Pentridge reborn: what Coburg Quarter holds for the public

Signifying the rebirth of one of Melbourne’s most expansive regeneration sites, developer Future Estate is pressing ahead with plans for the former Pentridge Prison, soon to be known as Coburg Quarter.

The $1 billion Pentridge masterplan received approval from the Victorian Government and local Council late last year. With the approved masterplan also came the expectation that Future Estate could deliver a higher calibre of public space apartment living relative to that which has been completed onsite in recent years.

First to reach sales will be One Coburg Quarter, consisting of 150 apartments and set to be launched officially next month. Created by ROTHELOWMAN, the design references the colourful industrial past of Coburg, particularly the old Pentridge prison and its signature bluestone edifice.

A refashioned bluestone entrance. Image courtesy Future Estate

Urban Melbourne recently sat down with Future Estate Founder and Managing Director, Ben Anderson to chat about the Coburg Quarter masterplan and vision, acknowledging the shortcomings of the previous owners' plans for the site and the opportunities presented by the site.

Coburg Quarter will have a village feel in an urban context. It will be a natural extension of Melbourne's celebrated northern suburbs such as Brunswick, Northcote and Fitzroy. Its identity will be truly Northside, yet proudly and distinctly Coburg.

Civic quarters around the world are known for their unique character. Coburg Quarter will follow this tradition, as an exciting urban community that will enhance the area by bringing together people, art, design commerce and culture.

Ben Anderson, Founder and Managing Director, Future Estate

Anderson explained to Urban Melbourne that Future Estate bought the Pentridge land holding out of receivership, a similar strategy previously employed by the developer. He says part of what Future Estate does best is "buying things that are broken and fixing them" where others may struggle to see the potential.

The 4.2ha site has approval in place for over 1,400 apartments and townhouses that will accommodate 3000-4000 residents, with a development schedule stretched over a 10 year period and with an estimated project value of more than $1 billion. This ranks Coburg Quarter as one of the largest urban infill sites in Melbourne.

Future Estate are considering opportunities to re-skin some of the built form which was developed on site by the previous owners, which Anderson describes as "underwhelming" as he does the existing outdoor communal spaces onsite. Working with largely the same envelopes as the previously approved master plan and seeking to improve rather than beginning from scratch, one of the biggest changes revolves around creating a village centre for the development, drawing inspiration from the great squares in Europe, essentially forming a heart for the development.

This would act as a drawcard to the site, not just for residents but the community at large.

Another opportunity being explored is a Farmer's Market which would include a significant amount of micro retail, by locally-based boutique operators who can't necessarily afford to lease a large retail space. These would be based around food, craft and even furniture, and would spill out onto the new community square.

Technē's new interpretation of Pentridge

Anderson acknowledges the community's frustration with the site's lack of progress thus far:

We understand the community is frustrated, which is why we believe actions speak louder than words. We have already commissioned the transformation the old laundry building into a micro-brewery and bar, with work commencing on this and the proposed Coburg Public Square later this year.

Ben Anderson, Founder and Managing Director, Future Estate

As part of Coburg Quarter, Future Estate are also investigating potential uses for the former D Division prison block, while architects Techne are incorporating key heritage features including the bluestone walls, solitary confinement cells and historic laundry equipment into the micro-brewery design. Coburg Brewing Co. will be headed by Danial Caneva, owner of the nearby Post Office Hotel, with the launch date currently slated for July this year.

In addition Future Estate plans to have the café and dining precinct open and operational before the end of 2016.

Of the living options, One Coburg Quarter will be launched next month and consist of 150 apartments. Created by ROTHELOWMAN, the design references the colourful industrial past of Coburg, particularly the old Pentridge prison and its signature bluestone edifice.

Announcing entry into Coburg Quarter from the wider precinct defined by Sydney Road and Bell Street, One Coburg Quarter sits proudly above the historic walls with a strong yet respectful presence. Seen in the round the building presents at the civic scale as a singular and sculptural form, its curved and modulated facades establishing a sophisticated dialogue with the robust and linear nature of the old heritage fabric.

Inspired by its context, the strong horizontal manifestation of the bluestone and mortar courses is reflected in the articulation and expression of the new facades. The primary expression of One Coburg Quarter is of a composition of larger horizontal elements, orchestrated in a way which alludes to the stack bonding of the bluestone walls.

Shane Rothe, Director, ROTHELOWMAN
One Coburg Quarter, hero perspective. Image courtesy of Future Estate

Future Estate asked ROTHELOWMAN to conceive a building that made a strong unique statement, distinguishing it from the earlier buildings on site. Anderson says that in response, Future Estate has made a commitment to not compromising on the quality of the facade, estimated to cost in the vicinity of approximately $1000 per square metre. This is in keeping with the company's ethos of developing buildings which look just as they are depicted in the marketing material, if not better.

One Coburg Quarter will feature a 'living lobby' entered via a courtyard, which gives the impression of entering a home, rather than a commercial type foyer that other developments provide. Also included is a library, free wi-fi plus a residents' bar and communal kitchen with Future Estate looking to encourage Friday night drinks by the owner's corporation to promote and facilitate the idea of a community within the building.

1 comment

Rohan Storey's picture

From the hype above, I thought this was a new vision for the major part of the pentridge site, but actually it's the smaller southern section, which is already half developed. But it does include a fair amount of open land along the newish pentridge boulevard, an area perfect for medium rise high density development, incorporating it's own attractions. But sadly the first proposal is for a pretty small site squeezed between the 2 storey historic J division and the looming over the back of the equally historic Anglican Church, hall and parsonage, not to mention the old bluestone wall, and looking straight into the primary school yard to the south! 30m to east, there's a much larger site, beyond the historic buildings. I really don't understand how this could be permitted given the sensitivity of that site, and the unfettered space so nearby. No doubt that will eventually be filled with even larger blocks. Poor old pentridge, with this proposal, and the 'masterplan' that allows about 8 blocks up to 16 floors on the major part, the bluestone buildings will disappear amongst all the new stuff.

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