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 as well as allow the City of Melbourne to learn 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.

In order 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. We heard that good acoustic qualities of a space are vital, along with cleanliness and comfort in relation to furniture, and that a space should feel ‘buzzing’ and have personality to express the people in it.

With architects, urban designers, and technology engineers at AECOM we’ve been developing flexible designs and working towards an opening date in January 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.

The process is as follows:

  • 5 November to 5pm 29 November – applications open.
  • 29 November to 3 December - applications reviewed and assessed by City of Melbourne project team.
  • From 6 December 2021 - successful applicants notified.
  • January 2022 - Micro-Labs opens to businesses and public.

For more information, contact us at



  • 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 - active

    Design development phase

  • Timeline item 6 - active

    Construction phase

  • Timeline item 7 - complete

    Applications open

    5 November to 29 November 2021

  • Timeline item 8 - incomplete

    Micro-Labs opening

    January 2022

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