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Mickleham: The unfinished suburb that’s getting ready for a boom

Mickleham: The unfinished suburb...


14 January 2019

Annadale Estate could be a winery. Just like The Corner Store at Merrifield could be a corner store: you know, next to the fish and chip shop. But the latter is a converted shipping container, standing alone, providing the only lattes in the hood – and mostly to the tradies building the houses in the Merrifield development. Mobile food vans (no, not the food trucks the inner city loves) zoom around feeding the rest come lunchtime. And Annadale Estate is a housing estate, not a winery. There’s nothing much here, yet. An old primary school sits kilometres away, dry and dusty. New schools are on their way.

This could be your average Melbourne city fringe suburb, adding to the urban sprawl. But that’s not the plan. MAB Corporation pitched a residential estate and a business park that would operate side-by-side. The plan is coming to fruition: Dulux Paints is about to open in the business park. Merrifield Project Director Matthew Planner says the 165-hectare city centre precinct and 300-plus hectare business park will create more than 30,000 new jobs.

Admittedly, I have an aversion to the developments popping up on former grasslands and farmland around Melbourne. When Porter Davis’ billboard screams “Respect the Dream”, I feel yelled at. Living out here isn’t my dream. Then I discover this is an advertising campaign about respecting people, no matter skin colour, race, family makeup or religion. Well, respect, Porter Davis.

A Tour de Mickleham reveals a serious intent to sell the Great Australian Dream (no matter what race you are). Existing mansions mope around on huge blocks (one even has a large plane in its front yard), but it’s the new houses in new estates that are making their mark. For many, this is “the Picture of Perfect” (as another billboard boasts). Annadale Estate, the not-winery, is “Your Place to Prosper”. Elsewhere, that could be an exaggeration, but with jobs around the corner, here, it may well be.

There’s a huge secure complex on Donnybrook Road, with no signs. “It’s not a detention centre!” declares a Hume City Council representative when I ask what it is. Oh, yes it is! For animals, at least. This sparkling complex is the federal government’s post-entry quarantine facility. It just won the Master Builders Association of Victoria award for excellence in construction of industrial buildings. It’ll house ruminants like alpacas, as well as dogs, cats, birds and eggs, and other things, checking they’re in good form before they’re allowed to roam on Australian land. Its location – ten minutes from the airport, is ideal.

Head through the roadworks along Donnybrook Road and you hit a T-junction. Look up. Marnong Estate (named after the yam daisy) sits high up on a hill, with commanding views of the Macedon Ranges in the distance. The historic home is getting a revamp thanks to Collingwood-based architects ClarkeHopkinsClarke. “We’re bringing history back by restoring that,” says Marnong Estate’s sales and marketing manager Melanie Watson. ClarkeHopkinsClarke has also taken on the restaurant and events centre.

It’s going to be an important part of Mickleham. “It’s going to be a fabulous venue dedicated to the community,” Mrs Watson says. “General manager Gerald Ackroyd’s view is that not only is it going to create 200-plus jobs, it’s also going to be the hub of the community.”

Rows of Marnong Estate’s newly-planted vines sprawl down to the road, almost meeting the sprawl of new houses. They’ve not yet produced a drop, as, like this growing spot, their time is yet to come.

Five things you didn’t know about Mickleham:

  • It’s 32 kilometres north of the CBD.
  • The median age for residents is 30.
  • After Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 census lists India as the suburb’s second country of birth response.
  • Merrifield is launching a weekly Saturday farmers’ market on October 7 at Neighbourhood Park.
  • Marnong Estate will open in phases from 2018, with the first likely to be the historic homestead accommodation, followed by the restaurant and events centre.

Story: Jayne D’arcy

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