With the first details of Asset1's four-tower residential development appearing in recent weeks and demolition of the former Convention Centre underway, it seems the perfect time to consider some opportunities the site presents. I primarily have stronger pedestrian connections to the Yarra in mind.
The recently submitted planning application for 7-23 Spencer Street sees 1,321 square metres of retail space across two podiums, yet the development is limited in terms of scope and ambition by the well-worn 13-storey Crowne Plaza hotel to the south abutting the Yarra. This is a relic of time gone by where tall built form could meet the edge of the Yarra and no one would bat an eyelid.
While not included in the development plan for the Elenberg Fraser-designed scheme, Crowne Plaza could - through a staged development - be relocated to one of the four towers, allowing for future demolition of the existing structure. This scenario is depicted in the image below, dramatically opening up the river vista with views through to the Yarra's Edge towers beyond.
The removal would also allow for the provision of yet another public open space or park, bringing together the various elements along the Yarra's Northbank. Together with Seafarer's Rest and Batman Park, this would provide a green buffer between the glass and steel of the CBD's high-rises and the tranquility of the Yarra.
Such a proposal however, is not without its drawbacks and would pose some issues such as the amount of solar access provided to any form of open space, and would no doubt inform the type of space that could potentially be built there.
Secondly most developers wouldn't really entertain the idea of losing a built asset that provides a steady income for an open space whose control would be transferred to the City of Melbourne, particularly when any development of similar scale and proximity, with the odd exception at Docklands would likely never be supported.
Removing Crowne Plaza is ultimately just a pipe dream, but I think it provides some food for thought. Urban Melbourne will provide an in-depth look at the site's development plan in due course.