Docklands hopes pinned on creative start-ups

Industrial designer Marinos Drake of Batch Design Studio is amongst the first small business operators to benefit from Docklands Spaces. PICTURE: Daniella Casamento

Batch Design Studio’s Marinos Drake is among the first small business operators to benefit from Docklands Spaces. Picture: Daniella Casamento


MARINOS Drake of Batch Design Studio hopes to build a successful design practice and retail outlet at Docklands.

A recent graduate of Industrial Design with Honours from Monash University in Melbourne, Drake and his three business partners moved their studio from a windowless Brunswick factory to a shopfront in the Piazza two weeks ago.

They are among the first small businesses to move into empty shops rent free as part of the Docklands Spaces initiative which hopes to bring more people and activity to the area to build the local economy.

“It’s been really positive,” Drake says.

“A lot of people perceive Docklands negatively but it has been really good. There is a decent amount of foot traffic and there are a few people walking around Harbour Town on the weekends.

His colourful light shades and jewellery are made using 3D printing technology and have captured the attention of locals and visitors.

“We’ve had engineers to architects to kids coming in to see what we are doing which was the aim, to start conversations and just gauge where the interest is and see potentially if there is a niche for this kind of technology and where we could get that going.”

Docklands Piazza
Natural light, a polished concrete floor, open ceiling and white walls are a dream for a young design studio in the midst of building their practice from the ground up.

And the large space is a perfect environment to build collaborative relationships with like minded businesses.

“There are only four of us and we said we want to get another group in,” Drake says.

“Musk Architecture Group is working in here now …We will look for other groups [to join us] as well in the near future.”

MAB Corporation, the City of Melbourne and Places Victoria commissioned Renew Australia to manage the Docklands Spaces initiative after the success of Renew Newcastle several years ago.

Local retail and hospitality businesses have struggled since the first residents called Docklands home, and up to a dozen empty shops line the waterfront and the Piazza as landlords try to find long term tenants to fill them.

Marcus Westbury is the founder of Renew Australia and says the model they developed in Newcastle is the same one they are using at Docklands.

“The way it works is pretty simple,” he says.

“We borrow buildings from the owners while they are empty…on the principle that if the owner gets a better offer on the building they get the building back.

“The building remains on the market and is still for lease or still for sale.

“What we are doing is putting someone in there that doesn’t have any security but they are not paying any rent.

“They then get a chance to incubate their creative idea…they get time to find out if the idea works and in the interim it brings life and activity back to the area,” he says.

The program works on a rolling 30 day basis where incubator businesses are given 30 days notice to vacate if a shop or tenancy is leased or sold.

Westbury has found that once property owners understand how the model works and are happy to participate, then others tend to follow which makes the process much easier.

Marinos Drake hopes this opportunity is the start of a successful industrial design practice for himself and his three partners.
The Docklands Spaces website lists makers, designers, photographers, printmakers, painters, illustrators, architects, milliners, jewellers, animators, publishers and other creative businesses as preferred temporary tenants.

Since the call went out last December, Westbury has received almost 80 applications from creative start-ups keen to be involved.

He and his team continue to work through a shortlist of applicants and willing landlords to find the right fit for each.

As recent graduates, Drake and his partners at Batch Design Studio set up a website, prepared a folio of work with a short presentation and attended an information evening before they were offered an opportunity to be involved.

“It has been pretty straight forward,” he says.

“Our longer term goal is to have a more comprehensive manufacturing operation within the space.”

The beauty of the Docklands Spaces program is that he and other small creative businesses can test what does or doesn’t work, without the stress of having to meet monthly rents.

For now, 3D printing allows them to make small batches of each design and individual pieces can even be customised to suit their client’s specific needs.

“That interaction with clients and customers is another aspect of the business that we would like to explore,” he says.

Docklands Spaces hopes to activate retail properties along the waterfront and Piazza.

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