Ian and Jane Morrison are good friends with their neighbours and their local shop owners. They know nearly their whole community by name.
But the semi-retired couple don’t live in the sleepy suburbs, and they certainly don’t live in a country town. Mr and Mrs Morrison live in Docklands’ high-rises.
And the couple love the sky-high lifestyle so much, they’ve moved three times in 12 years to stay within the handful of river-facing towers along the Yarra’s edge, trading up each time for a newer building or to enjoy a slightly better view.
They’re not alone. There are dozens of “tower hoppers” along Lorimer Street; buyers or renters who move throughout the buildings to upgrade or downsize with a change of life circumstances, all wanting to stay within the tight-knit community.
Christmas parties and neighbourly dinners at the restaurants below their homes are par for the course for these residents, as are the weekly meetings of the coffee club or Friday night beers with the G.O.D. (Gentleman of Docklands) Squad.
“There’s a better sense of community here than in most places,” Mrs Morrison said. “It’s not as people imagine it is, it’s way more friendly.”
About a third of the 100 or so properties sold in the precinct by local agent Lucas Real Estate during the past two years have been to people who already lived there, according to director Baden Lucas.
“Some of those have been to people ‘trying before they buy’,” Mr Lucas said. “They’ve come down here and they leased for 12 or 18 months, then they’ve moved to another tower or in a different building.”
Dipping their toes into the apartment lifestyle often leads people to overcompensate, he said, meaning they start out with a four-bedroom unit only to realise they want to downsize from their original downsize. Others simply have an extra child or grandchild come along, or decide they need an extra room for guests, he said.
The Morrisons moved to Yarra’s Edge 12 years ago from Beacon Cove in Port Melbourne. First they lived in tower three, then traded up to tower five when it was finished being built, and now are 12 months into living in tower six, or Array as it’s known.
“We didn’t really know [if it was for us] at first, but after the first one in tower three, we fell in love with it,” Mr Morrison said.
They’ve watched Docklands come into its own over 12 years: towers have filled up with young families and little children, restaurants and galleries have opened their doors.
And although they admit wind and parking can sometimes be an issue in the suburb, they can’t understand why Melburnians viewed Docklands the way they do.
“From day one when we arrived, we always felt like we were part of a vibrant and evolving community,” Mrs Morrison said.
Like many of the tower hoppers, the Morrisons also split their time between the city and the coast. It’s common for many of the residents to “lock up and leave” their homes while they travel.
One of the biggest factors that separates these apartments from the perception of the overcrowded inner-city apartment market, is that they are designed for owner occupiers rather than investors, Mirvac general manager for apartments Christian Grahame said.
“Buyers come from a spread all across Melbourne, a lot of them are coming from the suburbs which is a big change for them,” Mr Grahame said. “But I think once people find something they really like, it’s easier for them to stay within that existing community.”
And for the Morrisons, there’s no immediate plans to give up their home in the sky.
“Apartment living is not for everyone, but there are a lot people who love it,” Mr Morrison adds.
Published in The Age