The first sod has been turned on a $105m office development in Melbourne’s outer east, with QICGRE handing over the site to the state government and construction partner Maben to commence work on the 10-storey tower fully pre-committed by the Victorian Department of Transport.
Located opposite Eastland, the 14,000-square-metre office building dubbed EastCo is due to house around 1000 department personnel upon completion late next year. The activation of the vacant site, which QICGRE acquired in 2015, represents the next step in the planned evolution of central Ringwood into a satellite CBD for the eastern suburbs. The project brings QICGRE’s investment in the Eastland ecosystem over the past three years to $200m.
Taking to the vertical plane, the new A-grade commercial tower sees QICGRE broaden its focus from placemaking developments on the ground plane of its Eastland-oriented landholdings, including the award-winning Town Square hospitality precinct completed in 2016. With the council-owned Realm library and art space as centrepiece, the tree-lined town square development not only introduced a number of Melbourne’s top dining brands to the trade area but also marked Singapore-based Next Story Group’s first foray into the Melbourne market with the addition of Sage Hotel in 2017.
At a time when public attention is tilted away from traditional CBDs in favour of the perceived safe haven of suburban areas - the COVID-19 lockdown having supercharged the decentralisation of work – an office development such as EastCo is also a timely symbol of the broader generational shift that is untethering corporate life from the inner-city.
Michael O’Brien, QICGRE Managing Director, says: “By introducing premier office accommodation to the metropolitan east we are progressing our long-held vision for Ringwood’s commercial and civic reinvigoration, a vision we have cultivated with local and state government partners over several years.
“The redevelopment of Eastland in 2016 catalysed a building boom in Maroondah and we are now proud to be moving forward with the creation of a bustling business and public service hub at the centre of this burgeoning region.”
In 2017 Ringwood was designated a metropolitan activity centre in the state government’s Plan Melbourne blueprint for the growth of the city, making it a priority location for decentralising public services. With its move to EastCo, the Department of Transport (DoT) is due to upgrade key services such as VicRoads registration and licensing facilities.
The relocation of the state road agency’s busiest customer service centre to Ringwood from Burwood enables the department to provide a workplace that is closer to home for many of its employees and well-serviced by transport options. In supporting construction activity, the commitment also aligns with government plans to get Victoria’s post-pandemic economy on track.
The 12-month construction will support more than 200 jobs, delivering an immediate boost in foot traffic for local traders recovering from coronavirus-related restrictions. Once complete, the VicRoads Customer Service Centre is expected to process around 1200 visitors a day.
Michael O’Brien added: “Having a critical frontline agency like VicRoads anchor our latest addition to the Eastland ecosystem is testament to our sustained investment in this major growth corridor and our strong collaborative relationship with government.
“Executing this next stage in our masterplan for one of greater Melbourne’s most significant mixed-use destinations will bring new energy to Eastland’s communal spaces and widen the market for our retail partners.”
The arrival of cranes on the EastCo site, which forms the fourth edge of Town Square, coincides with the completion of the two-level Maroondah City Council (MCC) office within a new extension to the Realm library that adjoins Eastland. More than 250 MCC employees are poised to move into the Green Star-certified premises at the end of July, consolidating the council’s administrative functions with its existing customer service centre while connecting traders in and around Eastland with a new daytime audience. When the Department of Transport’s facility officially opens at EastCo in early 2022, that audience will swell further.
The creation of CBD-standard working environments is a vital piece in the Metropolitan Activity Centre Masterplan for Ringwood, which is expected to gain 25,000 residents by 2041 according to ABS figures from 2019. Previously referred to as the “greatest urban corridor in Australia” by demographer Bernard Salt, the Maroondah Highway upon which Eastland and EastCo sit is due to see a range of multistorey construction projects over the next two years, including a number of commercial and residential towers. This densification serves the needs of a growing population without compromising the integrity of the area’s beloved green spaces, such as Ringwood Lake Park, and is expected to significantly bolster the productivity of retail and services businesses in the area.
Phil Turner, Director of Strategy and Community at Maroondah City Council, says: “We’re committed to enhancing Ringwood’s attractiveness as a place to live, to visit and to do business, and long-term partnerships with likeminded organisations such as QICGRE are crucial to that mission.
“Locating our administrative offices within the Ringwood Metropolitan Activity Centre aligns with Victorian Government objectives and provides a central location for our community to better access council services in the months and years to come.”
The co-location of these new-build offices with Eastland not only gives workers doorstep access to the centre’s broad retail and lifestyle offering, but also to the accommodation and conference facilities of the 120-room Sage Hotel. Easily reached via the neighbouring Ringwood Train Station and bus interchange, or the Eastlink freeway two minutes away, these workplaces also promote wellbeing through their proximity to recreation opportunities, ranging from Eastland’s Anytime Fitness gym to the Mullum Mullum Creek walking trail. When it comes to dining and refreshment options suitable for business or pleasure, Town Square provides a snapshot of Melbourne’s rich culinary culture and the farmgate traditions of the neighbouring Yarra Valley in standout venues such as Johnny Di Francesco’s 400 Gradi and the produce-driven Suburban Dining and Rooftop.
Prominent Melbourne architecture firm Fender Katsalidis, known for Southbank’s Eureka Tower, is behind the design of EastCo and its delivery of CBD-style office amenity to the metropolitan fringe. Craig Baudin, Director at Fender Katsalidis, explains: “The building will be a distinct fixture in the Ringwood skyline with the sweeping curves of its glass façade, which ensures abundant natural light. A welcoming double-height lobby will complement the existing buildings at ground level, while the upper levels of the more sculptural podium above will offer 360-degree views.”
The new block - which is targeting a five-star NABERS Energy rating - will contain a ground floor cafe, extensive end-of-trip facilities (including more than 130 bicycle racks), and four levels of carparking to accommodate VicRoads fleet vehicles. The office fit-out will prioritise COVID-safe practices and productivity, with key features including contactless bathroom amenities, socially distanced workstations and customised training suites.
Michael O’Brien comments: “With all our prime office developments, we have sought to raise the bar for considered workplace design in that location while collaborating closely with our pre-committed tenants, and we look forward to delivering a future-ready facility to the Victorian Department of Transport in EastCo next year.
“As we support our retail and hospitality partners to adapt and thrive in the post-COVID landscape, we are delighted to prove our commitment to the Eastland community through this multi-million-dollar investment in the wider precinct.”
Read more about QICGRE’s redevelopment projects in Melbourne.