A $2 billion residential redevelopment of iconic Moonee Valley Racecourse will be themed as a “neighbourhood inside a park”.
Townhouses, apartments, cafes, shops and leisure areas will be integrated with green spaces in a project that will open up the famous racing venue to the public.
To be unveiled today, the long-awaited masterplan envisages a village centre called Cox Place which has been described as a mini Federation Square of the city’s north.
It will have eateries and shopping, and provide an opportunity for racing patrons or local community members to have a meal and a drink before and after entering the racecourse for a variety of events and activities, including racing.
Moonee Valley Racing Club chairman Don Casboult said the masterplan — 10 years in the making — would secure the 135-year-old racecourse’s future.
“It will create the best purpose built night racing venue in the world,” he said.
“And also create a destination precinct that the entire community can be very proud of.”
The racing club has partnered with developer Hamton Property Group,` and superannuation fund Hostplus for the Moonee Valley Park project, which has a site-specific planning framework in place already.
About half of the 40ha site will be dedicated to pedestrian-friendly botanical parkland.
Hamton executive chairman Paul Hameister said the concept was a world-first.
“Our priority has been the natural landscape and the creation of the grand botanical park, and then we designed a neighbourhood inside that park,” he said.
“There will be an everchanging calendar of curated events that create community within the new neighbourhood, and also draw in the surrounding residents within this community and make them feel a part of it.”
With construction starting in the next 12 months, stage one will comprise 67 townhouses and the first of the precinct’s new parklands.
Next to Cox Place will Tote Park with its restored tote building turned into a cafe, while Stonepine Square will be an Italian-style piazza with a residential and civic focus.
Mr Casboult said the racing club would run the Tote cafe.
“It will be a wonderful meeting place before the races,” he said.
The 18ha racecourse infield will be redeveloped into a number of areas featuring a running track, giant children’s playground, and spaces for community and curated events such as farmers markets and flower shows.
Construction of a new grandstand will start after the 2024 Cox Plate, and take about two years.
Hamton managing director Matt Malseed said pedestrians would take priority over cars in the redevelopment, with Cox Place a good example.
“It will be your local village where you can get any one of your daily conveniences with a number of specialty retailers, restaurants, cafes, grocer, provedores, maybe even a cinema,” he said.
“You can grab a meal at Cox Place, and then access the grandstand through an underpass and through to the infield.”
“We envisage it like a mini version of Federation Square. There could be a screen set up, and the community gathers there and watches significant events.”
The first stages of the redevelopment will occur on surplus land off McPherson St.
The first residents are due to move into townhouses by late 2021, while the entire project will eventually have around 2000 dwellings.
Also planned is a business hub comprising a mix of studios to large offices and co-working spaces.
The new shops, cafes and restaurants will add to the suite of yoga and pilates studios, gyms, medical offices and sporting spaces.
The number of racing meetings at Moonee Valley will rise from 23 to 30 a year, with a focus on Friday nights under lights. For the rest of the year the new residents and local community will have access to the Infield.
Its premier race, the W.S. Cox Plate, will have to be moved to another course for one year during construction of the new grandstand.
Some residents at the planned Moonee Valley Park will have an excellent view of the races.
If they want to watch, that is.
Many of the apartments will offer unobstructed views of the city skyline over the revamped racetrack, says Hamton Property Group’s executive chairman Paul Hameister.
“And up to 30 times each year, when Friday night racing is happening, they’ll also have their own ‘grandstand’ on their balcony to entertain and make the most of those race meetings,” he said.
“People will have the choice of residences that take advantage of the views over the track, or those that turn their back on it and are instead just wanting to be part of the botanical neighbourhood.”
The Valley is home to the Cox Plate, an event which will need to be moved temporarily to another racecourse when the new grandstand is built during 2025.
The entire redevelopment will take the Valley firmly into the 21st century by delivering a “destination” that combines a famous sporting precinct with attractive everyday living and leisure in a green environment.
Mr Hameister, an accomplished adventurer, said his time spent in “big nature” had influenced his development work.
“The expeditions I’ve had the privilege of being part of have enhanced my awareness of the significance of the environment, and how important the living systems are that we rely on for our existence,” he said.
“In particular, in recent years, having shared a lot of expeditions with my children and seeing the world through their eyes, you start to get a real sense of intergenerational responsibility for the environment, and what our children will inherit.”
Mr Hameister was the first Australian to climb the Seven Summits (including Mt Everest) and complete the polar hat-trick of North Pole, Greenland crossing and South Pole.
He was also part of a major exploratory expedition through the Amazon jungle with his son Kane in 2018.
He received an OAM for services to exploration and business in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Mr Hameister took a shot at some property developers, saying they were “too focused on tinsel” to sell apartments.
“Many developers seek to appeal to the worst aspects of human ego, such as lifts that allow owners to park their car in their living rooms so they can show off to their mates,” he said. “But (Moonee Valley Park) is talking to the stuff that we believe really matters: nature, botanical open space and human connection.
“And that’s the stuff that’s going to stand the test of time, it’s not a fad, it’s not a gimmick — it’s real, it’s intergenerational. As our population continues to grow exponentially, it’s the stuff that will matter the most in the future.”