Following on from the launch of the first of two apartment buildings that constitutes the new Jewell Station, Urban Melbourne took the opportunity to pose a number of questions to Neometro Director James Tutton. Extensively covered by Urban Melbourne during its inception, Jewell Station Precinct is the latest tract of land seeded by VicTrack in order to create a mixed-use, people friendly development outcome.
Enter Neometro who have taken the opportunity to show their wares; Jewell Station being the latest development for the B Corporation-certified developer which actively promotes High Density Happiness.
The project's 1 and 2 bedroom apartments have been created within the context of community gardens, enhanced bike paths, outdoor performance areas, overhauled park space and public art - in line with the developers stance on integrated development.
BKK Architects created the overall precinct design, with placemaking a firm priority. Their northern apartment building along with MA Architects' southern apartment building (which is currently at sales) are tasked with producing a "more holistic approach to urban regeneration that builds upon the local character and delivers a benchmark solution for inner-city living."
Although coy about exact apartment sales to date, James Tutton states that the project has been exceptionally well received with sales outpacing expectations.
Urban Melbourne's chat with James Tutton on the ethos behind Jewell Station transpired as follows:
UM: What distinguishing features set the development aside from other nearby developments also at sales?
JT: At Jewell Station we’re bringing together distinctive design, sustainability and community infrastructure to create a New Urban Village. It’s about shaping a sense of place that supports the wellbeing of those who live in the apartments as well as in the broader community.
Jewell Station is truly a collective endeavour that integrates apartment living with social infrastructure. New bike paths, communal gardens, public arts and events programs, a rejuvenated local park, cafés, independent retail and meditation spaces, are the foundations on which a new creative community will be built.
The project is also intended to leave a lasting design legacy and the commitment to creativity, subtlety and integrity at every stage of the design process also sets this development apart. We worked with Clare Cousins Architects to bring that side of the project to life but we’re also collaborating with our long-time community partners, including urban farming group 3000acres who has established community gardens, Melbourne art consultancy Utopian Slumps who has commissioned a public art piece for the precinct, and speciality coffee trader Phase One Coffee (formerly Place Holder) who has opened a new café onsite.
UM: What values are Neometro trying to promote via the development?
JT: To us, a home is much more than four walls and a roof. Building spaces that promote creative and connected communities is at the core of our values.
At Jewell Station we’ve taken into account the physical attributes of apartments that support ‘High Density Happiness’, such as sound insulation and natural light, as well as the external environment, where we’ve prioritised pedestrians and cyclists over cars and created beautiful green spaces for people to enjoy.
Having community infrastructure has a positive impact on the physical and emotional wellbeing of people. The community infrastructure however needs to be something whereby people can either opt in or out. What we have done at Jewell Station is not create a situation where people have to share laundries or are forced into that co-habitation, but rather they can choose to use community gardens or meditate in the outdoor leisure space and that ability to decide for themselves has a major impact on their well being.
And of course you also look at lighting, security, walkability and proximity to retail, education and transport. They're all factors that contribute to physical and mental wellbeing in terms of people's living environment.
UM: How will the surrounding community benefit from the development of Jewell Station?
JT: Jewell Station will revitalise Brunswick and serve not only as a transport hub but also as a cultural heart within the suburb. The surrounding community will benefit from social infrastructure such as new bike paths, communal gardens, public arts and events programs, a rejuvenated local park, cafes, and independent retail and meditation spaces.
The revitalisation has already begun, even though we are yet to begin building the Barkly apartments. Rather than leaving the land vacant in the lead up to construction, we’ve created an onsite display that doubles as a meeting space, bringing the community together for talks, workshops, performances and installations.
UM: Has the process (dealing with VicTrack) been markedly different to the normal planning process?
JT: Prior to engaging Neometro, VicTrack had extensive engagement with council and this meant there was clarity around what could and could not be done with the site. This enabled a positive outcome with the subsequent planning application.
Another distinctive feature was the high degree of community and stakeholder engagement that VicTrack had initiated prior to appointing Neometro. This helped to smooth the process of taking the scheme back to the community for feedback, prior to the planning application being lodged. This smooth process led to a successful application with zero objections and no need to go to VCAT.
UM: Would Neometro repeat the Jewell Station model if given the opportunity to do so elsewhere?
JT: Absolutely. The process has resulted in a very positive, strong working relationship between Neometro and VicTrack. The New Urban Village concept incorporates the elements of design, environmental sustainability and community infrastructure that defines Neometro’s ethos of High Density Happiness.
The Jewell Station model is one that we are keen to apply to future key development sites.
For the record, Hampton Station Precinct is next in line to receive an apartment and retail upgrade at the hands of VicTrack. Multiple residential building, improved public access, a reconfigured bus interchange and new commuter car parking are intended, as is a likely potential upgrade to the Hampton Station itself.