COVID has demonstrated how vulnerable traditional models for retail spaces can be. Using a variety of new and emerging technologies, this pilot explores how a new approach for these spaces might be more desirable, feasible and viable for those returning to our city, whilst at the same time, maintaining the unique 'buzz' of Melbourne's CBD.

This project was one of three winning projects selected as a pilot through the Reimagining the City challenge.

This pilot will involve ideation, implementing and testing of a new design for city retail spaces.

Micro-Labs aims to bring a shopfront to life on 227-229 Bourke Street for our residents and visitors to enjoy, as well as supporting our businesses and economy.

Ideal for those who are looking for space in the city to host events, or showcase a community initiative, or want a space to share with others.

Sensors and other emerging technology will enable better digital access for Micro-Labs users and allow the City of Melbourne to understand how people use the space at different times. This means that we can change the space and test other solutions to support users better. To learn more about some of the emerging technology at Micro-Labs works, see ‘More on the Technology’ below.

While the space will adapt over time in terms of layout and amenities, these key features are included as part of the space:

  • free and fast wifi
  • accessible toilets
  • outside courtyard
  • tea and coffee station
  • projector
  • interactive whiteboard
  • digital screens
  • comfortable furniture including tables and chairs
  • flexible layout – you can tailor the space to suit your needs
  • small and bigger spaces for a variety of activities
  • ability to book all the space or work with others
  • display opportunities (shelves, community noticeboard etc.)
  • lockers – you can keep your items secure.

To develop a user-centred design and program, we’ve been working with local community groups, small businesses, small business support services and more.

We've been discussing the various ways that Micro-Labs could best support the users in this shared facility; from furniture and finishes to technology, amenity and a code of conduct. You've told us that in addition to cleanliness and comfort, good acoustics in a space are vital. The space should also have a ‘buzzing’ feel and personality of its users.

We have partnered with Moth Design to develop flexible designs that embody the values and functional requirements expressed during the community consultation and by our 20 primary partners.

Construction has started and Micro-Labs will be open in May 2022.

Through design-thinking and applied technologies, the objective of this pilot is to understand if retail tenancies can be redefined as dynamic, intelligent and supportive spaces for local business and communities to thrive. We aim to explore:

  • How retail spaces can potentially support a new type of city occupation for small businesses.
  • What tools and amenities could help community and small businesses in the city connect and continue (for instance access to high-speed internet and spaces to meet others with video-conferencing equipment).
  • If physical city spaces could evolve with its inhabitants through data insights for a more sustainable type of retail space.

First round partners for the Micro-Labs program have been selected and include 20 small businesses, startups, community groups and social enterprises. These partners have bookings for the six-month pop-up that cover a wide range of activities including retail activations, workshops, events, co-working, meetings and exhibitions.

When Micro-Labs opens in May 2022, alongside the events booked by these primary partners, there will be numerous opportunities to book a space or stop by and participate in the program.

The remaining process is as follows:

  • January – April 2022 – development of the design and program.
  • May 2022 - Micro-Labs opens to businesses and public.

Follow this page to stay up-to-date on Micro-Lab launch. We will share the weekly program here so you can attend a workshop or meetup, visit an event or exhibition, or book a space for a meeting.

For more information, contact us at

AECOM and City of Melbourne are partnering to bring the Micro-Labs pilot to life.

There are 20 primary partners selected during an EOI process who are engaged in the Micro-Labs program. Learn about them at the links below. We’ll be sharing the Micro-Labs schedule soon so you can discover the variety of ways these partners are spending time at Micro-Labs.

Akana Handcrafts, Australian Wine and Food, Beit e’Shai, Champions of Change, City Precinct, Common Arts Victoria, Consultxperts, Curate Space, Dalí et Aurore, Experios Entertainment, Hearns Hobbies, Just Gold, Melbourne Fashion Hub, OMM label, ReadyTeacher, Share Some Journey, Strategic Artistry, The Powder Room, U3a (University of the 3rd Age), Ume, We Link Education



  • Timeline item 1 - complete

    Selection as one of three winners for the Reimagining the City challenge

    May 2021

  • Timeline item 2 - complete

    Pilot kick-off

    June 2021

  • Timeline item 3 - complete

    Site selected as a shopfront at 227-229 Bourke Street in the city

    August 2021

  • Timeline item 4 - complete

    Consultation with community groups, small businesses and small business support services

  • Timeline item 5 - complete

    Applications open

    5 November to 29 November 2021

  • Timeline item 6 - complete

    Floorplan design development with Moth Design

  • Timeline item 7 - complete

    Micro-Labs program with our 20 partners development

  • Timeline item 8 - incomplete

    Micro-Labs opening

    May 2022

  • Timeline item 9 - incomplete

    Ongoing review and reiteration using data collected on site

More on the technology

We are still developing our technology plans. However, we’re excited to share some of the details and will update this list with more details as they’re confirmed:

  • occupancy sensors
  • interactive whiteboards and displays
  • bluetooth/wifi Pedestrian sensor, leveraging the City of Melbourne’s network of existing pedestrian sensors
  • high speed free connectivity
  • micro-climate sensors
  • acoustic sensors
  • audio Visual system that supports video conferencing and workshops
  • printer.
  • All data is de-identified
  • Number of people at Micro-Labs
  • Most popular times
  • Most popular floor layouts
  • Most popular furniture and other equipment
  • Micro-climate, including temperature, air quality and humidity
  • Noise levels

This data is collected to:

  • Inform how we change and test different layouts.
  • Determine if the space or particular layouts could be successfully replicated.
  • Understand occupancy in shared spaces with diverse user groups.
  • Data from the sensors will be sent via secure means and stored safely, with more details to be shared soon.
  • A public dashboard at Micro-Labs will allow all occupants to see the data that is being collected and develop understanding about how the sensors work.
  • The information is analysed to help inform City of Melbourne about the benefit and impacts of spaces like this in future.

The City of Melbourne and AECOM as contracted service provider.

This data is stored permanently for any possible future analysis.

Emerging Technology Testbed