Grollo Tower: one man's vision unrealised

It's amazing to think Grollo Tower which was to be located in Melbourne's Docklands was proposed fifteen years ago this year. The dream of Bruno Grollo, son of an Italian migrant who settled in Australia during 1928 was remarkably close to being realised, only to be stymied at the last moment. Over their stretch "The Grollos have changed city skylines and revolutionised Australia’s construction industry, through innovative practices, project success and fair treatment of workers," according to the Grocon Group's website.

Yet Grollo Tower at 560m was the one that got away. Bruno seen below describing the Grollo Tower model during a press conference, was representative of a time where there were more overt characters in Melbourne's property industry, not so much the clean cut business it is today. Seldom seen in a suit and with the recognisable bushy eyebrows and moustache, Bruno Grollo was a man who knew how to get it done, exerting a passion and enthusiasm when speaking in public about any one of his given projects, an enthusiasm that filtered down through the company.

Bruno Grollo standing beside Grollo Tower, albeit a model

As seen below, the Denton Corker Marshall designed Grollo Tower would have contained up to eleven sub ground levels catering for car parking, retail/supermarket facilities plus a 500-seat auditorium/ballroom. A six month program placing 30m deep piles would have been required to support the tower's immense weight, and the hole catering for the car park would have been the largest excavated in Melbourne. The soft clays, sands and Coode Island silt that dominate Dockland's subterranean conditions would have had to have been displaced prior to reaching bedrock.

A mix of uses within the tower followed, consisting of 30 levels of commercial space, roughly 450 residential apartments and a hotel of 20 levels. A double-level foyer would have segregated Grollo Tower's commercial and living spaces which would have seen a grand lobby approximately 40 levels high catering for both residential and hotel guests where upon checked-in hotel guests would have taken to the elevators once more only to be greeted with an open full hotel length atrium when decamping the elevator.

As with a tower this size eight levels were seemingly set aside just below the towers pinnacle for hotel guests, the public and residents alike. At 450m above ground the tourist area would have included shops and restaurants, an enclosed observation deck, interactive displays and a variety of other tourist driven facilities. Grollo Tower's crowning glory was to be its 110m light pinnacle that would have shot a beam of light skyward which would have been visible from all parts of metropolitan Melbourne. For the adventurous few, an open air observation deck at the tower's summit would have provided views as far as Mornington Peninsula and beyond; Melbourne's fickle weather permitting of course.

Cross section of Grollo Tower as appeared in the Herald Sun Dcember 8th 1998

So where did Grollo Tower falter? The scheme first stumbled during April 1999 where, after negotiations with relevant bodies, Grocon failed to make a required payment of $30 million to the Docklands Authority. Parallel to this was community concern relating to the massive shadow the tower would cast. As seen below, shadows cast in the morning and evening would be cast an amazing 10 kilometres from the tower itself.

Coming back for another bite of the apple, Grocon tried once more to deliver the tower after expressions of interest for the Batmans Hill parcel was reopened during 2000. Although Grollo Tower held deposits from 200 potential apartment buyers after a registration of interest campaign (below right), the scheme was officially ruled out of contention for the parcel of Batmans Hill by the Docklands Authority during April 2001. Chief concerns reported through the media were funding issues and the fact that Grollo Tower would have covered the entire Batmans Hill precinct, seen as a less favourable outcome to separating the precinct into smaller development lots.

Expected shadow cast by Grollo Tower & early sales campaign advert

It would have been fascinating to study Grollo Tower and its effects upon the still-young Melbourne apartment market at the time. Some news articles of the day suggested it would have put an impost upon Melbourne for years to come, yet others saw it as an economic/investment boon capable if luring further investment to Melbourne. Ultimately though Grollo Tower didn't proceed and in its place Grocon delivered Eureka Tower - Melbourne's current tallest skyscraper. Regardless Grollo Tower will forever remain one man's vision unrealised.

1 comment

Peter Maltezos's picture

I was one who wanted this realized, so many didn't at the time. frown

I would have preferred this over what is currently at Batman's Hill.

Anyway, the majority of people who had put down deposits for the Grollo Tower simply shifted them to the Eureka Tower, the building that probably would not have been built if the Grollo Tower had been erected.


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