The Dawn of a New Age... and Melbourne's new tallest building?

Just when you thought you had seen it all, along comes a scheme of epic proportions relative to anything previously seen in Melbourne; it simply leaves you gobsmacked!

Following on from their successful Upper West Side multi-tower project on the former Lonsdale Street Power Station site, developer Far East Consortium has once again engaged Cottee Parker. The architecture firm has recently lodged an Application for Modification to Master Plan for the 1.2ha site at 250 Spencer Street - directly opposite Upper West Side and formerly home to The Age newspaper. The proposal continues the current trend of tall, slender towers appearing within Melbourne's CBD and Southbank, while simultaneously taking urban density to a whole new level - 2,853 apartments and 488 hotel suites in total.

Cottee Parker have once more employed the podium and tower typology - considered standard practice in the CBD - to create a vertical village comprising 4 residential towers ranging in height from a minimum 205 metres to a maximum of 300 metres, potentially usurping Eureka Tower to become Melbourne's tallest building given that other towers seeking the crown have stumbled. The individual tower envelopes present as a series of extruded irregular floor plates, defined by sculpted crystalline shards at their pinnacles. The two tallest towers are located to Spencer Street with the 295-300 metre Tower 1 occupying the prominent corner with Lonsdale Street.

Previously held by ISPT Super Property who in turn gained planning approval for a Bates Smart designed, six tower master plan, it emerged mid year that 250 Spencer Street had been sold to Far East Consortium.

Master plan changes

Changes to ISPT's endorsed master plan are listed in the application and are as follows:

  • A proposal for four towers above a podium. The endorsed scheme has six towers. With four towers there is greater amenity internally with increased setbacks between the towers.
  • A proposal for higher towers to maintain a similar density of apartments. Towers range from 62 to 85 storeys. Towers in the endorsed scheme range from 39 to 78 storeys.
  • The potential inclusion of two hotels occupying opposite corners of the development.
  • Greater activation of the ground plane due to minimal penetration of the building face for vehicular access.
  • Additional retail and hotel facilities at Level 1 above ground.
  • All loading and delivery facilities are below ground in Basement 1 accessed via a vehicular ramp off Little Lonsdale Street. The endorsed scheme has all servicing at ground level off a service road through the site.
  • Inclusion of a central open landscaped spine running north/south through the site. This is principally a pedestrian zone, but part of it is shared with a one way vehicular route for drop-off to hotels and residential buildings. A proposed park area will be integrated into the northern part of the open space with frontage along Little Lonsdale Street. The endorsed scheme does not allow this level of amenity.
  • Additional implementation of east/west pedestrian access through the site to enhance activation and connectivity to the north/south spine.
  • A reduction of the number of car spaces above grade by providing basement parking. The endorsed scheme has no basements and provides all car spaces above grade. The proposed scheme has 4 levels of basement with the balance of car spaces above grade.
  • Greater activation of the podium by providing more apartments to the perimeter face extending to the top of the podium. The endorsed scheme has apartments to level 3 and open (screened) car parking levels beyond.
  • The development will be designed and delivered as a wholistic precinct. There is no intention of selling off separate development lots. The endorsed scheme was planned for 6 individual lots to be sold separately.
  • Residential traffic is separated from service vehicle traffic with vehicular access consolidated to 2 entrances, one up to podium levels and one down to basements, from Merriman Lane.
  • There is active frontage of various uses to all faces at ground.
  • There is active frontage to the majority of the podium form from Level 1 to the podium roof top.
  • Where podium carparking levels are proposed these floors are used to help ameliorate wind issues. Carparking is screened or hidden from street view.
  • The proposed scheme has podium heights from 8 to 11 storeys. The endorsed scheme has podium heights from 9 to 10 storeys.

Overall the modifications and variations result in positive outcomes for potentially dwellers via fewer but taller towers with greater separation between them (10m setback), allowing increased natural light penetration. Cottee Parker's scheme also provides what should be an exceptional experience to the pedestrian at street level - a huge improvement over the endorsed scheme which offered a fairly mediocre pedestrian experience internally by way of provision of a network of laneways which acted as vehicular thoroughfares, only because it was easier to carve up and sell the site.

Luckily that didn't eventuate and a superior response has been developed. Varied heights suggest that hopefully depending upon the facade strategy employed, the towers will read as individual elements rather than one great wall which is one of Upper West Side's shortcomings.

Features of the master plan

  • 4 levels of basement parking, with 1816 spaces in total
  • The ground floor plane will be activated by foyers for apartment towers, separate foyers for both hotels, retail tenancies and a 1,350 sqm internal plaza featuring a food court
  • Active uses to podium frontages in the form of hotel rooms, function areas, apartments, a ball room and retail tenancies.
  • Tower 1, corner of Spencer Street & Lonsdale Street : 85-storeys (295-300m) tower featuring a 228 suite, 5-star hotel, hotel facilities and amenities such as bar and restaurant facilities, a spa centre, pool, gymnasium occupying the top 14 floors. A sky lobby check-in tops it all off on level 84 with the balance of floor space dedicated to 750 apartments. There is provision for 465 resident parking spaces and 30 for the hotel.
  • Tower 2, corner of Little Lonsdale Street and Spencer Street : 74-storeys (235-240m) - 805 apartments and 500 parking spaces.
  • Tower 3, corner of Merriman Lane and Little Lonsdale Street: 62-storeys (205-210m) - a 260 suite, 3-4 star hotel within the podium levels and lower levels of the tower with 520 apartments above and 321 parking spaces overall.
  • Tower 4, corner of Lonsdale Street and Merriman Lane: 68-storeys (225-230m) - 778 apartments.
  • The widening of Merriman Lane increasing the overall area to 380 sqm.
  • A 450 sqm north facing park in addition to the landscaped podium rooftops.

Brief timeline

  • ISPT and JV partner at the time, Perth-based Axiom Properties purchased the site in 2008 for $66.1m. After an invited competition Hassell were engaged to prepare a master plan for the 1.52ha site.
  • The development partners then sought approval for a Hassell-designed twin-tower scheme of 52 & 40-storeys respectively, on the eastern most portion, including the retention and adaptive re-use of the Reidy's building with retail spilling out onto Elliot and Merriman Lanes.
  • Upon gaining approval the JV partners promptly put the site with Planning Permit on the market before it was snapped up by Central Equity for $17m who engaged Doig Architecture to devise a new two tower scheme, the first stage of which is open to registrations
  • After 40 years, The Age vacated 250 Spencer Street in October 2009 - relocating to their shiny new digs down the road at Media House, thus releasing the remainder of the site for development. Axiom sells it's share of the site to ISPT.
  • ISPT received approval for the Bates Smart conceived residential master plan - comprising approximately 3,000 apartments across 6 towers ranging in height from 135-220m - in January 2013 before putting the site up for sale.
  • Far East Consortium snapped up the site mid-year with anticipated settlement in 2014.

Project team

  • Developer: Far East Consortium
  • Architects: Cottee Parker
  • Structural Engineers: Winward Structures
  • Traffic Engineer: Cardno
  • ESD Consultant: Wood & Grieve
  • Services, Fire & Lift: Wood & Grieve
  • Hydraulics: Hydrautech
  • Building Surveyor: Philip Chun
  • Town Planner: Fulcrum Planning
  • Wind Engineer: Melconsultants
  • Facade Engineer: BG & E Consulting

It will be intriguing to see how the mainstream media approaches the revised 250 Spencer Street submission. Will they rail against the towers increased height or will they acknowledge that at face value, Cottee Parker's scheme seems to have numerous public realm benefits over the previously approved master plan while maintaining a similar number of apartments. We can't answer that but one things for sure, you read it on Urban Melbourne first.

Crone Partners competition entry circa 2007. © Crone Partners


MelbourneGuy's picture

Very impressive but I just hope the nimby brigade don't start their usual antics of opposition to everything.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Hope we get a better design with this superior response, can't say I like the first renderings posted.

One hopes that a far more detailed and attractive finish to the buildings eventuates.

 Far East Consortium  surprised me with the quality finishes in Upper West Side, so let's hope that they do it again.

....And, please no American names for the towers this time.

I collect, therefore I am.

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Chris Peska's picture

Pete, considering that it is the former Age site, I'm think that FEC will name the towers after eminent Fairfax journos such as Pallisco, Wilson and Johanson....

Observe. Design. Build. Live.

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Andrew's picture

I like the idea at ground level. Adding extra width to the laneway and creating a shared zone in the centre of the site is a great idea. The retail and food outlets will give options to workers in the surrounding area.

This will really help activate that northern section of the west end.

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