Field narrows for Moonee Valley development

The Moonee Valley racetrack is in Moonee Ponds, 6km from Melbourne’s CBD.

The field is narrowing to build a mixed-use development featuring up to 2000 apartments and townhouses at a racecourse in Melbourne’s northwest, with the nine developers interested in the project trimmed to a shortlist of three. 

The Australian understands Mirvac and Grocon are two of the developers in the running for Moonee Valley Racing Club’s project to redevelop its 40ha site in Moonee Ponds, 6km from Melbourne’s CBD.

The land was rezoned to allow for higher density residential development, a retail and commercial precinct, with approvals received for apartment buildings with a preferred maximum height of 20 storeys.

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The Moonee Valley club, home to the Cox Plate, hopes to reap enough funds from the project to invest $150 million in upgrading its ageing racetrack and grandstands, and to reinvest in the ­future operations of the club, chief executive Michael Browell says.

“It’s critical for us,” Browell tells The Australian.

“There’s no shortage of money in the racing industry at the moment, but there’s probably not enough of that making its way back to the individual clubs, so to sustain the operations of the club long-term we’ve got to look at all possible options.”

After taking the project to market late last year and receiving expressions of interest from nine developers, the club has narrowed the field to three candidates and may be ready to choose one in May or June, Browell says.

“We’re looking for a developer partner that has a shared vision for the site. We need to make sure we can work well with the developer over 10-12 years and we want to make sure the interests of the club are protected,” he says.

Grocon could not be reached late yesterday, while Mirvac declined to comment.

There’s no shortage of money in the racing industry at the moment, but there’s probably not enough of that making its way back to the individual clubs

Mirvac is developing Brisbane Racing Club’s Eagle Farm residential precinct, which is set to include more than 1000 apartments, plus retail and food and beverage offerings.

In Sydney, superannuation-backed Cbus Property bought the Inglis stables at Randwick, which could house around 750 apartments.

The Melbourne Racing Club, which owns racecourses at Caulfield, Mornington and Sandown, expects its Caulfield Village project to create about 2000 dwellings over 15 years.

The club also hosts cinema nights and food and wine events, and has a bakery venture in inner-city Collingwood.

Proceeds are reinvested into track infrastructure as well as member facilities.

“If other clubs don’t follow suit they’re going to find it difficult to maintain a heartbeat, to stay alive,” general manager of racing Jake Norton says.

The Victoria Racing Club, which owns Flemington Racecourse, home of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, received planning approval for an apartment development on its land two months ago, although at a reduced height.

That followed Chinese developer Greenland Group’s termination of a contract with the club last year.

“We make strong positive cashflows from our racing operations, we don’t need to be selling assets to fund the club’s operations,” VRC chief executive Simon Love says. “The right approach is to invest the proceeds into infrastructure,” he says, adding the public grandstand needs some “TLC”.

Moonee Valley mayor Andrea Surace says there is still some work for the racing club to do before a final decision was made on the plans, and said no formal planning application had been lodged with council.

– with Turi Condon

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