A vacant warehouse on the edge of the Maribyrnong River has been refurbished by Creative Spaces to provide 57 artist studios, housing 75 artists.


“Creative Spaces identifies, secures, develops and manages affordable space for creative use in both the private and public sectors.” Eleni Arbus, Program Manager

How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?

MReam artists first identified the building and brought it to the attention of Creative Spaces. After MReam moved to PipemakersPark, Creative Spaces contacted the agent and began negotiating. The space provided a new model of development for the City of Melbourne, leasing the building from the private sector to provide affordable workspace for artists. A relationship was established with the owner of the vacant building.

What was required to secure the space?

River Studios is a partnership between City of Melbourne, Arts Victoria and the owner of the building. Each party contributed $100,000 towards the building’s refurbishment, which included a lift for disability access. Building work occurred over a period of 16 weeks.

What were the costs?

The final cost was $300,000 for the refurbishment that included electrical, plumbing, partitioning, cleaning, security, lift and disability toilet.  

What were the resources available  to you?

Expressions of interest were called for through the Creative Spaces website in mid 2010, which highlighted the demand for spaces and fed into the final design of the floor plan for the space. We then organised walkthroughs prior to the commencement of the build in August 2010, to allow interested parties to see the potential of the space. We had only taped the outlines of each studio on the floor. A call out for applications was made in October and we received over 100 submissions from artists predominantly based in Melbourne, as well as a small number of interstate enquires. Within a week, demand for studios exceeded floor space available.

The Creative Spaces working group selected artists according to the following criteria:

- The mix and diversity of artists, art forms and cultural backgrounds for the success of the project in question;

- The commitment and capacity of the applicant to take and use the opportunity;

- The potential and creative talent of the applicant;

- The likely contribution of the applicant to the creative dynamic of the City;

- The potential of the applicant to contribute to Melbourne’s reputation as a leading arts city and;

- The availability of viable alternatives for the applicant in the City of Melbourne and elsewhere.

Who helped you to fit it out?

Artists, builders, architects, electricians, plumbers, fencing contractors and City of Melbourne staff contributed materials and labour towards the fit-out. A mix of sustainable and re-cycled materials was used to adapt the space to studios.

Adaptive re-use of buildings is a sustainable practice that the City of Melbourne actively promotes. Council’s 1200 Buildings Program, which focuses on sustainable retrofits of office buildings, is complimented by refurbishments of vacant property as creative workspace.

What were/are the risks?

The building had been vacant for twenty years and needed a full refurbishment. Estimates of costs could have potentially blown out after work commenced and hidden flaws in the structure revealed themselves. Failure to meet outgoings through a shortfall of tenancy was also a risk as was damage to property and injury to occupants. Formal risk assessments were undertaken to minimise risk prior to the commencement of the project.