Bentleigh getting denser - and that’s fine by me

With Ormond likely to get its tower (whatever the height might be), what of other nearby suburbs?

The transition is already underway in Bentleigh and many other areas. Around the station, numerous developments are going up.

And in principle, I have no problem with this.

  • Melbourne’s population continues to grow. People have to live somewhere, and placing them close to jobs and services and infrastructure is better than having our city continue to sprawl.
  • Close to the shopping centre and the station and bus routes is the best place for this, to increase the chances of people being able to walk to what they need.

Buildings along the main street (Centre Road) in particular make sense. Car parks behind the shops provide a buffer that can help prevent shadowing onto single storey homes.

The residential zones introduced a couple of years ago mean this is spreading to nearby streets. But heights are staggered as you move away from the station, so it seems workable to me. Here’s how it looks in Bentleigh.

Screenshot of Bentleigh's planning zones (source)
  • C1Z – no specific height limit (but still subject to planning approval of course)
  • PUZ2 – school *
  • PUZ4 – railway lines – as I understand it, if developed there is no specific height limit
  • PUZ6 – Public Use Zone – these all seem to be car parks
  • RGZ1 – Residential Growth – 13.5m / 4 storey limit
  • GRZ1/2 – General Residential – 10.5m / 3 storey limit
  • NRZ1 – Neighbourhood Residential – 8m / 2 storey limit
  • MUZ1 – Mixed Use – no specific height limit*

* not in Bentleigh, but in Carnegie – see below

"Inner" Bentleigh today

Bentleigh has had densification of various types over the years.

In the 70s and 80s, some blocks of flats went up, mostly 2 storeys, many of which are still around today — though nowhere near the numbers you see in inner suburbs like St Kilda.

Campbell St. Bentleigh. Photo supplied

Since the 90s there has been a lot of subdividing. Back yards have shrunk, with either new houses being built behind old ones (this is the case behind my old house) or houses being removed and replaced with 2-3 homes, typically semi-detached townhouses.

Meanwhile, a lot of homes have had extensions, increasing capacity but not necessarily occupancy.

Campbell St Bentleigh. Photo supplied

Buildings are bigger closer to the station. Below you can see the main street, Centre Road, a retail and residential building about five years old.

It’s big, but you barely notice it at street level if you’re walking around looking at the shops. If it built were today, I’d be surprised if they didn’t aim higher.

Centre Road, Bentleigh. Photo supplied

The zones above, introduced a couple of years have triggered a lot more apartment developments off Centre Road. Below is Mavho Street (3 storey limit on the west side), looking towards the Aldi building pictured above.

Lorrane Street, Bentleigh. Photo supplied

Lorrane Street: This one has just been completed. It’s not really a surprise that all the recent and current developments go right up to their zone’s height limit.

Bent Street, Bentleigh. Photo supplied

Bent Street: It’s not hard to anticipate that many of the homes in the RGZ1 4 storey zone will be re-developed in this way in coming years.

Bent Street, Bentleigh. Photo supplied

Clearly some home owners have seen the writing (and the dollar signs?) on the wall.

Bentleigh properties for sale. Photo supplied

At the southern end of Bentleigh (near Patterson Station), and also in Mckinnon, there’s been development around the shopping strip. Despite the garage doors facing onto the street (not ideal for pedestrians), I find the scale and look of these homes quite appealing.

Bentleigh. Photo supplied

With my local resident hat on, I would like the benefits of my suburb to be available to more people, so I see nothing wrong with this, provided designs are good, nobody is forced out, and anybody who does sell up to developers is doing well out of the transaction.

If anything, I think the 3-4 storey limits should be allowed a little further from the station.

Of course there are many lovely older homes that should be preserved. Height limits across most of the area (away from the station) can help with this, but inevitably won’t save them all.

The commercial zone along the main street should be developed to ensure it includes destinations, not just residences, to increase local employment and activity — rather than the area being just a dormitory suburb. (It’s good to see the chain stores/anchor tenants are staying put in the shopping centre.)

As I said above, it makes sense to increase urban density in areas with good access to services and infrastructure. It’s good to see it happening.

Planning schemes elsewhere

Also worth looking at: the area around Carnegie and Murrumbeena.

Carnegie zones

This is particularly interesting in the context of the skyrail debate; most of the areas alongside the rail line have 3-4 storeys permitted (higher immediately around the stations), though when and if this occurs of course, nobody knows.

How is it in your neighbourhood? It’s worth finding out, especially if you’re planning on buying, and/or living there for a while.

Daniel Bowen is a Bentleigh resident and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association. This article was republished with permission, read the original here. Follow Daniel on Twitter or his blog on Facebook.

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