SUNSHINE is a suburb that hasn't always lived up to its name.
It had an image problem, a legacy of crime-addled days when it was better known as the home turf of notorious underworld bad boys Carl Williams and Andrew Veniamen.
But the gentrification of Melbourne's once-wild west that started in Footscray is beginning to brighten Sunshine too.
This month, building starts on a $158 million mixed-use apartment, retail and office precinct in Sunshine's centre, which is closer to the CBD than is Camberwell, in the east.
State Planning Minister Matthew Guy will turn the first sod on November 19 for 119 apartments and 13 shops on the corner of Foundry Street and Hampshire Road.
It's the first stage of the three-stage Foundry project, funded by a private development syndicate headed by ABD Group Builders. The second and third stage includes 138 apartments, 16 shops and a 15,000 sq m nine-level office tower.
The eight-storey Foundry building was designed by Carabott Holt Turcinov architects and has slightly larger apartments at a lower price than comparable units in Footscray, project consultant Glyn Bosisto said.
''The biggest issue with funding these larger developments is getting a banker in their BMW to come over the West Gate Bridge to look at something,'' Mr Bosisto said.
A new wave of owners and investors spreading through Footscray, Braybrook and Maidstone into Sunshine has seen the suburb's median house price rise from $240,750 in 2006 to $380,000 now, according to Real Estate Institute of Victoria figures.
Chairman of Brimbank City Council's administrators John Watson said the area was ''clearly emerging as a major hub in the west''.
There were eight hectares of underused or undeveloped land that the council was intent on revitalising, Mr Watson said.
Local police had worked hard to reduce crimes such as burglary and car theft and on public transport, Brimbank Criminal Investigation Unit Detective Senior Sergeant Fred Grove said.
''There's not a lot of confidence for people travelling at night-time on transport,'' Detective Senior Sergeant Grove said. But there were ''a lot of encouraging signs for the town''.
Another private project on the drawing board for Sunshine is a 5000 sq m office for a large government client, thought to be Centrelink.
But while several private projects are under way, they are dwarfed by government spending.
About $880 million of the $4 billion assigned to the regional rail link network will go to upgrading Sunshine's station, bus interchange, car parking and public access areas, still considered a crime hot spot.
Due to be completed this year is Victoria University's $44.2 million trade campus.
And another $13.3 million is being spent on several smaller projects, according to administrators who have been in control of Sunshine's council since elected representatives were sacked in 2009.