The New Place to Be

Frankston City Council

But Frankston isn’t all work and no play – the city also boasts a wealth of recreational and cultural opportunities, as well as plentiful shopping, lively cafés, a strong focus on education, and a growing health and wellness sector.

“We recognise that Frankston is a really, really great place to run a business, but you have to live here as well,” remarks Ms Sam Jackson, who is in charge of Economic Development for Frankston City Council. “Employees have to have a life outside of work and Frankston is able to provide that. You can sit down and enjoy cafés. We’ve got so many parks and facilities. You can be walking through a beautiful wetland area and not realise that you are so close to Melbourne city centre. It is absolutely amazing.”

Frankston is actively working to attract new businesses, increase tourism, and bolster its burgeoning health and wellness sector. The state government recognises the community’s potential and has recently named Frankston one of six specially designated Central Activities Areas surrounding Melbourne CBD. “They are going to try and concentrate the growth of jobs and development along train lines or along transit hubs, so that there is not the pressure to commute into central Melbourne,” Ms Jackson explains.

Frankston is conveniently located at the end of the Frankston train line and is also easily reachable by road. The community has particularly benefited from the recently opened Eastlink, a tollway that offers quick access to multiple points along the Mornington Peninsula. Frankston is also eagerly awaiting Peninsula Link, a freeway currently under construction that is expected to transform the travel patterns surrounding the city. “Some people are concerned that it is a bypass for Frankston,” Ms Jackson admits. “We think of it as a really great opportunity because we are not going to have commuter traffic coming through the heart of our city. What that means is the people who are traveling to Frankston are there because they want to be in Frankston.”

With the new roadway “opening up the whole Mornington Peninsula – Frankston region,” Council is confident that there will still be plenty of new businesses and tourists streaming into the city. The reduction in commuter traffic will also enable the city to remake central boulevards into more pedestrian friendly thoroughfares, creating a more inviting atmosphere for casual shopping and dining.

Frankston certainly fits the bill as far as accessibility, but it also enjoys an important point of difference from the other Central Activities Areas. “We are the only bay side location,” Ms Jackson points out. “We have the train line coming down here, we are very well connected by road transport, and we are about an hour away from Melbourne airport, so we are very well connected. But, because we have the beautiful amenity of being bay side, people are able to have that work-lifestyle balance.”

The city’s bay side location has long made it attractive to tourists, but a combined effort between the Victorian government, Frankston City Council, and Mornington Peninsula Shire is making the destination even more appealing. “[We] have just developed a regional tourism board which is looking at how the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston area can strategically grow and strengthen our tourism sector,” Ms Jackson explains. “So the two municipalities that are neighbouring each other, rather than competing against each other, are actually working together.” The two communities are leveraging each other’s strengths and working collaboratively to brand the community as a favourite destination.

Council has also been involved in numerous waterfront developments to make the most of the city’s lovely bay side location. Careful effort is being made to create aesthetically pleasing structures for many people to enjoy. For example, an eye-catching redevelopment of the Seaford Lifesaving Club building has won national architecture awards. Council isn’t looking to simply play it safe; “they are trying to design beautiful buildings that have multiple uses, so they are not sitting vacant half the time… They are assets that the community can use for multiple purposes.”

The Victorian Government has placed limits on commercial development along Port Phillip Bay in order to preserve the natural beauty of the waterfront. “However, Frankston has a unique opportunity,” Ms Jackson says, to take advantage of several key commercial options that other municipalities might not have. Most developments have already taken place, and the $7 million Frankston Yacht Club will be the final project of its kind. This development is particularly significant because it will include an upscale dining venue. “We already have some cafés and restaurants along the waterfront that cater to all budgets,” Ms Jackson reports, and the fine dining option will only add to the mix.

Frankston is also benefiting from a face lift to the 12 story tower Barry Humphries once famously dubbed “the ugliest building in Australia.” Peninsula Centre has been vacant for nearly a decade and was sorely in need of a second life when the Asian Pacific Group swooped in to redevelop it. The group will transform the tired structure into “Peninsula on the Bay,” an upscale residential, commercial, retail, and dining hub with stunning views of the nearby water.

Ms Jackson calls the development “a real barometer of the health and well-being of the city centre,” and a highly visible symbol of Frankston’s revitalisation. “It means that people can have confidence that the face of Frankston is changing,” she adds. The 80-plus short stay accommodation rooms included in the redevelopment will also make the site a desirable destination for the events and conferences market. “We have a lot of facilities where you can hold large meetings, conferences or events, but traditionally we haven’t had a lot of accommodation,” Ms Jackson explains. “So it has been really exciting in that regard. In enables us to support another form of tourism.”

Frankston is also the site of the new South East Water headquarters. This move consolidates three facilities into one location and brings 700 permanent jobs to Frankston, as well as numerous short-term construction sector opportunities for local labour. “It is a real stimulant to our local business community because it means we are going to have more people on the streets, more people in our shops and businesses. And again, it is changing the discussion about Frankston.”

One of the advances that Council is most excited about is Frankston’s emerging position as a health and wellness centre. Among the largest investments in the area is a $47 million dollar regional aquatic centre being built in partnership with state and federal governments. The facility has been built to the highest environmental standards and includes a number of special features to promote healthier living. “It is not just about lap swimming, nor is it just about water slides,” Ms Jackson explains. Both of these features are included, but the facility goes much further in accommodating the wellness needs of all its patrons. For example, the centre will feature hydrotherapy pools with full disabled access. The centre will also form the basis of an extensive health and well being study being done in partnership with the local campus of Monash University, which was recently ranked as one of the top 100 universities in the world. This study reflects the campus’ strengths and focus on health and wellbeing and sports medicine.

Frankston also boasts a surprising array of arts, culture, and entertainment options. “We’ve got a really good arts culture here,” Ms Jackson reports. “It is still untapped. People don’t realise how strong our arts culture is.” Frankston Arts Centre is one of Australia’s largest metropolitan and regional arts venues, and a wide variety of smaller galleries and art centres abound. The city even hosts an annual sand sculpting exhibition with whimsically lifelike creations. “It is a really amazing event,” Ms Jackson remarks. The city is also the site of the Asia Pacific Ironman competition – one of only four such elite events in the world.

With a beautiful bay side location, a short drive or train ride from Melbourne, and an ongoing revitalisation, Frankston is the new place to be. When asked to summarise why she thinks businesses and individuals should relocate to Frankston, Ms Jackson responds with a simple question. “Why wouldn’t you?” she asks. “So many things are now happening [here] that you absolutely wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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December 19, 2018, 5:14 AM AEDT