Tower cranes are always an excellent indicator as to the health of the local construction scene, and by extension the economy at large. Long gone are the gloomy days of the early 1990's when a tower crane was a rarity, replaced today by a brigade of new operators successfully carving out their niche fuelled by Melbourne's seemingly insatiable population growth.
Whereas four months ago we provided a static list of tower cranes operational in Melbourne, included today is an active map highlighting tower crane locations throughout greater Melbourne.
To understand today's state of play it's worth considering what has transpired post 2000. When the author began taking more than just a passing interest in Melbourne's development and construction scene, it was a different beast to what exists today. Boom Logistics, Verticon and Caelli Cranes were the dominant players of the day, erecting cranes on large build projects generally within a tight radius of the CBD.
While Caelli marches on, Vertigon fell by the wayside and Boom morphed into General Cranes. Joining these survivors though were a raft of new operators such as Active Crane Hire, Clark Cranes, MCG Cranes, Hudson Peat and Select Cranes who all required work for their fleet.
Perhaps the best example is that of Clark Cranes; call it luck or exceptional forecasting, but by concentrating on providing tower cranes for smaller scale project generally outside the CBD, the operator has successfully ridden the boom in suburban apartment living, something that was not plausible a decade ago.
With a little help, we have devised the map below, providing a visual recognition of Melbourne's current large scale construction activity. Accurate to within one or two units, the map sees 84 tower cranes currently in use, with areas east of the CBD well represented.
Pascoe Vale, Ringwood, Hawthorn East and Doncaster East all sport projects between 3-5 levels, yet command tower cranes. These are relatively small projects but very much symptomatic of construction practices changing to meet the sustained surge toward higher density living in suburban Melbourne.
Where 70 cranes in the mid 2000's indicated boom times, it's now considered the norm. Of the 84 tower cranes currently operational, 70% are dedicated toward residential projects demonstrating how the attached dwelling sector has surged ahead in recent years.
We thought it worthwhile to include an additional map forecasting expected tower cranes within the next quarter. That is, projects where site works have or are about to begin, facilitating the installation of a tower crane in the near term.
The map highlights the further spread of tower cranes throughout greater Melbourne, with Dandenong benefiting in particular. Often maligned, the envisaged 'Second CBD' should kick ahead with four tower cranes likley on Mosaic Apartments, 27 Scott Street and the new ATO complex at 11-13 Robinson Street in the near term.
While manufacturing in Victoria may be under the pump, it's worth noting that population growth is strong, apartment build starts are solid and commercial office requirements/construction remains fair. This in turn maintains momentum in one of the state's largest employment sectors; and not just held to the confines of the inner city.
As for when north and western areas of greater Melbourne will match the output of the south and east? That's near impossible to pinpoint although there's no lack of proposals ready to propel Footscray, Moonee Ponds and Sunshine onto the above maps.
By and large, Melbourne's construction sector remains resilient.