A permanent food precinct to be built on an empty shipping yard next to Scienceworks in Spotswood, in Melbourne's west, hopes to become one of Melbourne's international attractions.
The $4 million complex will open in March 2020, offering 50 food options, three bars, live music and a big screen that managing director John Forman believes will fill a family entertainment void in Melbourne.
"If you look at it, if they are staying in the city it's very hard to suggest somewhere for a family to go somewhere on a Friday or Saturday night. Grazeland will cater for that market and all demographics," he says.
Mr Forman says while expressions of interest are still open, 50 food operators had already been shortlisted, including 48h Pizza & Gnocchi Bar – winner of Australia's best pizza at this year's world pizza championships in Parma, Italy – Simon Shao and his flying noodles, and a Cannoleria by That's Amore Cheese.
Grazeland won't be another Melbourne food truck park, Mr Forman says, because – aside from vendors operating out of shipping containers, not trucks – the 50 food options will be permanent.
"It will have a very Melbourne flavour – there'll be different zones with different feels. In essence you'll be immersed in a space that's very creative. We'll have operators from all different cuisines, so we're not doubling up on any genres."
The currently bare 10,000 square metre area, overlooked by the Westgate Bridge, will open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a $2.50 entry fee for people aged 12 years and over.
Mr Forman says Grazeland will collaborate with Museums Victoria, which operates the neighbouring "family mecca" of Scienceworks, to arrange kids activities, while the big screen will vary between live sport and family content.
"The site has an incredible vista of the city; it's such a spectacular view. In fact it looks a bit like Brooklyn in New York. There'll be a large sun deck too," he says.
Mr Forman also wants to capitalise on Grazeland's waterside location, the site of the former OCI bottling plant that the state government initially set aside for a Scienceworks expansion.
"We want to amplify our number one under-resourced tourist asset, which is our waterways," he says.
"So another thing for Grazeland, we've got multiple boat operators at the moment who would like to ferry people from Federation Square at the heart of the city to Spotswood, back and forth, every weekend."
Before March's opening the company will order about 100 shipping containers – "the largest shipping container order in Australia" – install roofs, stages, toilet blocks and finalise food vendors.
"It's like one big Lego set. Most of it gets built off-site then gets dropped into position," Mr Forman says.
Mr Forman is also executive general manager of Eureka Skydeck and has worked with the hospitality company that runs establishments such as Cookie in the CBD and Temperance Hotel in South Yarra.
He says Grazeland, designed over two years in consultation with the local council and state government, will host private events during the week, primarily by visiting groups.
"For example, it may be very attractive for a Rotary convention … we think it will be a selling tool internationally as an add-on for Melbourne. Hopefully we can help secure and add to the visitor economy in Victoria."
Despite those ambitions, food "will be the hero".
"Everything about it revolves around the food, all the vendors are theatrical in their own right."