The lead image says it all really. CBD-based aerial photography firm Lenasoft captured Melbourne at its magnificent best, with no shortage of cranes visible. In a year like no other relating to development, we've witnessed an ever increasing batch of highly impressive projects come into the pipeline, while the overall construction scene has never been busier.
Opinions will vary tremendously, but this is Urban Melbourne's the good, the bad and the ugly for 2014.
The continued influx of Asian developers has bought on a different design dynamic throughout 2014. With comparatively grander intentions than domestic developers and with the financial backing to match, some exceptional proposals have been put forward and approved in the course of this year. If development is to occur, it should be of the highest possible design quality and our perception is there's no shortage at the moment; 380 Lonsdale Street nudging out all others as our favourite design for 2014.
In a market sense, Melbourne just keeps going! Perhaps it is a sign of the underlying strength of the residential sector, but I can't think of an apartment project during 2014 that failed to materialise once sales had begun; there'd be a handful out there no doubt. Elsewhere commercial, retail and particularly institutional development has fired throughout the year. Has the development cycle flattened out to be perpetually busy in a sign of Melbourne's increasing population and overall maturity?
Is there an ongoing, subtle erosion of Melbourne's heritage character? Yes.
I'm not necessarily referring to headline firestorms such as The Palace on Bourke Street, but the smaller projects that only garner comment on websites and forums dedicated to such matters. 36-40 La Trobe Street and 137 Bourke Street have been demolished while 488-494 La Trobe Street looks to be going the same way. Is facadism better than nothing? Have City of Melbourne and state authorities implemented adequate heritage controls?
No doubt buyers in Tower Melbourne would be ill at ease after the marquee project has been in hiatus for 2014, as two rival developers have been mired down in legal wrangling regarding adjoining developments. A bad outcome all round!
On a micro level, we've had more than enough individual correspondence this year involving the average domestic buyer (such as you or I) - in the position of finding the best apartments within a given project - have been snapped up either by channel investors or overseas buyers. As always opportunity will arise and the market will address this by innovative means, look no further than Apartment Register.
The two-horse race will continue into 2015, but there's no doubt the two ugliest affairs of 2014 were The Palace saga and East West Link.
The Palace involved a fourth planning application for the site this year, belated height controls for the precinct, public discontent, the removal of what many consider to be treasured interiors of the venue; Benny Hill show, anyone? While so many planning applications delivered excellent outcomes over the course of the year, The Palace leaves a sour taste in the mouth in so much that it's the pin-up for what happens when developers with intent meet with lackluster planning controls. Everything has gone wrong!
The key to East West Link is also mass (and I emphasize mass) public discontent, for it doesn't occur all that often. From protests early in the year to the tearing up of contracts, it's never been far from the headlines.
The advancement of the city's infrastructure which will cater for our booming population is of paramount importance; no politics thanks although unfortunately one feels both are intrinsically entwined. How much of a financial and infrastructure blunder the East West Link will be seen as will only become apparent during 2015, when the build consortium is remunerated and more importantly how quickly and to which replacement infrastructure projects will funding flow to.
After a long year, we've forged ahead thanks to the hard work and dedication of a select group of people (you know who you are) and the ever present support from many, many industry participants as well.
With all said and done for 2014, we wish all our readers a relaxing and fulfilling festive period. Urban Melbourne will see you again - and be back to our normal publishing regime - on Monday January 12th 2015.