Over the two-hundred-year history of modern Brisbane, the river has played host to the city’s fascinating transformation. The suburb of Hamilton, including Frasers Property’s Hamilton Reach community, is no exception. We look at its remarkable history and glittering future.
Hamilton’s rich history can be traced back thousands of years to when First Nations people occupied the fertile banks of the Brisbane (Meeanjin) River. Since then, this place has worn many hats, from farmland and shipping yards to one of Brisbane’s most sought after suburbs.
Today, Northshore Hamilton is one of the largest urban renewal projects in the country, a $5 billion mixed-use city-within-a-city, that’s home to the premium waterfront neighbourhood by Frasers Property Australia, Hamilton Reach, as well as the future site of the Brisbane Athlete’s Village for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
With its architecturally designed riverfront homes and lush parklands located just 6kms from the Brisbane CBD, Hamilton Reach represents some of the finest living to be found on the waterfront. But it wasn’t always so, according to local historian Helen Gregory.
Image sourced from the State Library of QLD.
“There were two main industries here,” explains Helen. “Firstly, anything to do with shipping. Secondly, and this is probably less well known, there was also quite a lot to do with defence. During the two World Wars, U.S. soldiers were camped at the racecourse and their ships were docked here. But this area before, during and after saw a lot of defence industry work. So, if you wanted to live in a pleasant part of Hamilton you tended to avoid the area near the river because it was so industrial.”
But the pull of the water for Brisbane’s growing population has always been there. Opened to great fanfare in 1889, just across the river from Hamilton Reach at Hemnant, was Queensland’s first theme park including an aquarium, rollercoaster, dance hall, and zoo. The crowds who visited the Queensport Aquarium and Zoological Gardens arrived in droves by steamers costing two shillings for adults and one shilling for children.
Hamilton Reach Development Director, Jamisen Rivera, says there has long been a tension between the maritime activity of the waterfront and the undeniable lifestyle appeal of river-based leisure activities.
“Training walls were built up and down the river between Hamilton and Pinkenba in the early 1900s, which gave the river a more defined edge and reduced inundation in some of the swampier areas,” says Jamisen. “This gave people the opportunity to walk along the river’s edge and watch sailing regattas or go paddling and boating.”
In 1920, the Royal Queensland Golf Club was established, with extensive landscaping and sand dredged from the river to transform the mangrove swamp into a course fit for Royal Charter.
Then, in the middle of the twentieth century, a simple invention transformed the global maritime industry forever, ushering in a new era for Brisbane’s river economy. With the ability to stack goods in large metal boxes and stack those metal boxes in ever larger quantities on bigger ships, the humble shipping container rendered most riverside wharves obsolete. Large-scale container terminals shifted to ocean ports and the industrial life of the Brisbane River shifted toward lifestyle, leisure, and high-end real estate.
Image sourced from the State Library of QLD
Colourful history, golden future
In 2010, Frasers Property acquired land at Northshore Hamilton from Port of Brisbane Corporation to be redeveloped into the Hamilton Reach neighbourhood. The masterplan imagined a vision of premium waterfront homes and apartments connected by lushly landscaped walkways and sunlit viewlines to the river.
Today, with its thriving community and distinctive riverfront feel, Hamilton Reach pays ample homage to its local history. Reclaimed timber from the old wharves is integrated into the sensory gardens and street furniture, while apartments and homes are designed to catch the light and breezes off the river.
Even the name Hamilton Reach pays homage to one of the very first housing estates in Brisbane’s history, released a little way down the river in 1885, comprising 428 “splendid allotments.”
As rich as the history is of Hamilton, the future looks even brighter. With Brisbane winning the right to host the 2032 Olympics, the future Athlete’s Village will be built at the Northshore Hamilton location, overseen by Economic Development Queensland (EDQ). Its prime waterfront outlook and proximity to the CBD, as well as competition and training venues, makes it an ideal location to host more than 15,000 athletes and officials across the Olympic and Paralympic Games. When the games are over, the village will transform again into a diverse residential offering, alongside build-to-rent, retirement, aged care, and hotel accommodation.
Jamisen points to 2022 as the 10-year anniversary of the first residents moving into Hamilton Reach, and the cementing of its own little slice of history in the grand narrative of Brisbane’s river life.
“If there’s one thing a project like this reveals, it’s that the best cities are the ones that are always evolving to keep pace with the desires and needs of its residents. The history of Hamilton Reach is rich and varied, and its future equally so. It’s one of the great privileges of what we do as placemakers to be part of that story.”