Southbank was formerly an industrial area and part of South Melbourne. It was transformed into a densely populated district of high rise apartment and office buildings beginning in the early 1990s, as part of an urban renewal program. With the exceptions of the cultural precinct along St Kilda Road, few buildings built before this time were spared by redevelopment.
Today, Southbank is dominated by high-rise development. It is one of the primary business centres in Greater Melbourne, being the headquarters of Treasury Wine Estates, Crown Limited, Alumina, Incitec Pivot, The Herald & Weekly Times (including the Herald Sun), as well as regional offices of many major corporations, in a cluster of towers with over 340,000 square metres of office space in 2008. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of Melbourne, with a large cluster of apartment towers, including Australia's tallest tower measured to its highest floor, the Eureka Tower.
Southbank Promenade and Southgate Restaurant and Shopping Precinct, on the southern bank of the Yarra River, extending to Crown Casino, is one of Melbourne's major entertainment precincts. Southgate's landmark Ophelia sculpture by Deborah Halpern has been used to represent Melbourne in tourism campaigns.
Despite being dominated by modern apartments and office towers Southbank has a number of significant heritage buildings existing in the Arts precinct, on the eastern end and along St Kilda Road, which includes the Victorian Arts Centre and National Gallery of Victoria (1960s), parts of the Victorian College of the Arts campus as well as the Victoria Barracks and Malthouse Theatre. Rare pockets of heritage on the western side includes the Jones Bond Store (25-43 Southbank Boulevarde), built in 1888.