Places Victoria and 8 Hopkins Street, Footscray

Fittingly the final planning application to be highlighted by Urban Melbourne for 2013 is 8 Hopkins Street, Footscray.  Fitting in that the project has been sanctioned by Places Victoria, the state's peak body for urban renewal.  One would hope then that 8 Hopkins Street encapsulates many of the principles and design outcomes that Places Victoria would hold central to any of their urban redevelopment projects, given they're in the business of "Enhancing the liveability and resilience of communities throughout Victoria by delivering great places to live, work and visit."

Formerly home to the LeMans Toyota dealership, 8 Hopkins Street finds itself central to the Hopkins Street Precinct urban renewal area which will eventually host dozens of high-rise residential projects on the banks of the Maribyrnong River.  Rather than tower-specific plans being included as part of the planning application, a site master plan was submitted for assessment  initially during April 2013, with a revised master plan dated August 2013 having recently been made available online via Maribyrnong City Council's website.

The master plan aims to "Guide future site development and ensure that the development is coordinated and integrated with the wider precinct. The master plan is a flexible document that aims to direct the development of the site over a period of six to ten years. The master plan provides an indicative layout including the number and types of tenancies and an indication of height and location of buildings."  It's worth noting that as a master plan, no detailed elevations and floor plans have been included within the document, nonetheless Places Victoria via architecture firm Hayball have asserted their stamp of authority as to the direction that the Hopkins Street Precinct should take.

Prior to outlining the differences between this Places Victoria backed development and others within the Joseph Street Precinct, a brief summary as seen within the planning document seeks:
  • A staged development of the land for eight mixed use buildings with heights ranging from a minimum of six storey’s for Building D and a maximum height of 24 storeys for Building F.
  • A total of 795 dwellings, comprising 54 studios, 145 one bedroom (including Shop Office Home Offices (SOHOs)), 457 two bedrooms (including SOHO’s), 129 three bedrooms (including townhouses) and 10 lofts/shells. A total of 4,083 square metres of commercial uses including shops, restaurants and cafes, showrooms, recreation, community and work studios.
  • A total of 6,427 square metres of shared communal use including storage facilities, communal gardens and residential amenities.
  • The provision of 744 car spaces of which 670 will be allocated for residents and 74 for non-residential uses.
  • The development will be undertaken in five stages. The construction of Warde Street will be undertaken in two separate stages.

So what are the factors that one could argue make 8 Hopkins Street in its master planned form markedly different to other projects within the Hopkins Street Precinct?  

The most immediate number that leaps out is the 6,427 square metres dedicated toward shared communal use.  Considering the total site area holds approximately 13,179 square metres, 8 Hopkins Street dedicates a proportionally massive amount of space to amenity and public interaction.  Where surrounding approved developments carry proportionally far less communal/recreational space which is generally elevated (atop the podium), 8 Hopkins Street with its 460 metres of street frontage seeks to enhance interaction and connectivity, with the majority of communal space located at grade.

With so much space dedicated toward communal use it allows a far more considered, finer grain of design to be implemented for the benefit of both residents and the public alike.  High facade activation and street level transparency, cloaking above ground car parks with attractive, active multi-use facades, consideration of scale, diverse use of open spaces and integrated sustainability are but a few of the design principles resonating throughout the master plan.

Enhancing already strong ground level activation is a linked vertical network of green spaces.  According to Hayball's master plan "As a new urban typology, the series of stacked open areas offer accessible, attractive and connected landscape amenity for all across the development to enjoy.  The linked collection of spaces act and function in a similar way to the streets, lanes, front and backyards of many traditional housing typologies albeit re-visioned in a vertical living format to draw people together and guide them to common spaces, uses and activities."  The purpose of such a plan is to make the project's public spaces more intimate by breaking down the bulk of what may ultimately be an eight building development.
Seen below is the 'Communal Green' located at the heart of the site.  Although preliminary, it forms part of the 4,056 square metres of communal landscape available within the master plan.  Surrounding developments do carry landscaped areas for residents, but the scope and scale of open space and public amenity included within this development is key to it being appreciably different in a positive manner.
It's also worth noting the large number of three bedroom dwellings as envisaged within the development, with 129 of the type large in both sheer number and percentile terms.  Generally aimed toward the family unit, the high number of three bed apartments might suggest Places Victoria/Hayball's willingness to address what is considered a shortcoming of many developments which tend to stack their project with one and two bedroom options without necessarily catering toward an established family unit.
As has been the want of Maribyrnong City Council with all planning applications within the Joseph Street Precinct to date, they have indicated a lack of support for 8 Hopkins Street in its current form based on a number of factors which include
  • The master planning process is considered unnecessary, will result in unreasonable post permit approvals for fundamental issues that would usually be resolved at planning permit stage, and uncertainty for the future development of the site.
  • Insufficient information has been provided with the application to allow the application to be carefully assessed. The PDZ2 includes a requirement for certain information to be included as part of an application. The information submitted does not comply with this requirement.
  • The heights, setbacks, provision of open space, mix of uses, subdivision and staging boundaries have not been adequately resolved, and as such it is premature to approve any development on the site.
Whilst Maribyrnong City Council has voiced its displeasure, ultimately the Jopseh Road Precinct falls within the jurisdiction of State department DTPLI and as such Planning Minister Matthew Guy maintains responsible authority.  Whilst no final decision has been made regarding 8 Hopkins Street, Places Victoria has seen it fit to sell the site via an expressions of interest campaign which closed mid June 2013, yet failed to attract a suitable buyer.  The 8 Hopkins Street website associated with the land sale campaign is still active and provides a video which includes an interesting 3D fly through of the Joseph Street Precinct.
What will be of future interest is whether the eventual purchaser of the site (if any) deems it appropriate to follow the path and design as charted out by Places Victoria and Hayball, or will 8 Hopkins Street succumb to 'economic reality' and become subject to a heavily amended future planning application with more apartments and less consideration toward the urban realm - time will tell.


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