Pushing the limits in Clifton hill

Is it a case of natural progression or development too far? City of Yarra is currently considering an 11 level residential application located at 243-247 Queens Parade in Clifton Hill.

Located within a wedge of land known as Clifton Hill Interchange, the site and surrounds are earmarked for residential redevelopment via both State Planning Policy Framework and the Local Planning Policy Framework. The latter decrees that built form of 5-6 storeys are ideal "Unless the proposal can achieve benefits such as significant upper level setbacks, architectural design excellence and positive contribution to the enhancement of the public domain."

Site location. Image © Fieldwork

Design details

  • Address: 243-247 Queens Parade
  • Developer: Parade Projects Pty Ltd
  • Architect: Fieldwork Projects
  • Town Planning: Tract Consultants
  • 11 levels @ 40.5 metres
  • 76 dwellings (38 x 1 bedroom 30 x 2 bedroom 8 x 3 bedroom)
  • 85 basement car spaces
  • 2 retail spaces over 109.3 sq.m
  • Communal roof top gardens at eighth and eleventh floors
  • 4 star Green Star

Fieldwork make their debut

Northcote-based Fieldwork Projects make their debut on Urban Melbourne with 243-247 Queens Parade in Clifton Hill. In designing the project Fieldwork have sought "Close consultation with Yarra City Council to achieve a highly suitable planning outcome for the site. Close attention has been paid to Council's Municipal Strategic Statement, including housing diversity, urban design principles and the site's strategic potential for absorbing a higher density of Yarra residents."

Generally the building consists of four elements:

  • A two level podium and canopy at ground level, which integrates with the existing warehouse streetscape (Ground Floor to Level 1)
  • A set-back apartment level with contiguous decking creates a shadow-line effect, delineating the upper and lower forms (Level 2)
  • The 'floating' sculptural form (Levels 3 to 7)
  • The setback upper sculptural form (Levels 8 to 10)
Crowning feature. Image © Fieldwork

The building is designed to be sensitive and responsive to the existing context while being mindful of the changing nature of the area and the likely higher density development which will eventually surround it.

Vertically ribbed precast panels are broken in places by vertical aluminium fins and dynamic, operable bi-fold shutters. Lower levels feature timber bi-folds as does the underside of the footpath canopy while street frontage is a mixture of white and charcoal brickwork.

The building's required setback of the upper form allows for a landscaped terrace area supplemented by an indoor communal area. Landscaping and common vegetable garden aside, the terrace is framed by a feature tri-level staircase and includes a kitchen, dining facilities and the ubiquitous barbeque.

The pointlessness of grey planning?

Recall that City of Yarra have nominated 5-6 levels as their preferred built form outcome, yet have left the door open for increases subject to factors such as design excellence. During 2013 Council rejected the adjoining 217-241 Queens Parade development at 8 levels which was consequently approved by VCAT.

At 11 levels could anyone envisage City of Yarra approving this development? The answer for most is no; therefore would any reader also doubt VCAT will be called upon once more? And another question: why allow such ambiguity in planning controls when it seems the end result is costly legal representation and wasted time?

No doubt the rationale behind the controls is there, but is seems a pointless exercise by City of Yarra to allow scope for height increases and then rejected them promptly, as has been the case on the neighbouring site and elsewhere within Yarra. The final outcome will be interesting.


johnproctor's picture

The basic problem is that often the City of Yarra's strategic planning is so far out of kilter with the states strategic planning that it doesn't stand up when tested at VCAT. Council knows this and knows that a lot of their structure plans wouldn't be approved by DTPLI/Planning Minister and so stalls on putting any strategic guidance in the planning scheme.

About 4-5 years ago I was a community rep on the Swan Street Structure Plan. most reps were 'comfortable' with about 10-15 stories around Richmond Station, when Council put out the draft plan it suggested 8-12 stories and when Council adopted the draft plan it was summarily reduced to 6-8 stories (my memory is hazy on exact details but this downwards progression is roughly right). Council never applied to get the structure plan into the planning scheme (fearing it would not be approved) and in the meantime a development like Dimmey's was approved at 11 stories because City of Yarra had no guidance in their scheme as to what was appropriate for Swan Street so VCAT relied on the general principles of planning in Melbourne which is that on major activity centres close to existing transport links higher density development is encouraged.

I head past this site pretty regularly as I live in Collingwood and my folks are in Northcote, have always thought it is prime for redevelopment and given its separation in all directions and major road surrounds should just be given almost carte blanche for development, obviously with some level of heritage control as there are some nice facades in the area.

I would even test the interest of developers for the circle in the centre of hte Hoddle-Heidleberg loop on ramp and see if anyone wanted air rights over the on ramp and use of the grassed loop.

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Bilby's picture

John, heritage is about more than just 'facades'. Decent sections of heritage buildings often need to be preserved if we are to retain the tangible benefits that heritage brings to cities. It is actually the fine grain, smaller historic building stock and interior spaces and materiality of historic buildings that build the economy and create the liveable character in these areas, not facades and streetscapes alone.

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johnproctor's picture

I'm sure the collapsed roof of one of hte warehouses there and the fancy open plan fitout of Mosskito bar and restaurant are rich in heritage worth keeping.

Keep the McDonalds building on the corner (in full), the deco facade of Mosskito and otherwise lets not lose sleep over dime a dozen 20th century warehouses and brothels built into old houses.

There is plenty of places where we could protect such buildings more fully beyond the facade in areas where the redevelopment potential is more limited (for a whole variety of reasons) and therefore does not outweigh the benefit of redevelopment.

Here's an example of a another building in the block

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Alastair Taylor's picture

^ fixed the URL for you.

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Rohan Storey's picture

Yes they should have been more specific, like 'substantial setbacks above 5th level, preferred maximum of 10 storeys (which I think would achieve an acceptable result in that location) but as you say John maybe Minister would have not allowed even a suggested maximum. Though he has allowed Boroondara to do just that with a structure plan covering all the commercial and mixed use areas, and the maximum preferred height mostly is 4 or 5s storeys, with a few limited areas up to 8 storeys. That's it.

And remember John, the City of Yarra are really just people, especially the Cllrs, and most of their constituents, who they represent, are shocked by anything larger that what's there already. Just like the people of Boroondara.


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Bilby's picture

Yes, those Art Deco buildings are some of the very best examples in the whole country - particularly the McDonalds you mention. They are a good example of what not to façade. I agree that warehouse structures may or may not need to have significant sections retained internally, however. It is very unfortunate that the qualities of these industrial places are often lost in new developments, though - some more adaptive reuse of at least part of these older industrial buildings would help to make the area more livable in the longer term in my view.

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