Planning Application > 180 Russell Street, Melbourne

Melbourne’s Chinatown district is set to see its most dramatic transformation in decades if AXF Property Group gain approval for their latest project, having recently submitting plans for yet another controversial residential tower.

Following approval for Melbourne's tallest suburban apartment tower located in Box Hill, AXF Group have this time acted upon the Total Car Park site at 180 Russell Street. Pushing forward with their CBD plans which were first mooted during late 2012, the development asks to demolish he well known Total Car Park and replace it with a 70 level, 271m mixed-use building which would dramatically alter the city skyline and become a stand out development amongst the relatively low-rise Chinatown district.

Image © Buchan Group

Application briefs

  • Site Area of 2,057m2, currently consisting of a 7 level car park + 4 level office building
  • Proposed is a 70 level, 271m tower
  • Residential Apartments + 5 Star Hotel
  • 105,961m2 GFA
  • 506 Residential Apartments + 200 Hotel Rooms
  • 250 Car Spaces + 335 Bicycle Space
  • Sky Lobby + Restaurant on Levels 66 & 67
  • Hotel Meeting and Banquet Facilities on level 54
  • New activated 24/7 Civic Space for Chinatown

Drawing upon inspiration from the Chinese cultural tradition of landscape painting and imagery for the building’s design, architects Buchan Group have taken full advantage of the high profile location by implementing a highly activated 5 level podium. Included within the podium are food and restaurant spaces, a multi-purpose hall, Chinese gallery plus extensive bar and entertainment spaces.

At ground level the design has been carefully crafted to allow for the addition of a new civic space for the Chinatown precinct, creating a new 24/7 meeting point for the area. Included within this new space will be a “stoop” which will be placed at the intersection of Little Bourke and Russell Streets to allow for the public to sit and watch the activity of the street and public place as well as a landscaped copse and tea house.

Expected street level interface. Image © Buchan Group

The inclusions of pavilions which act as entries for the hotel and residential components of the building, and canopies within the podium also allow for increased activation with the public realm. Rising above the podium will be the main body of the tower, holding the majority of the projects apartments which will be situated on levels 6-49. Level 29 of the building sees resident’s facilities which includes an obligatory pool.

A 5-Star hotel is also proposed with suites carried within the “crown” of the building which has been designed to change external appearance throughout the day and night, seeking in part to act as a beacon and become the landmark structure within the Chinatown district.

It is not all smooth sailing for the AXF Group however with demolition of the Total Car Park likely to face tough opposition after being recommended for heritage protection. Completed in 1965, the car park has been slated for heritage protection since the 1980’s with it said to encompass influences from the Japanese avante garde architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s as well as bringing to Melbourne its first taste of brutalist architecture. Incidentally the style was recently described by Planning Minister Matthew Guy as a style that “legitimises ugly buildings”.

The existing Total Car Park. Image courtesy

The loss of the building would also see the popular live music venue and night club “Billboards” situated in the basement, shut down. In the situation where the building does find itself on the heritage register, the application states that demolition will be sought on the basis of economic grounds, mostly due to the fact that the very low ceiling heights stop it from being used outside of a low tier car park. The application further suggests that significant changes have been made to Total House (atop the car park) in addition to painting of the once exposed bare concrete and replacing old shop fronts with new shop fronts.

With the site also subject to a 60m height limit, the application seemingly faces a challenging journey on its way to approval. Although should the building go ahead, has the potential to change Melbourne's skyline in an indelible fashion.

Nonetheless it could be a case of Big Trouble in Little China.


Bilby's picture

Total House has just been recommended to be added to the Victorian Heritage Register by the Heritage Council. This is going to be very interesting - I don't think there is a historical precedent for the total demolition of a building of state level heritage significance, so by rights, this development proposal should now be scuttled. (no pun intended!)

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Bilby's picture

Another win for brutalist heritage in Sydney today:

This surely puts Total House on even safer ground. Unlike Sirius, which was denied state listing by the minister, Total is already on the VHR and the regulatory framework and legal arguments surrounding the ability (or inability) of any owner to demolish are very similar - including issues around economic hardship.

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3000's picture

Guess we can partly thank hipsters and their renewed interest in Brutalism.

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