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Central Equity seeking size > 1-11 Balston Street, Southbank

The Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee will tomorrow consider the merits of one of two proposed towers that prolific Melbourne-based apartment developer Central Equity currently has under consideration with State planning body DTPLI. While the nearby 54-68 Kavanagh Street has been reported to be 165 metres, Central Equity have also sought to extend a previously approved scheme at 1-11 Balston Street, Southbank.

Marking the final and potentially tallest stage of the Southbank Central/Blood Bank super-site development which began in excess of twelve years ago, 1-11 Balston Street has raised a number of concerns within a report which provides guidance to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee.

Planning application summary

The site in question with fellow Central Equity project Epic to the rear during 2013
  • Current site use: Central Equity display suite.
  • Application for amendment lodged July 2014.
  • Developer & architect: Central Equity.
  • 48-storey building with residential apartments at 147.7 metres.
  • 557 apartments (336*1 / 169*2 / 51*3).
  • 269 car parking spaces & 389 bicycles.
  • GFA: 52,616sqm.

Sized up

Initial plans had seen a 34 level residential tower given the green light which was to have contained 382 apartments with 150 two bedrooms options. The revised application seeks 557 apartments with two bedrooms options increasing marginally to 169 as one bedroom dwellings more than double from 142 in the initial scheme to 336.

The increase in height from 104.65 metres to 147.7 metres has brought with it the issue of overshadowing according to the report. Directly to the west lies the former JH Boyd School site which has essentially been portioned into three sections, two of which are a community centre and proposed urban park.

The report notes that in general, local policy suggests any development should not reduce the amenity of public spaces by casting any additional shadows, even though the expected urban park is slated for construction during 2016.

Podium poppycock?

The podium as seen within the future Melbourne report. Image © Central Equity

As a result of the increased building height and increased number of apartments from 382 to 557, the building services have been revised including the relocation and increase in the size of the substation from Balston Street non-heritage fabric (as currently approved) to City Road

It is now proposed to accommodate an enlarged substation within two of the existing openings in the City Road remnant heritage façade.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee

In addition angular awnings have been added to the heritage facade in order to negate increased wind conditions due to the taller tower. The glass and alucobond clad steel framed awning seeks to replace a pergola style louvre and sunshade system at podium terrace level, and canvas awnings at ground level.

This coupled with the loss of the two aforementioned City Road facade openings will lead to an adverse impact on the heritage façade and reduction in active street frontages according to the report.

City of Melbourne advised to reject

Although not a binding decision, the Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee recommends that a letter be sent to DTPLI advising that the City of Melbourne objects to 1-11 Balston Street.

The proposed increase in height is inconsistent with the 100m height limit for the area, would increase overshadowing of the proposed park, and would exacerbate wind conditions (resulting in inappropriate awnings).

Further, the increased number of apartments would generate increased demand in ground floor service areas, resulting in decreased active frontages on City Road, loss of a street tree, and unacceptable intrusion into the retained heritage fabric.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee

Comment

More a general observation but what can be deduced from the general design ethos Central Equity employs? Certainly the repetitive nature of their recent towers, namely Southbank Grand, Australis and Melbourne One are also reflected in the heightened 1-11 Balston Street design.

From afar it seems they are intent on producing a higher volume of apartments while implementing a degree of design simplicity; A to B with minimum fuss which to my way of thinking draws a parallel to the low-cost airline model?

This segment of the market exists and Central Equity clearly have a winning formula given the rate at which the firm can release, sell and realise their projects in rapid succession; in fact their efficiency is impressive. But what are the consequences of having masses of generic towers churned out with monotonous regularity?

Some would argue look no further than Southbank, although with their current projects and the purchase of the 556-566 Lonsdale Street and 13-25 Healeys Lane development site, Central Equity continues to push into the CBD. Central Equity have over their history gradually increased the size of their towers to currently sit in the 145-165 metre bracket; what prospects of a Central Equity-designed 200 metre tower in the not too distant future?

31 comments

Bilby's picture

Design and amenity standards can't come fast enough in Melbourne.

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Adrian's picture

No argument with you here.

Eddie Kutner & CE have ruined the backstreets of Southbank with their pre-fabricated auto-generated quick buck rubbish.

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Bilby's picture

Yep. And they're ruining the CBD's back streets too. Here's another thread from skyscrapercity that sums up what many think about these perilously sub-standard projects: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1730943

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Bilby's picture

And google street view still has a "now you see it, now you don't" situation going on as you wander past this site. Was it worth losing the bluestone lane ways and stunning Edwardian brick factory for this rubbish? Just do a walk by at 593 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

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Adrian's picture

Yeah that's inexcusable removing 2 bluestone laneways and the industrial Edwardian buildings, absolutely inexcusable crime on our city.

We only have the Melb City Council and Brumby goverment planning dept to blame for that one. Eddie Kutner wouldn't give a rats about retaining any laneway heritage for the sake of a dollar give the choice of course.

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Bilby's picture

There's an application in to demolish the historic Koorie Heritage Trust Headquarters and adjoining Elizabeth Andrews buildings (a stunning and ornate Victorian building) at 295-299 King Street, just around the corner, too. What a joke.

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3000's picture

Reject this garbage.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Hyperbole and exaggeration will only harm the cause of heritage protection in Melbourne. The Elizabeth Andrews building is not a stunning Victorian building it is a rather ordinary Edwardian commercial building. You really have to pick your battles.

It's like the boy who cried wolf, if you carry on too much about buildings which have only marginal heritage values then people will stop listening when you try and save the really important stuff.

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3000's picture

But when they destroy it for trash like this I just can't help but wonder what's going on in their heads.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

They are actually retaining the façade of the heritage building on this site. Apart from the overshadowing of the park that does not exist yet and the ridiculous looking canopies they want to stuck on the front of the heritage building this development is rather inoffensive.

We have not yet seen the plans for 295-307 King Street.

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Bilby's picture

Hmm, ok it's a stunning Edwardian commercial building - that needs a little bit of restoration to really shine: http://www.realcommercial.com.au/property-offices-vic-melbourne-500898955
This is a battle worth picking in my book - its beautifully articulated with an interesting parapet design, curved brick detailing on the pilasters and an ornate half moon loft window under the roof. What more do you want from our dwindling heritage stock? It's a no brainer to retain this one - and with a decent setback at that. Look past the dodgy paint job and imagine it with the tuck pointed red brick restored and the render detailing picking out the cornices, sills and window frames.

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3000's picture

A very nice frontage that I think is worth saving imo. There are no renders or designs of what might be going there yet? If they were smart they would work the design into the awesome building.

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Bilby's picture

Also, Nicholas, I didn't see anyone arguing "hyperbole and exaggeration" when Melbman described 568 Collins Street as "stunning" recently, or "sweet", as the case may be: https://urbanmelbourne.info/forum/cbd-568-collins-street-226m-68l-reside...

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Flinders Street station is a stunning Edwardian building.

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3000's picture

Flinders Street is hardly keeping up with the current traffic it receives. It looks good but functions poorly. Something needs to be done but I am torn.

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Bilby's picture

Flinders Street Station was considered to be an outdated, ugly eyesore not so long ago. More than one past government has wanted to knock it down, as have many past Melburnians. Were the right then? Evidently not. Will future Melburnians congratulate us for knocking down our remaining small scale heritage building stock it the CBD?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

So you do think that there should be a blanket ban on the demolition of buildings over a certain age?

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Bilby's picture

Not a blanket ban as such, but something like Boston's 'Demolition Review Ordinance'. This is a law designed to prevent demolition of any building over 50 years of age (in this case) until a proper heritage assessment has been done, determining the value of the building to the city. If the building is found to be without heritage / landmark importance, it can then be demolished. If not, it gets a listing and a conservation management plan. It's a simple system, really, and helps to explain why Boston has so many incredible heritage buildings and precincts, both downtown and in throughout the inner city:
http://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communi...

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

There are over 900 Edwardian buildings in the City of Melbourne. These would be way down that list and do not have enough significance to prevent the development of something more suitable on one of the Major roads in the CBD.

We are talking about the CBD of Melbourne not a small country town or suburban shopping strip.

All demolition permits go through the City of Melbourne so they can check for heritage values before the permit is issued.

If the building is found to have heritage values but no overlay then they can request the planning minister put in place an interim heritage overlay. It is relatively common for interim heritage overlay to be applied in these circumstances.

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Bilby's picture

No, it's not. It is very rare for an interim heritage overlay to be applied in such cases - hence why we have just lost the Burton Livery & Stables building at 36-40 La Trobe Street. Also, where are you getting your data on the number of Edwardian buildings in the CBD ? Or are you referring to the whole municipal area, including Carlton, North Melbourne, Carlton North, etc.?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

City Of Melbourne, there are over 200 Edwardian buildings in postcode 3000.

116-132 Little Lonsdale Street were protected with an interim heritage overlay.

The Burton Livery & Stables building at 36-40 La Trobe Street were lost because COM made a decision not to pursue an interim heritage overlay after a detailed assessment of the heritage value of the site. .

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

Burtun and Livery were lost because councillors made a political decision to ignore heritage advice and voted to demolish the buildings before voting on the interim heritage reccomended...
It's very rare that interim heritage protection is ever sought by the time an application comes in, and indeed the Lord Mayor has spoken agaisnt it, We have lost a number of smaller historic buildings in recent years with zero thought to even assessing their value, beyond relying on 30 years out of date studies.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

In terms of the King street buildings anyway, with such a large site we are not talking about an either/or situation. They can quite easily accommodate a development while the front half or even some internals are kept and restored. A heritage policy that is only about landmarks and 'the best of the best' will result in much of what attracts people to Melbourne best lost, the small scale buildings and creative uses.
The Edwardian building in question is also largely intact, and could quite easily shine with bricks revealed and some small restoration.

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Bilby's picture

Nicholas, you forgot to finish that last sentence, i.e. "... found the whole row worthy of immediate heritage protection". And how many Edwardian commercial buildings remain on the Hoddle Grid? I'd say fewer than 200. And if you're going off the i-heritage database, remember that a good number of the graded Edwardian buildings listed on there have already been demolished in recent years, or are soon to be demolished. So with fewer than 200 remaining, how many should be retained and adaptively reused? 150? 100? 50?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Well the system is in place but in the end we live in a democracy I guess.

Also I think our heritage controls are just as good as Boston. If the Shreve, Crump and Low building was in Melbourne I doubt it would be allowed to be demolished,

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Bilby's picture

Our heritage controls are unbelievably weak compared with the U.S. and Boston in particular. I can't see how you can justify that statement. What do you base it on?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

There are adequate controls in the system. If the City of Melbourne does not use them correctly, or at all in some cases, well that's another issue altogether.

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Bilby's picture

I'm not so sure about your comments re: the Shreve, Crump and Low building in the Back Bay, Boston, either. We easily could have lost the Argus building in recent years, before the recent C186 amendment was in place, for instance. If there were adequate controls in place, we wouldn't have seen the approval to facade the Celtic Club by the Planning Minister, either. You could drive a truck through the various holes in heritage protection in the current planning scheme. Very little in Melbourne is actually 'protected', nor are we required to maintain heritage buildings in a good state of repair, unlike places like New York: http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/faqs/designation.shtml

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Bilby's picture

Shreve, Crump & Low (Arlington Buiding) in Boston - soon to be demolished:

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Riccardo's picture

Yes, CE are a blight on Melbourne. Let's hope more foreign developers come in, with a desire for international standard designs.

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3000's picture

People keep buying their sludge so it's not like they have any real incentive to stop making it unfortunately.
I was hoping Australis or even Epic would change it up a bit but its still the same crap.

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