The Caulfield Racecourse has recently embarked upon a major development program that incorporates a new precinct to be called ‘Caulfield Village’ to be created in two stages. The Melbourne Racing Club Chairman, Mr Mike Symons, has said the development will bring new vitality to the area. Consortium Director for the project Sam Beck of Beck Property Group has said ‘the project would deliver a world class new suburb for Melbourne’. The project is now well underway, being greenlighted in 2012. However there was and still is opposition to the club’s plans, usage and occupation of the crown land site by the Glen Eira Council and local residents.
The site was active in the running of ‘races’ from 1830 onwards when the first trustees of the ‘Caulfield Racetrack’ were appointed. Meetings were held twice a year on what was considered a very neglected track.
Regular race meetings have been held on the present racecourse site at least since 1859. The quality of animal racing was dubious and the setting aside of the land and an additional two acres was considered more of a ‘future view’. The Crown Land allocation was reserved for racing and other purposes on March 28th, 1859. There were no grandstands or viewing platforms. It was very basic.
The VATC, the Victorian Amateur Turf Club and forerunner of today’s Melbourne Racing Club had formed at Dowling Forest Ballarat in 1875. It held its first meeting in 1876 at this Ballarat Course, with its second being held at Caulfield on August 5 1876, on the Caulfield Crown Land Reserve. The club have occupied the reserve ever since.
The Crown Land was officially deemed a racetrack exclusively in 1888 (after significant opposition) ‘for racing, recreation and public park purposes’. The Club had added grandstands, developed the actual track and the Racecourse was managed by a committee of management made up of members from the VATC, the Board of Lands and Works and the Shire Council.
The course has long been known as the Heath. The famous Caulfield Cup, the Toorak Handicap and other iconic races have been held at the tack since 1879. This is the race, the Caulfield Cup of 1879, won at the time by the Thomas Chirnside of Point Cook and Werribee Mansions.
The VATC merged with the financially strapped Melbourne Racing Club in 1963 when it ran into serious financial difficulties at the time in developing the Sandown Racetrack, which eventually opened in 1965. The Club reverted to the Melbourne Racing Club name in 2002.
Of interest is the Club’s plan to sell Sandown Racetrack to developers as part of its 20 year plan.
The Caulfield Racetrack precinct includes land purchased by the Club both adjacent and nearby. Stage One of the development program utilised the former grassed car parks opposite the western wall of the track entrance across the road. The full project encompasses 5 hectares of land adjacent to the racecourse, Caulfield Railway Station and Monash University.
The development will take up to 15 years to complete. It will include 1500 dwellings of medium to low density, with office space and retail space included. A supermarket, pharmacy, cafés, restaurants and other health and recreational outlets are planned and included. A new street – The Boulevard – will be the heart of the project.
Precinct 1, now completed, is specifically a low/medium density residential one.
Precinct 2, the second stage of construction will be the mixed use precinct described above. Tree lined laneways will see this as a significant commercial development. Residential buildings are limited to 3–6 storeys
Precinct 3 will encompass the Smith St precinct based on the eastern section of the site next to Caulfield Station. It is planned as a mix of commercial and retirement accommodation.
As part of the project, the Caulfield Racetrack itself will be significantly redeveloped with the remaining older Grandstand demolished and the Winning Post being moved further south signalling a longer straight.
A component of the proposed Village included a 5% social housing quota but on appeal to VCAT this clause has now been dropped. Local Councillor Joel Silver sided with the developers whilst the remainder of Councillors called for inclusion of social housing.
Stage 1 has seen a maximum height of 10 storeys. Club promotions to members demonstrated much taller towers, but a precinct overlay by the State Government stipulates height limits.
The key issue is the melding of a new community, infrastructure, visual impressions and visitors with an older established suburb. Put Monash University and its Caulfield complex in the mix where it has major expansion plans, this precinct is about to experience substantial and significant change over a 15 year period that will alter the character of the area completely. Take into account that Monash University currently has 17,000 students of which 9,000 are oversees students who require accommodation. Again this may be a good thing or you may not agree. It probably depends a lot on whether you live in the area or adopt a completely objective viewpoint. Whichever way you view it, in the future this precinct will be a very different one.