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A reborn North Wharf adds to Melbourne's swelling hotel numbers

Developer Riverlee is seeking to rework an approved commercial scheme within Docklands, in order to capitalise upon Melbourne's near rampant hotel sector.

The developer has released details regarding its intended project at 731-739 Flinders Street which encompasses the heritage Northbank Goods Shed. Under plans submitted this week, the approved plans for a commercial building straddling the goods shed will be dropped in favour of a mixed-use hotel and residential proposal.

Included in the new scheme are 180 hotel suites, which would further bolster the hotel pipeline along the Yarra. Four Points By Sheraton, PARKROYAL and Quest Newquay are at differing stages of development, with another hotel project at nearby Victoria Harbour also a possibility.

Opposite Northbank Goods Shed, Probuild are undertaking an expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre which incorporates the construction of a 331-room hotel tower.

Riverlee have chosen Fender Katsalidis for North Wharf. Image: Riverlee

Riverlee have installed Fender Katsalidis as project architect, with the hotel supplementing 250 intended apartments.

In line with original plans, landscape architects Oculus have been retained and are tasked with creating a new 3,500sqm public park that Riverlee expects will act as the missing connector between Docklands and the Yarra River’s north bank. As part of the intended works the onsite heritage listed crane will also be brought up to scratch with a complete restoration planned.

Retail and event spaces are envisaged within the restored Goods Shed. Creating a new waterfront promenade will see the refurbishment of the area's wharf, while a pontoon is optioned with an eye toward waterfront activation.

Riverlee's change of use for the project is underpinned by the aforementioned expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, with the precinct playing host to a multitude of conferences and conventions. The subsequent undersupply of hotel suites has prompted the change of use; the state of the commercial leasing sector would have also been taken into consideration.

The superseded scheme. Image: Oculus

The change of use is also expected to bring activity to the area around the clock, something that the 25,000sqm commercial scheme would have struggled to achieve.

How the intended public aspects of the building stack up relative to the initial scheme remain to be seen. With Oculus retained and Lovell Chen acting as Heritage Architects, the new scheme's public interface is difficult to judge based on the sole image released by Riverlee.

Our plans include an extruded glass pavilion at the eastern end of the shed both to help preserve the heritage façade and hero it within the design, particularly at night when the façade will be lit from within the glass to create a beacon for night-time activity.

We’ve created a number of places to integrate and encourage interaction with these heritage elements, such as the former slipway which will be covered with glass inside the pavilion so people will be able to walk literally right on top of this unique piece of history

Karl Fender, managing principal architect, Fender Katsalidis

What's established is the developer's existing work along the Yarra's north bank in the area. Riverlee refurbished more than 150 metres of water frontage in the adjoining World Trade Centre complex, with the subsequent WTC Wharf retail zone completed during 2010.

Riverlee also initiated redevelopment of the former Melbourne Convention Centre with the site now nearing demolition completion. In the interceding time, approval was obtained for a tri-towered residential complex onsite, with the site recently sold.

3 comments

jamesroute96's picture

Looks nice. But is it bye bye bike path? Urban renewal sites are the best places to lock in cycling infrastructure. This development looks like it will cut off the connection between the Jim Stynes Bridge and South Wharf. A busy strategic bike route. Not a great outcome at all.

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Primal Beauty's picture

Why qustioning the bike path when it was designed in a first place to be a major bike commuting path; just being paranoid!

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Bilby's picture

A bike path is a great addition to the area, but does it have to run right along the water, mixing a busy pedestrian (and dining?) area with fast moving bike traffic? We already have this situation along South Wharf, with the result that the wharf area is a contested space with frequent near misses. It compromises the relaxed atmosphere of what could have been a great promenade. Isn't there some better way to separate the uses to benefit cyclists as well as pedestrians along the waterfront?

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