The evolution of Spencer Street

During my early years of studying architecture, I would often wander down to Spencer Street and watch what was once known as Spencer Street Station being transformed into what would be known as Southern Cross Station.

It can be argued that the station's redevelopment along with the ongoing construction down at the docks was the catalyst for the Spencer Street's evolution over the last decade, with every indication that it will stretch well into the next decade.

Where it all began; Southern Cross Station. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Like others on the SkyscraperCity site I would enjoy speculating as to what sites would be developed in what way. There was a general consensus 10 years ago amongst forumers that sites such as the former Age building, Savoy Tavern, Lonsdale Street Power Station and Australia Post's mail centre were capable of supporting significant high-rise development with the belief that Melbourne's first 300m+ tower would rise somewhere on Spencer Street.

While no tower has scaled the 300 metre mark thus far, there has been a steady rise in height since Elenberg Fraser's Liberty Tower first graced the corner of Spencer and Collins Streets upon completion during 2002. The tallest of these will be West Side Place's Tower 1 featuring a Ritz Carlton hotel and rising to a height of 270m.

Below we take a look at the projects completed and expected for Spencer Street.

Premier Tower | 134 Spencer Street | 68-storeys / 226m

Premier Tower. Image courtesy of Elenberg Fraser.

Dubbed the "Beyoncé" tower, the Elenberg Fraser-designed project for client Fragrance Group will be located on the corner of Spencer and Bourke Streets, and will accommodate 660 apartments and 160 hotel rooms within an undulating form.

The tower was initially proposed at 90-storeys and 294 metres before a reduced height of 226 metres was approved. This may not be the final height of the tower with the developer's seeking CASA approval to go taller still and apartments selling to level 76. Construction is expected to commence in October.

Victoria Police Centre | 311 Spencer Street | Height TBC

Victoria Police Centre. Image courtesy the Department of Finance and Treasury

Designed by Woods Bagot, the new $300 million police headquarters has been designed to complement its $240 million neighbour which was completed during 2015.

Located alongside the near new Melbourne West Police Station, the Victoria Police Complex at 311 Spencer Street would consist of approximately 40,000sqm of office space. With the calling for construction tenders, Cbus Property and project partner Australia Post now look set to realise the project following extensive negotiations with the Victorian government.

Both the Melbourne West Police Station and Victoria Police Complex share an 11,750sqm site which was previously hosted Australia Post's mail centre.

West Side Place | Tower 1 | 81-storeys / 270m

West Side Place. Image courtesy of Far East Consortium

Far East Consortium's next big development on the former site of The Age follows hot on the heels of their Upper West Side development directly opposite, with Cottee Parker Architects engaged to design the multi tower development.

Stage 1 comprising two towers of some 1370 apartments and a Ritz-Carlton, which will occupy the top 17 floors of the 81-storey Tower 1 and will feature 263 luxury hotel suites with quality finishes and furniture including state-of-the-art bathrooms, luxurious amenities and breathtaking views.

Sales for the first tower have been strong with rumours abound that it has already sold out, with attention now turning to Tower 2. Both towers, which share a communal podium are likely to be built concurrently.

Upper West Side | Four towers, 156-170 metres

Upper West Side, Image courtesy of Cottee Parker

With the final tower, Manhattan in the final stages of completion, the former Lonsdale Street Power Station site is effectively complete. Developed by Far East Consortium and designed by Cottee Parker the development sees 4 towers of 2,300 apartments rise around a host of substations with ground level retail weaving through the site.

The facades of the tallest towers have been designed to respond to primary streets; Lonsdale and Spencer Street with a colourful canvas of contrasting colours. The towers all share a communal rooftop garden atop the podium.

Neo200 | 41-storeys / 128 metres | Completed 2007

Neo200 on Spencer. Image courtesy Hayball

Designed by Hayball, Neo200 is a 41-storey building with 371 residential apartments, ground floor retail tenancies and entrances to both Spencer and Little Bourke Streets.

The building is distinguished by its yellow podium lights presenting to Spencer and Little Bourke Streets and its distinctive golden curvilinear foyer. Completed in 2007, Neo200 marked the first major residential tower for Spencer Street since Liberty Tower.

Liberty Tower | 27-storeys / 93 metres | Completed 2002

Liberty Tower. Image courtesy of Elenberg Fraser

Liberty Tower is located on the north eastern corner of the Collins Street and Spencer Street intersection. The tower was completed in 2002 and was the first project for Elenberg Fraser.

Zahava Elenberg and Callum Fraser who were both still architecture students at RMIT University were awarded the commission in 1998 by the City of Melbourne. The main façade comprises a grid of perforated aluminium screens, including a vertical crease running down the full length of the facade.

7-23 Spencer Street | 3 towers 89-112m

7-23 Spencer Street. Image courtesy of Elenberg Fraser

Having recently obtained approval from the Minister for Planning, owner Riverlee has looked to offload the site which can accommodate up to 1,076 dwellings.

The massive 8,500 square metre site sits on the edge of the CBD and on the north bank of the Yarra; a gateway position into the Southbank area. Demolition of the former Melbourne Convention Centre continues and the project looms as the next residential development to hold a Spencer Street address.

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