Planning Application > 488-494 La Trobe Street, West Melbourne

West Melbourne continues its impressive run toward the latter part of 2014 with yet another large-scale planning application currently before authorities. Located on the northern side of La Trobe Street between Spencer and King, City of Melbourne is currently assessing the merits of the residential tower which may accommodate 247 apartments if approved.

Sold by agent Savills during August 2014, new owner Spacious Property Development Group is behind the current 488-494 La Trobe Street proposal which is adjacent to a large vacant block, itself expected to become a prime residential development in due course.

488-494 La Trobe Street West Melbourne summary

Immediate built form. Image courtesy Rothelowman
  • Current 1,011sqm site use: dual level office building with 1,312sqm of leasable space.
  • Planning application submitted November 2014.
  • Proposed: 32 level residential tower at 102.35 metres.
  • ​Total GFA: 32,910sqm.
  • ​247 apartments: 113*1BR / 134*2BR
  • ​Basement catering for 38 car parking spaces and 77 bicycles.
  • Rooftop garden at 135sqm, residential amenity and cinema at 148.5sqm

Design concept

The concept for the exterior design has evolved from a carefully considered desire to create a timeless design solution. One which contributes a strong, elegant and pure form to the city's skyline. Notions of balance and symmetry lead to the pure vertical expression of tower, and created a 'Ying and Yang' dynamic between the key components.

This dynamic also allowed for a refined palette of materials. With the central component representing the solidity and strength of stone, while the northern and southern components mirror each other, and represent the graceful shimmer of water. The podium levels also take these concepts further at a scale designed to relate to the public realm.

Rothelowman, planning documents

From the ground up

Artist's impression of the development. Image courtesy Rothelowman

Atop three basement levels sits a ground floor heavy with building services. With three apartments located to the northern edge of the ground floor, the La Trobe Street frontage is dominated by the building substation, car park entry and hydrant booster resulting in little activation to the main pedestrian thoroughfare.

Subsequent podium levels are almost exclusively devoted to two bedroom dwellings with a smattering of single bedroom apartments included. Designed to the eastern boundary, the tower element will maintain a setback to the western boundary of 5.5 metres with an almost generic floor plan incorporated over levels 6-30. Eight apartments per level is the norm where two bedroom apartments are to floor plate corners while single bedroom apartments are clustered around the lift well to the centre of the proposed tower.

Crowning the development would be an external CBD-facing terrace of 135sqm supplemented by in excess of 140sqm internal residential amenity, consisting of dining, lounge and cinema areas.


A number of salient points have been made in forum discussion regarding the recent planning application for 488-494 La Trobe Street. While the existing building onsite has not been included in the City Heritage Review, its loss would represent a further erosion of the historic fabric of inner Melbourne.

It's most definitely a shame the existing frontage has not been incorporated into the proposed tower, but we're not privy to development team discussions and must assume there remains an overpowering reason for the deletion of the existing structure.

Overall the curtain facade offset by a strong vertical element provides a sharp contrast to the many existing and proposed apartment towers, while also providing a practical common wall to the east and west boundaries. While these flanks represent "The solidity and strength of stone," they in actuality would consist of precast panels in varied colours and finishes according to the materials schedule; not quite the refined finish of polished concrete or stone.

488-494 La Trobe Street West Melbourne development team

  • Architecture: Rothelowman
  • ​Urban Planning: Urbis
  • Wind mitigation: Mel Consultants
  • Traffic engineering: Cardno
  • Environmental Sustainable Design: ADP Consulting
  • Waste management: Leigh Design
  • Tree Protection: Galbraith & Associates


Paul Anderson's picture

I find it disappointing that the developer could not have included the current building certainly would have made for a more interesting and pleasant street scape in my opinion.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

is there really much reason for 'deleting existing structure' besides perhaps a short term profit margin (even if a retained facade might make more money long term in tenancy rental/marketing of apartments), or architects ego.
seems developers will rarely do anything heritage wise if not forced to by planning scheme, and even then still argue to try not to follow it,

This of course wouldn't be as bad if the replacement ground floor wasnt just carpark entry, blank grills for substation and a small lobby entrance

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Bilby's picture

It appears that 488 La Trobe Street was the manufacturing business of the Spink brothers, and appears as Spinks Tinsmiths and Fruit Preservers (which became insolvent in 1890 just as the depression hit). They also seem to be listed as makers of cutlery, which would make sense with the tinsmith business. In 1888 there is also a story in the newspapers about the deaths of 3 employees of Spink in a nearby residence, caused by accidental gas poisoning from a wall lamp. I don't know, but perhaps the store at the front of the factory may have displayed cutlery for sale at some point?

It's an important piece of Melbourne's industrial, commercial and social history, as well as a well very nice set of Victorian shop fronts. Like the threatened 50 La Trobe Street, it should be subject to an immediate IPO pending further investigation of its heritage significance. 488 latrobe&searchLimits= cutlery latrobe&searchLimits=

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Riccardo's picture

Why don't we instead start valuing Future Melbourne rather than Past Melbourne? Plenty of heritage around, not much Future yet visible.

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Bilby's picture

Not to put too fine a point on it, Riccardo, but by definition, the future will never be visible - that's just the nature of the laws of physics. On the other hand, the evidence of the past is all around us - good and bad. Architects and planners should indeed be asking what sort of heritage they want to leave once their work is completed.

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Greg Davis's picture

Once again it appears we are being subjected to another inappropriate high rise apartment block.
Not enough parking spaces (everyone wants one in my opinion). Heritage has been forgotten again.

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gobillino's picture

No offence Greg, but your opinion on car parks is completely wrong! I live in an apartment building a stones throw away from this building, where every apartment has a designated car park, and in the five years I've been here I've never seen the car park more than 40% full. People are constantly advertising their space for rent (can only be rented to residents of the building), with very limited success.

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johnproctor's picture

^ all sorts of stats that confirm exactly the above.

census data, rates data, development surveys etc. confirm quite low car ownership at apartments in the inner suburbs let alone in the CBD. (from memory its about 0.6-0.7 for 1 bedders in Richmond/South Yarra and less (probably about hte 40% Gob has anecdotally noticed in his building) in the CBD.)

The only way to guarantee cars continue to drive to these areas is if you provide parking for them. Very happy to see reduced parking rates and in some (but not all buildings) no parking provided.

The difference to this is in buildings which are deliberately marketing themselves as a premium product where car ownership is likely to be higher based on socio-economic factors. i.e. if you can afford $500,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment you probably have a VW polo in the carpark to drive down the peninsula or to the Yarra Valley every other weekend.

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