August 11, 2015


Parks & Affordability: A winning combination for young families

Published 2 July 2015 on by Alice Bradley. Read more here.

We all remember swimming and sliding at the neighbourhood when we were kids – but as our capital cities become more urbanised, the number of parks available for children to play is becoming few and far between.

But young families haven’t forgotten the good old days. Keen to relive the fun with their own kids, first home buyers are on the lookout for communities with plenty of open space and parkland.

The problem is, even leafy suburbs 20km from our major capital cities don’t always have the most affordable options for first home buyers.

Take Ringwood in Melbourne’s east – a middle-ring suburb with a bushland sense of space and its own shopping centre – the median house price for a three-bedroom home is $660,000.

Or North Rocks in Sydney, which has neither harbour views nor coastline access but is close to big leafy green patch – Parramatta Reserve. The median house price is $995,000.

Young families might consider looking a little further afield to fulfil their dreams of a healthy lifestyle for the kids. Developers have been busy building comprehensive, mixed-use communities in growth corridors of major cities.

Space & affordability in Melbourne’s growth corridor

Merrifield, about 30km north of Melbourne on the Hume Highway, is set to be Victoria’s biggest, master-planned,  mixed-use community comprising almost 130 hectares of open space. A mix of waterways, sports reserves and high quality drainage corridors and wetlands are integrated into the development – so people can play, walk and ride their bikes throughout community.

Merrifield welcomed its first residents in April this year. With space for 5000 homes, 400 lots have already been sold.

Homes range from 294sqm townhouses at $145,000 to 751sqm premium sites for $244,900. The backdrop of a booming property market paints these prices in stark contrast with the rest of Melbourne.

Project Manager of Merrifield Matthew Planner says providing quality open space environments was key to the project’s vision.

“Open space extends to community infrastructure and civic uses, like childcare, healthcare and sporting facilities… places where the community can actually gather,” Planner says.

“Those things are established in Melbourne’s suburbs but do need a bit of support in the growth corridors.

“We made a conscious decision to deliver Merrifield’s first neighbourhood park before the very first resident had moved into their home. We wanted to create a destination and sense of community early on.”

The park in question was a $1.3 million project that includes interactive play equipment, mini trampolines, a semi-enclosed, mixed-use sports arena and a signature climbing net imported from Germany. A barbecue eating area offers somewhere for parents to relax while they watch the kids.

“It’s basically an extension of peoples’ backyards,” Planner says.

“Children of all age groups are accommodated. We made sure we weren’t just satisfying one demographic.”

The park is the first of many for the 800 hectare estate. In 2018 when Merrifield is due for completion, each home will be no more than five minutes away from a park.

“It was about being clever in design to establish a new community.”

A city away from the city

Communities are not built on recreational parks alone. Merrifield also incorporates a 300 hectare “business park” filled with commercial office and warehousing space. The area is about one and half times the size of the Melbourne CBD and will generate up to 20,000 jobs.

“Providing that scale of employment in Melbourne’s growth area is quite unique,” Planner says.

“Hopefully it means people can spend less time travelling and more time doing the things they enjoy.”

With state-of-the-art parkland becoming the standard for new fringe residential communities, there’s plenty of healthy ways for new home owners to enjoy themselves without having to travel to the city.

“There’s an inherent sustainability to having infrastructure and amenity at your doorstep.”