Aussie state’s huge ‘smart city’ shake-up

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Sheep might be grazing in nearby paddocks for now but behind the scenes one Victorian suburb is undergoing a major revamp that’s set to outdo Melbourne’s CBD.

Located on the outskirts of Mickleham, 50km north of the CBD, developers are working on what’s anticipated to be the state’s second city — Merrifield.

While there’s currently paddocks, a few shops and some houses there, the city’s master plan indicates the end result could see it balloon to become five times the size of Melbourne.

About 25,000 residents are predicted to call the “carefully crafted” city home, where shopping and dining facilities will span across 165 hectares and 30,000 jobs will be created.

Development is already underway for what could be Victoria's second city. Picture: Instagram / @merrifieldmelbourneDevelopment is already underway for what could be Victoria’s second city. Picture: Instagram / @merrifieldmelbourne

Other features and amenities to be built include a “sculpted parkland”, waterways and sporting fields with three schools located in the area.

Finally big brands like Ford, DHL and Dulux have set up shop in Merrifield’s Business Park, situated on the corner of Donnybrook Road and the Hume Freeway.

House and land packages currently start from about the $550,000 mark, with some lots already being snapped up by more than 7000 keen homebuyers.

“Smart cities” or “15-minute cities” is a concept created by Franco-Colombian urbanist Carlos Moreno where everything you need – including shops, your job, the movies and a doctor’s clinic for example – are within a 15 minute distance.

The idea is to promote more walking and less driving to decrease pollution, cut commute times and overall benefit commuters’ health.

However sceptics of the theory have compared it to a Stalin-style plot to keep people in lockdown or under the government’s control with many conspirators taking to social media to warp the idea.

Property Acquisition Consultant Ella Cas reviewed the city, stating once the area is ready, those living in the surrounding suburbs will “never have to set foot in Melbourne again”.

“Everything you need will be at your doorstep, designed in a way you will never have to leave,” she said in a video about the city posted to her TikTok.

She did add however that the suburb currently lacks road infrastructure and public transport with the closest train station situated 5km away in Donnybrook.

The masterplan for Merrifield, located just under 50km north of Melbourne's CBD. Picture: masterplan for Merrifield, located just under 50km north of Melbourne’s CBD. Picture:

While having a second city wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea given NSW currently has its Sydney CBD and Parramatta in the state’s west, some fear Merrifield will be the beginning of a “smart city” uprising in Victoria.

While smart-city creator Mr Moreno is a strong advocate for having more services closer to where people live, he has hit back at naysayers arguing his theory doesn’t mean people should be confined to one area.

Ms Cas’ video, which received over 213,000 views, attracted a bout of comments arguing Merrifield “screamed” the 15-minute city concept.

“Looks like it will be a smart city. You will never be able to step foot back into Melbourne as you will be locked into Merrifield,” one viewer commented.

Merrifield neighbours the suburbs of Mickleham and Kalkallo. Picture: Google MapsMerrifield neighbours the suburbs of Mickleham and Kalkallo. Picture: Google Maps

Others called the idea of Merrifield being a smart city “eerie” given it is “next door” to Victoria’s former quarantine hub built to house international travellers during the pandemic in Mickleham.

Meanwhile those that weren’t sceptical about the 15-minute city idea argued that despite Merrifield’s city-like design, it could never out do the atmosphere of the Melbourne CBD.

“It’s just a marketing ploy. CBD vibes are different (along with) the surrounding suburbs like Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick and Port Melbourne,” another viewer said.

“(You) still need to go into the CBD for major sporting events, arts and culture exhibitions and performances,” a second commenter added.

Not all were against the idea, with excited locals who viewed the video saying they couldn’t wait to see the end result.

“I bought in Kalkallo, the suburb next door. It’s going to be so slay once it’s built but right now infrastructure – that takes time,” one nearby resident said.

Merrifield will be home to a spate of new facilities, but some fear it will be one of many 'smart cities' to come. Picture: Instagram / @merrifieldmelbourneMerrifield will be home to a spate of new facilities, but some fear it will be one of many ‘smart cities’ to come. Picture: Instagram / @merrifieldmelbourne

Developers are currently working on the new development of four-level commercial building “21 Cityside Drive” which will have a childcare facility, medical suites, a gym and commercial offices.

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