements in the size of the cultural sector and shopping. It scores very high on almost all indicators except for open space, where it has almost the smallest area in Melbourne as a proportion of the suburb.

Such a big mover deserved further investigation. You arrive at Gardenvale station, and immediately tick the box on public transport. Down the ramp and you are in the middle of a bustling old school shopping strip. Tick another box. This, then, is why Gardenvale is number 17 on the list? Well, yes and no. This is Gardenvale, but it isn’t. Over the years, boundaries have been redrawn, so you are in fact standing in Brighton – number 22 on list. So where is Gardenvale? You gaze across the eight-lane divide that is the Nepean Highway. Across the divide lies Gardenvale.

For the newcomer, this means a wait at the lights, waiting, waiting, waiting for the green man and the busy clickety-click that fires feet into action. Before you is a wide expanse of bitumen, and the disturbing realisation that before you have made it, the red man is back, and the traffic turning right views you as an annoying intruder.

It is only on the way back that you will discover the footbridge. Gardenvale, the real Gardenvale, is something of an island of urban tranquility. Vying for the crown of Melbourne’s smallest suburb, it is a pocket of neat homes and a small shopping strip being reinvigorated. Read more…

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