Melbourne CBD on course to be the most densely populated area in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its updated regional population growth figures on Wednesday and at 14,114 people per square kilometre, the Melbourne CBD sits as the second most densely populated area of the country behind Pyrmont-Ultimo in Sydney (15,117 people per square kilometre) .

Based on development underway and in the pipeline - in the sheer number of projects and the size of them - the Melbourne CBD is likely to be in pole position within 12-24 months.

The density statistics are based on the ABS' "SA2" regions and the Melbourne CBD SA2 area is bounded by the Yarra, Flinders Street, Spring Street, Victoria Street, Peel/William Street, La Trobe Street and Spencer Street (refer to the lead image above).

The merits of eventually being the most densely populated part of Australia - using the ABS methodology - are likely to be contested, however the oncoming ascension to the premier position is notable given the state of affairs in Melbourne's CBD 30 years ago.

I wonder if the City of Melbourne would have thought it possible in the 1980s that their heartland was to one day become the country's most densely populated?

We've come a long way since the early days of postcode 3000.

On June 30th 2015, the population of Melbourne's CBD stood at 33,433 according to the ABS data and the area bounded by the streets and river mentioned above measures 2.4 square kilometres.

Looking ahead over the next five to ten years it's not going to be a gradual ascension to the top of the ABS' SA2 density league tables, it's more likely to be akin to a violent, out-of-control steamroller driven by an angry mob that is going to set the bar incredibly high.

John Brack's "Collins Street, 5pm" painted in 1955. Image via NGV

Consider the following.

We're tracking 68 residential, student accommodation or mixed-use projects on the Urban Melbourne Project Database located within the Melbourne SA2 and they have a combined 27,000-30,000 dwellings.

18 of the projects are currently under construction which together will produce 6000-7000 dwellings. According to the City of Melbourne, the average household size in the CBD standas at 1.91 and is forecast to decrease to 1.44 over the longer term.

The number of dwellings under construction could equate to a further 8500 to 10,000 new residents when using the longer-term household size forecast, potentially boosting the total population to 42,000-43,500 and increasing the population density of 17,500-18,125.

11 projects have a sales campaign underway and that, in total, is another 5000 dwellings in the pipeline with the potential to provide space for 7,200 new residents.

The remaining 39 projects being assessed by council or the Minister and those that are already approved total 16,000-18,000 dwellings; creating enough living space for 23,000-26,000 new Melburnists.

Even if only half the projects in the pipeline - everything except what's currently under construction - were to eventually be built and tenanted, that's could equate to a further 15,000-17,000 new Melbourne CBD residents.

Doubling the population and therefore the population density of Melbourne's CBD over the next 5-10 years? It's very much realistic and the numbers above broadly correlate with the City of Melbourne's own forecast.

In ten years the population density of Melbourne's CBD is forecast to between 26,000 and 27,000 people per square kilometre, comparable with 10th and 14th arrondissements of Paris, and similar to the projections for the 'half-sized' Fishermans Bend based on public domain information from 2013.

That's what I meant by it's going to be violent ascension above all other national peers. No wonder the Lord Mayor was keen to see 447 Collins and its new green space approved.


johnproctor's picture

How would that compare to say a typical similar sized area in Manhattan or Hong Kong?

Back to top
Alastair Taylor's picture

Only quick/nasty comparison list I can find is on Wikipedia:

Back to top
Rohan Storey's picture

Thats remarkable isnt it ? Adds up to perhaps 23,000 / sqkm. Still a long way from the hong kong high and upper mid-rise density of 51,000 ! And interesting that that part of old low rise paris has a far higher density. And yes perhaps the LM thought a park was more important than overshadowing the river, but 447 Collins isnt the place that most needs one, given most of the apts are in the northern end, and Enterprize park is a block and 1/2 away....

Back to top
johnproctor's picture

Thanks for helping with my lazyness Alistair!

I've always been intrigued by Nairobi - even more so now seeing those density stats. masses of humanity!

Back to top
My Real Estate Mate logo

Development & Planning

Friday, October 21, 2016 - 00:00
Following its acquisition of Waterfront City late in 2014, current owners Ashe Morgan have moved to further reinvent and reposition the precinct, which includes Harbour Town and the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel as major drawcards. The first stage of overhaul works which were concentrated on Harbour Town are concluding. These...

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 14:30
On Monday 24th of October, the iCities: World Class CBDs series conference kicks off. First held in Kuala Lumpur, this year's conference is to be held at the Langham Hotel on Southbank. iCities is owned and operated by iProperty Group, a network property under the REA Group umbrella brand. Over...


Visual Melbourne

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 17:00
Melbourne’s architectural landscape is a wonderful juxtaposition of modern and Victorian architecture. Although the CBD has been peppered with many skyscrapers, its historical structures have won Melbourne the title of “Australia’s most European city”. Perhaps the most striking example of this juxtaposition between old and new is the Coops Shot...

Transport & Design

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 07:00
108 Leicester Street is a collection of eight multi-level Fitzroy townhouses that have been designed to respond to the changing face of multi-residential living in Melbourne. The hybrid inner-city dwellings combine developer/builder FOURSQ with Melbourne firm BKK Architects. The design acknowledges the housing typologies of the development's Fitzroy neighbourhood with...

Sustainability & Environment

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 - 00:00
The proposed new Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) on Sturt Street is shaping to become much more than a cutting edge venue. While the project has been given coverage to date across a range of mediums, very little has been said regarding the project playing an integral part in the...