City of Melbourne grapples with CEL's 156-172 Victoria Street

This evening City of Melbourne will officially voice their disapproval for another of Melbourne's 200+ metre residential proposals, this time 156-172 Victoria Street which forms part of the former CUB Brewery site abutting the CBD.

Singaporean-backed CEL Australia upon purchasing the prime site engaged Elenberg Fraser to create a tower capable of accommodating in excess of 1000 apartments. The initial application was lodged early during 2014 only to be usurped by a more recent revision which lowered the proposal's height and bulk.

Currently at 237 metres, 156-172 Victoria Street (set to sit behind the bluestone facade below) falls below the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) permissible height of between AHD 246 and AHD 302 yet still overshadow the State Library during certain times of the year. In essence a tower of 280 metres could be approved without height being a concern.

Height being the principal reason for City of Melbourne's discontent, final approval for CEL's latest development ultimately lies with State Planning Minister, Matthew Guy.

The site in question with a contemporary to the rear

Remodelling 156-172 Victoria Street, Carlton

After concerns relating to design, wind, traffic, loading and access were raised by City of Melbourne and DTPLI, a revised scheme was submitted during May 2014. Whereas the initial version carried widened flanks, the revised tower still holds a general L shape but includes a solitary setback resulting in a streamlined form and hefty a loss of Gross Floor Area. The inverted podium of the initial design has also been adjusted heavily as has the facade treatment.

Vertical trim replaces horizontal lashings as the revised version takes on a steely silver complexion similar to that of another Elenberg Fraser project, 248-250 Sturt Street, Southbank. According to the revised planning report, "The tower is mainly proposed to be constructed of glazing in aluminium framing or steel structure. Other materials consist of metal louvres, colourback glass and composite metal cladding."

Images depicting the initial and revised schemes. Images © Elenberg Fraser
Aspect February 2014 submission May 2014 submission
Dimensions 77 levels @ 252.5 72 levels @ 236.8 metres
Gross Floor Area 104,262 sqm 93,706sqm
Apartments 1041 1037
Retail 1,805sqm 2,254sqm
Car parking 232 222
Bicycle 470 378

City of Melbourne's position

Whilst the proposed development has a number of positive elements and is broadly consistent with the approved development plan for the site, there is significant concern regarding the proposed shadowing of the State Library forecourt between 11am and 2.00pm on 22 June. This is inconsistent with the policy in Clause 22.02 which states that developments not cast any additional shadows on the State Library forecourt between these hours.

To address this issue the built form will need to be modified which could possibly result in substantial design changes. Given the context and scale of the development, it is considered inappropriate to require these changes via conditions if a permit is to be issued.

On this basis, the proposal cannot be supported in its current form

Daniel Soussan, CoM Planning Coordinator

Revolving door

A quirk in events sees City of Melbourne currently processing another application for the site in question. Last week saw the submission of an application seeking consent of "Building and works for a display suite/sales office and proposed permit for internally illuminated signage."

It seems that while City of Melbourne have objected to the proposal, developer CEL is eager to commence marketing the tower if and (more than likely) when final approval is granted by Planning Minister Matthew Guy.


Melbourne_Fragments's picture

fairly poor interaction with bluestone facades too, are Elenburg Fraser incapable of making a decent streetscape below their well designed towers?

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johnproctor's picture

Height being the principal reason for City of Melbourne's discontent, final approval for CEL's latest development ultimately lies with State Planning Minister, Matthew Guy.

I think this is incorrect. The City of Melbourne's discontent is related to overshadowing of the forecourt. They state in their report to council that this could be managed in a number of ways including reducing height, increasing setbacks to Swanston Street or changing from the L Shaped design (a quasi increase in setback).

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Rohan Storey's picture

Well yes johnproctor, since the overshadowing is only the eastern edge of the forecourt at 2pm, maybe the tower would comply if the top 10 floors had a slice taken off the east side, or the whole tallest bit was moved to the east.

However I would argue that the controls are very out of date, written in the 80s when it was assumed people would only use CBD open spaces at lunchtimes. Now with our 24hr city, and especially the huge student population (both attending classes and living) in the area, the forecourt is practically crowded all the time, so at the very least make the cut off 3pm (which is when the tower would completely blot out the space). So Im all for taking off some floors.

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Rohan Storey's picture

At first I thought the treatment of the heritage buildings was OK, at least they are being kept more or less intact as buildings, not just walls (ie. they will have a roof), and there is a podium, with a similar height 'facade' on Victoria Street, then 10 floors which I thought was setback, with the main tower cantilevering over, with a 6 to 8m setback (a bit more than half the depth of the older buildings).

But actually the lower 10 floors have no greater setbacks really, just a change in design, as sort of projecting pods, and they stick out directly on top of the (rebuilt) roof, around the giant concrete columns along the 7 to 8m setback that hold the whole thing up, cleverly covered in mirrors.....

Not as good as could be certainly, the lack of setback on Victoria Street above the 'facade' particularly dominating, but not as bad as was going to be (the first DCM idea) with a cantilever right to the Bouverie St boundary 10 floors up.

We really need some guidelines / standards about when its OK to cantilever / overlap, and how much. A bit more than half is just OK, but not ideal.

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Aussie Steve's picture

Well said Rohan. The planning scheme does need reviewing, but at the very least, the existing rules must be applied in this instance.

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potato lover's picture

Has Matthew Guy approved this project?

As he is "Mr Skyscraper", there seems to be no good grounds for him to reject this project rite?

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