Hotel plans for airport precinct
Essendon Airport looks set to expand with a 150-bed hotel, substantial new office and retail space and up to 10 new car dealerships over the next five years, the airport's new master plan envisages.
A hospital, what to do with unused land lots in nearby residential areas and a study into shortening the north-south runway are also mooted in new 20-year plans released to the public this week.
The fully operational airport north of Melbourne's CBD is used as a base for regional flights and caters for mining, corporate jets and emergency service operators, including Victoria's police air wing, air ambulance, maritime search and rescue and Royal Flying Doctor Service.
It was privatised in 2001 with a long-term lease to a joint Lindsay Fox and Max Beck-controlled company, allowing the redevelopment of unused land and buildings.
That has included a successful DFO, Homemaker centre, corporate hangars, supermarkets, auto centre, new offices and refurbished space in the airport's old, heritage buildings.
The airport's chief executive, Chris Cowan, said there had been inquiries about locating a hospital on the site but there were no firm plans. Discussions were under way with three national hotel operators for a prominent eight-level, four-star hotel and conference centre near the airport's main Matthews Avenue entrance with a decision expected by year's end, he said.
Critically for neighbouring residents - the airport is surrounded by houses in Strathmore and Essendon - the latest 20-year plan predicts only a marginal increase in flights and noise levels.
Changes to the flight mix and a projected 6 per cent increase in air traffic over the next two decades were likely to affect another 776 homes, above the 4000 currently affected, modelling suggests.
Moonee Valley mayor Narelle Sharpe said Essendon Fields was an important economic hub. It had recently introduced a "fly neighbourly" agreement that had reduced noise but "it will be a big issue for our community", she said.
The master plan says 23 lots in a residential area on the airport's eastern edge that were previously used for navigational landing lights are surplus to the airport's needs.
The airport's commercial hub, Essendon Fields, has become the northern suburb's most prominent location for car dealerships, with eight of the top 10 manufacturers represented.
Despite the difficult retail environment there were no retail vacancies, Mr Cowan said.