The Bay Link Concept – 1988
The City By The Bay concept of 1981 didn’t quite take off as was hoped, but the major CBD shopping areas were redeveloped and became Market Square and Bay City Plaza. They were built several years apart and not as one giant shopping mall stretching from the bay to Ryrie street. Instead they were much smaller and more realistic in size. The National Wool Museum also became a reality with her majesty the Queen opening it in 1988. The Royal Geelong Yacht Club marina opened after a few tries at different technologies. Not much else of the plan became a reality at this stage, but several pockets of important land around the foreshore was purchased for future developments and some were cleared to get ready for the next wave of interest.
A new concept named The Bay Link was introduced in 1989. Not quite as ambitious, but more realistic when compared to the earlier City by the Bay concept, it re-floated some old plans with a few new twists and added some exciting new ideas to the precinct. The biggest focal point of the project was a giant tent like structure that was inspired by Brisbane’s Expo 88. The expo and its sails had had huge success the previous year, the whole country seemed to become tent mad. The precinct had many of the features of world class waterfront precincts including the just opened Darling Harbour in Sydney and San Francisco’s Pier 39. This huge tent was to be erected in the centre of Steampacket Gardens on the foreshore. Inside it would house a huge community amphitheatre. There was to be a festival type market and an international food court stretching from the gardens onto Western Beach Road. This caused a large public outcry with the closure of Western Beach Road in front of Steampacket Gardens. A trial road closure was tested for several weeks and eventually the full closure was never allowed to go ahead. The controversy was overcome by everyone really just losing interest in the project and leaving the area as a park.
The Commonwealth Building which is now the Brougham Apartments was to become the jewel in the crown, a huge IMAX theatre project. This controversial plan became a very expensive exercise with the licensing and theatre equipment purchased but never installed. The system was later sold to a Queensland theme park. The IMAX was to be complemented with a huge convention centre next door.
An international hotel was to be built on the land Deakin’s Waterfront Campus now occupies, along with a proposed transport museum also in the Deakin Woolstores; Both of these plans were not realized until the Steampacket Place project a decade later with Sheraton Four Points Hotel and the Ford Discovery Centre becoming part of the project in other areas of the precinct.
Cunningham Pier and Yarra Street Pier were both to be redeveloped with extended marinas and were to house small dining or tourist based businesses.
The whole area was to have a marine themed terracing and landscaping and a boardwalk stretching along Steampaket Gardens. Much of the Steampacket Garden’s landscaping was complete including the installation of giant palm trees and extensive red brickwork, before being torn up once again as part of the final Steampacket project a few years later.
Steampacket Gardens was also to be home to a sailing pond which could also be used as a skating rink in the colder months.
During the poor economic conditions of the early 1990’s Geelong suffered immensely. Large chunks of manufacturing jobs disappeared from the town and the loss of many local family’s savings in the Pyramid Building Society crash put the waterfront plans back onto the back burner. A completed redeveloped waterfront would not be seen until the third try that was known as the Steampacket Place project in the last decade of the century.