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Much attention is focused on the apartment boom in inner city Melbourne, but on the city's outskirts, a "quiet achiever" several years in the making is about to launch. That's Harpley, a $1 billion community that has been master planned by Lend Lease. The 465-hectare project will include 4000 homes for up to 12,000 people and is likely to take 12 years to complete. Construction starts next week. Given Harpley's location almost half-way between Melbourne and Geelong, good public transport and lifestyle are key parts of the plan. Social isolation is not on the agenda. Harpley is just off the Princes Freeway, 30 kilometres south-west of Melbourne and 40 kilometres north-east of Geelong. The train makes both cities within reach. "Harpley is just a short drive or bus trip from the Werribee train station, which provides direct connections to the Melbourne CBD and Geelong," said Lend Lease's managing director of communities, Matthew Mears.

What's more, the first station to be opened as part of the Regional Rail Link – the new rail line connecting West Werribee to Southern Cross Station – will be the Wyndham Vale train station. Harpley is alsoserviced by public bus route 449, which has stops on three roads that connect to Manor Lakes shopping centre, the local college, Wyndham Vale Square and Werribee train station. "A key aspect of the development is a $52 million investment in major transport infrastructure," said Mr Mears, much of which will be built early on in the project. The road works include planned upgrades to existing roads and a rail overpass. The Harpley town centre itself will have 8000 square metres of retail floor space. That will include a supermarket, specialty shops, restaurants and cafes, a medical centre and chemist and a range of professional services.

It aims to be the "front door" to the Wyndham Vale growth area. Mr Mears said the town would offer outlets for business investment. "Flexible zoning, high-speed fibre optic broadband and a growing trade catchment provide a base for future growth," he said. It includes a proposed government primary and secondary school, a childcare centre and kindergarten and an independent primary school. However, Mr Mears emphasised the importance of lifestyle and recreation in the development. That's centred on the planned 60 hectares of lakes and waterways. Hand in hand with that are 100 hectares of open space,16 hectares of sports fields, 12 hectares of village parks and gardens and 26 kilometres of planned hike and bike trails nearby. The first land releases take place this weekend with prices for home sites starting from $155,000.

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