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A test of wills looms over a prime Abbotsford development site

Historic St Crispin House is back before City of Yarra planners with a development of 19 levels in the offing. A contentious planning application for the site at 247-259 Johnston Street Abbotsford was rejected by VCAT during 2012, much to the delight of Council at the time.

Initially submitted during January 2011 on behalf of Abbotsford JV Pty Ltd, the 17 level ROTHELOWMAN-designed scheme came in for heavy criticism for being out of scale with the surrounding neighbourhood. At 2,171sqm, the site was sold during early 2015 with the current larger application lodged mid year.

With a nominal project value of $45 million, the application calls for a 19 storey residential tower above three basement levels. City of Yarra have sought further information on the application prior to plans being made public.

Lemon Baxter and CBRE successfully sold the development site

The VCAT decision is a major win for Council and the community against overdevelopment. Council put forward a strong case at VCAT, employing a barrister to argue its position that the development’s scale, height and density was inappropriate. Council had received 87 objections, and a petition with 19 signatures, opposing the development.

Yarra Council: 247-259 Johnston Street, Abbotsford

Yarra Mayor Cr Geoff Barbour said VCAT’s decision was a great relief, given the proposal was out of kilter with the existing neighbourhood and would have set a precedent for very intensive development.

“This development would have changed the character of this neighbourhood, and there would have been no going back.”

He said Council would assess any new application for the site on its merits, but the developer should heed the verdict that an intense development would not be supported.

Yarra Council media release: “Community victory against 17-storey development in Abbotsford” (2012)

The above was taken from a City of Yarra 2012 media release upon VCAT ruling against the initial 17 storey tower which was to have held 204 apartments and 118 car parking spaces. The new application looks set to once again test the resolve of both Council and developer, although this time around 247-259 Johnston Street is not the only apartment development of note in the immediate area.

The rejected scheme for 247-259 Johnston Street Abbotsford. Image courtesy ROTHELOWMAN

Lodged during the same week, H Development Pty Ltd is also seeking approval for a 10 level apartment building nearby at 316-322 Johnston Street which would see 52 apartments realised. 288-298 Johnston Street which is diagonally opposite 247-259 Johnston Street also holds approval for 44 apartments over an eight level building which was conceived by Cox Architecture.

Lead image courtesy Victorian Heritage Database

4 comments

johnproctor's picture

I don't see an issue with this per se.

I don't think the last image in the document is a particularly nice design generally. it also looks like it isn't set back to any great extent and maintaining more of St Crispin house would be nice.

anyway. as a local (live within 500m) further development in this area to encourage regenaration of what is a pretty barren strip of shops between Punt and the Convent is a good thing.

I don't see much difference between 6-8 and 17 stories either if the site can handle it. In time I'd have thought the VicTrack land north of Johnston next to the train station will host 10+ story buildings so denying them on the south side would seem odd. I say that noting that this site abuts a railway line and to the south (over a street) is a three story walk up flats, and the site is deep enough to step down to lower height at the rear frontage to taper heights back down to local streetscapes.

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xoc's picture

This ugly development is an ambit claim by cynical developers. It makes a mockery of the City of Yarra's urban plan for the area.

It is massively over sized for the location, and has no regard for the impact on those living nearby, let alone inside. Even if the development is halved it would still be far too big. There's no open space provided, or sufficient parking, which is lucky because the roads wont be able to handle traffic given that it will instantly quadruple the number of residences on little Stafford St.

If this goes ahead it will set a nasty precedent in the area. Abbotsford will lose it's charm and become the Docklands of the inner north.

This area deserves more development, and it makes sense to increase the living density here, but the developments have to be positive for the community, not just the developer's profit margins.

Don't moc the xoc.

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johnproctor's picture

^ the open space is about 250m away at Victoria Park. A single storey development could be built here with no open space so why should it be any different for a 16 story building.

You could build here with almost no parking given its adjacent to Victoria Park station, the 200 buses on Johnston and the DART and 246 buses on Punt Road. not to mention great bicycle facilities in City of Yarra.

The development would be positive for the community. by bringing more people to the area it brings more investment both in local services by Council and through private services as all the shitty shopfronts in the area become actual useful shops serving the local community.

This specific development may not be a great design but heritage aside this site could hardly be more suitable for high density development.

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xoc's picture

The reason open space is important is that this one development seeks to more than quadruple the number of families living in the immediate area, and it would set a dangerous precedent for further overdevelopment. Abbotsford has already doubled in population in recent years - close to if not the highest rate of growth in Melbourne. At some point you have to accept that it affects the existing amenity and start providing more.

Johnston Street is already revitalising. There's a lot of interesting businesses opening up in formerly underutilised shopfronts. A sensible development on this site could be an excellent contribution, but that there must be constraints. The development should show more respect to the heritage on St Crispin house, and more importantly, it should be on a human scale that is in keeping with the character of the area.

Don't moc the xoc.

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