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Karl Fender and Ben Christie talk Melbourne Quarter

Developer Lendlease is pushing ahead with early site works for their pending Melbourne Quarter development; a massive mixed-use project that will round out the Batman's Hill precinct within Docklands.

Effectively a nexus between Melbourne's CBD and Docklands, Melbourne Quarter will continue the growth of inner city apartments aimed squarely at professionals, young families and empty nesters who are seeking a high-rise lifestyle. With the flood of investment grade apartment projects into the inner city over recent years, there is now a concerted push to create projects that go above and beyond, particularly in terms of amenity.

Lendlease Head of Apartments, Ben Christie, states that Melbourne Quarter has been designed to cater to the demands of astute buyers seeking a lifestyle which includes minimal outdoor and apartment maintenance, inclusive facilities, and communal socialising spaces.

Melbourne Quarter Neighbourhood Park. Image courtesy Lendlease

Melbourne buyers from all demographics have one of the strongest appetites for high-quality apartments. This is a design conscious city in its fashion, food and coffee, and also Melburnians’ appetite for good architecture is no different. In Melbourne, people expect a comprehensive offering which includes open floor plan layouts for social spaces, ample storage in residences and basements, and health-conscious building amenities.

The biggest selling point for our Melbourne Quarter project is the precinct’s green space and gardens at the base of residences. This gives people the opportunity to live in and be amongst a community that contributes to Melbourne's rich cultural tapestry. Melbourne has traditionally been framed around its parks, and Melbourne Quarter will create a floating Skypark and a new neighbourhood park within the city; a very good thing for residents and the public at large.

Ben Christie, Head of Apartments, Lendlease

Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter development is bordered by Collins and Flinders Streets in Docklands, and upon completion will offer city living, future workplaces, dining, shopping and green spaces. A series of new internal laneways will connect workers, residents and visitors to the traditional Hoddle Grid and to approximately 40 new specialty retailers, including cafes and bars, dining, fashion and lifestyle offerings.

The development's residential towers have been designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects (FKA), who have a long and successful history of residential buildings in Melbourne, including the Republic Tower, Eureka Tower and Australia 108.

Urban Melbourne posed a number of questions to Ben Christie and FKA's Karl Fender about the development and the evolution of apartment living in Melbourne.

Melbourne Quarter typical one bedroom apartment. Image courtesy of Lendlease

Urban Melbourne: Both Lendlease and Fender Katsalidis have extensive experience in apartment developments in Melbourne. How has the market evolved in the last 20 years and by extension the demands of purchasers?

Karl Fender: The transition of Melbourne over the last 25 years from a commercial hub to a thriving multi-faceted metropolis can be attributed to the migration of people from suburban to city living. Large sections of the Melbourne community enjoy, and have come to depend on proximity to workplace, city based rich living options, security, and the convenience of apartment living.

With this increased understanding and focus on the broader benefits of city living, the expectations of apartment design standards with the owners have developed substantially. That community sector now has sophisticated views about their personal living environment. Flexible planning, sizes appropriate to need, provision of ample recreational amenities, quality materials and excellence of architectural design are expected.

People today regard their apartment as far more than simply a good investment. Pride in home, which was underpinned the Australian dream of ownership in the suburbs, is now of paramount importance in the higher density multi-residential realm.

Ben Christie: The great thing about Melbourne’s apartment market is that it offers a variety of city-centric living opportunities that weren’t available 10 years go. Melbourne in general boasts a very high quality of apartment design. Our customers expect a comprehensive apartment offering, which might include open floor plan layouts for social spaces, ample storage in residences and basements, and health-conscious building amenities like a gym or swimming pool.

There is also a growing demand for concierge and hotel-style offerings as time-poor residents use these services to cut down on chores and free up leisure time. Melbourne Quarter will offer such concierge services to enhance the quality of our resident’s living experiences, including services on ground and upper ground lobbies which will use smart technology systems to connect residents in their community.

Many of our customers consider the surroundings of their apartment building too, looking for things like recreational facilities, parks, playgrounds, cafes and community services like child-care facilities and libraries. Our diverse Victoria Harbour community has the highest concentration of Green Star rated buildings in Australia and is located next door to many popular community amenities including Library at The Dock, Buluk Park and the newly-opened Community Hub at the Dock.

UM: How do developments like Melbourne Quarter respond to these demands from a design point of view? What does the architecture say about its locale and the residents within?

KF: Melbourne Quarter is an exemplar of quality environment for its new resident and commercial community. In the broader context of the central business district of Melbourne, its location and provisions will redefine and enrich this strategic entry point of the city. It will certainly be a catalyst for urbane completeness which this currently underutilised corner of the city so desperately requires.

Within the development, public placemaking, rich pedestrian linkages, carparking and servicing strategies have been carefully considered to deliver the best possible outcome. Enticing connections between Collins and Flinders Streets has been achieved through a series of pedestrian experiences, enriched by gardens, recreational and retail opportunities.

The apartments within the residential sector of Melbourne Quarter provide a diverse range of sizes and outlooks, but quality and facility are the common threads. The new resident community can enjoy the privacy of home and counterpointed by the connection of city opportunities at their doorstep. Their living experience is further enriched by their communal facilities which include an elevated 120m pool looking over the northern park, gym, sauna, multi-purpose yoga studio, lounge, library and luxury dining spaces.

UM: How has the history of the site informed the architecture?

KF: The Melbourne Quarter precinct is a very historically significant location in Melbourne and has played a key role in the history of the city’s founding. It is remembered as the site that city father John Batman chose for his family house which he built on Batmans Hill - the site of Melbourne Quarter - in 1836 not long after the beginning of Melbourne’s settlement in 1835.

The precinct also engages with the indigenous heritage of the site and indigenous artists will also play a key role in the placemaking, design and art of the precinct.

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