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Social connectivity is at the heart of 122 Roseneath Street

Appearing on Urban Melbourne not for the first time and certainly not for the last time, 122 Roseneath Street in Clifton Hill provides a model for development centred around community engagement.

A collaboration between development partners Wulff Projects, Icon Co and Assemble, as advocates of small footrpint living, the project gained planning approval from the City of Yarra in May following an extensive period of community consultation which has resulted in a flexible design that offers prospective residents variety.

With May's Brutalist Block Party on site done and dusted, the development team's focus now shifts to a second round of purchaser consultation before embarking on a formal sales and registration campaign.

122 Roseneath St is a showcase for a new way of thinking about multi-residential developments, one that is true to its context and respectful to existing residents within the neighbourhood.

The mixed-use development is designed around flexible communal spaces, including a multipurpose workshop and a communal room for dining and entertaining. A hallmark of the project is two raised linear parks that intercept the three buildings, with drought-resistant native landscaping by MALA.

122 Roseneath Street raised landscape communal walkways. Image courtesy Assemble

The development is only a short walk to the cafes, grocers and shops of Queens Parade and closer still to Clifton Hill train station. It connects to the breathing spaces of the Merri Creek nature corridor, with its bike trails leading directly to the Yarra River and Federation Square.

Architecturally, the development responds to the history of its location, retaining the skeleton of the Brutalist-style building on site and drawing on its materiality for inspiration throughout the design.

Veil-like metal balustrades reference the surrounding architectural features in the heritage-listed local area, while timber soffits to balconies add a warmth to the northern facade.

122 Roseneath Street presents a mix of studio apartments; single-to-three-bedroom apartments; and two-to-three-bedroom townhouses. Internal areas range from 38 square metres for studios to 148 square metres for three bedroom townhouses, in addition to generous balcony and terrace areas. Prices support community diversity, ranging from $380,000 to $1.5 million.

Through the consultation process which began in September 2015, potential residents were consulted on the functions for the communal room and adjoining terrace, the type of ground floor retail tenancy, car park demand, pet-friendly owners corporation rules and sustainability features, including external operable shutters, an embedded energy network and a shared composting facility.

A philosophy of flexibility and owner choice continues the design brief inside the dwellings. The proposal offers standard and premium options across kitchens, bathrooms and flooring as well as extras – including the possibility to add a children’s baths beneath the shower, the provision for a pet door or an ‘arrival station’ by the door to drop off coats, keys and shoes on the way in.

Seeking to provide affordable well designed living spaces on par with The Commons model whereby architects take on the role of developer, the approach adopted by 122 Roseneath's triumvirate differs somewhat in that the design has been informed by feedback from both community and prospective buyers via consultation sessions.

The design process becomes more fluid rather than linear and the development team don't dictate to buyers what they want rather they listen to their needs.

Having a development team that includes architects and builders also means that design decisions can be made during the design process with the knowledge that these won't later be value managed out once a builder is appointed post tender process and there aren't any major surprises in terms of costing and construction.

122 Roseneath Street streetscape. Image courtesy Assemble

Urban Melbourne met on site with Wulff Projects Development Edward Cramer, Assemble Creative Director Pino Demaio and Icon Development Manager Kyle Reeve to discuss the merits of their exhaustive consultation process and the next round to come.

According to Cramer, following acquisition of the site which came with a permit for a larger scheme, the development team spent 3-6 months engaging with the community to ascertain what aspects they liked and disliked about the scheme.

This feedback helped the team set some of the parameters for the revised scheme that was ultimately developed for the site. This process involved community consultation evenings at Fieldwork's previous office in addition to one on one conversations with neighbours and people within the neighbourhood.

Icon Co joined the team prior to town planning and once the application was lodged they set about addressing some of the concerns they received around setbacks and overlooking says Reeve.

This involved providing greater privacy via increased setbacks, reduction in the height of townhouses, employing screens or planter boxes which act as screening elements on terraces.

With one neighbour the team increased the setback to the east and will also relocate their solar system so their ability to generate green energy is not impacted by the development.

The development team's goal was to keep the dialogue as open as possible and the process as transparent as possible, continues Reeve, rather than pushing them away or putting up the notice of advertisement and waiting to see what objections come in and then deciding whether or not to address them.

He admits it's a somewhat untested process and while it also may have drawn out the design and town planning process it was something they all felt equally passionate about.

In terms of time frames it definitely took longer to undertake that consultation process and a lot more time and effort on the part of the design and development team. To meet with 50 people and try and work through there concerns is really hard work.

But it was evident when we went to Council's Internal Development Approvals Committee (IDAC) meeting that it was worth it as only three objectors attended, two of which said that their concerns had been addressed and the third was dismissed by council for raising concerns that wouldn't impact them based on the fact they lived 100's of metres away.

Out of the 140 objections that the previous scheme received we managed to get that right down to three.

Kyle Reeve, Development Manager, Icon Co.

The process of then engaging with prospective buyers in information sessions of 30-50 people was more about ensuring that prospective residents were comfortable with the design and that it resonated strongly with them, rather than simply being a marketing ploy to advertise the project, says Cramer.

In addition to this the team drew on the feedback and research gathered through surveys conducted via Assemble Papers on the subject of medium-density living and better apartment design standards, says Demaio and really trying to understand what is most important to people and inform the spaces based on demand for certain aspects within a townhouse or apartment.

This, continues Demaio, is in contrast to the traditional method of relying on agents to inform the design and product without the intimate understanding or knowledge of the key design drivers of a project.

All going well, demolition could commence as early as August with completion anticipated in late 2017.

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