Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street

One of 2014's largest planning applications has had its turn before the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee, with the associated report on the intended mixed-use tower raising a number of concerns.

Championed by Singaporean tycoon Koh Wee Meng via his property development arm Fragrance Group, the tower seeks to stand at 284 metres above Spencer Street on what was/is the Savoy Tavern. Having paid $44.5 million for the site during June, Fragrance Group submitted initial plans during August, with a refined amendment put forward during September 2014 in response to a request for further information sought by State body DPTLI.

134-160 Spencer Street, Melbourne summary

Artist's impressions of the proposed tower. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser
  • 134-160 Spencer Street joins 555 Collins Street as Fragrance Group's Melbourne projects.
  • Architect: Elenberg Fraser.
  • Current 1,833sqm site use: Savoy Tavern bar/kitchen/pub.
  • Revised application submitted September 2014.
  • Proposed: 89 level residential tower at 284 metres to roof.
  • 990 apartments and 280 hotel suites.
  • Likely hotel operator: Parc Sovereign.
  • 10 retail spaces between 35sqm and 47sqm.
  • ​Basement catering for 164 car parking spaces and 229 bicycles.
  • GFA: 90,739 sq.m.

Shake, rattle and roll

While the top and bottom form of 134-160 Spencer Street's tower component remains constant, the indicative floor plan below demonstrates the sizeable floor plate shift designed into the midriff. Beyond level 15 to 85 floor plates slink every second level, essentially producing 35 separate, undulating floor plates which from a distance creates a sensuous form.

General arrangements sees the hotel component located over floors 6 to 15 with 28 suites over each floor ranging between 20sqm and 39sqm. Perhaps the limited size of the hotel suites points toward affordable hotel chain Parc Sovereign expanding into Melbourne; a brand also controlled by Koh Wee Meng.

Level 5 will host indoor/outdoor communal facilities with strata offices, a restaurant, conference centre and function room plus fitness centre and gymnasium located through the podium. Level 87 will also carry residential recreation facilities. The balance of the tower is dedicated to the 990 apartments of one, two and three bedrooms. For the lucky few, the top floor of residential living at level 86 will carry a majority of one bedroom apartments, allowing for impeccable views without the penthouse price.

Expected level 86 floor plan. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser

A question of height

As mentioned a handful of concerns were raised, generally regarding matters surrounding access and vehicle parking. While the report to Future Melbourne considered these issues rectifiable, a more pressing concern regarding height has been raised:

The shadow diagrams submitted with the application indicate that the proposed building will overshadow Batman Park and the north bank of the Yarra. Buildings to the north of this park are generally modelled to ensure that shadows cast do not extend within 15 m of the north bank of the river between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm on 22 June. This being the case, the height of the building is considered excessive and will detract from or diminish the leisure and recreational purpose of Batman Park and Northbank promenade.

A condition is therefore recommended requiring the height of the building to be reduced so that there is no additional overshadowing of the Northbank Promenade by the proposed building. This might equate to a reduction of approximately 11 levels.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee
The expected shadow as seen within the Future Melbourne report


134-160 Spencer Street along with a handful of other key large-scale projects within inner Melbourne will act as a litmus test of sorts for the new State Government with Richard Wynne (assuming full health) set to define his tenure with a number of key planning decisions early in the new year. Will 134-160 Spencer Street remain unchanged or will the the recommendations to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee be adopted at a state level which would see the tower essentially lopped to approximately 250 metres in height?

Much can be drawn from the eventual decision laid down by the State Government.

Machinations aside 134-160 Spencer Street is a true statement delivered by Elenberg Fraser worthy of such a prominent position with Melbourne's skyline. I'd be delighted if the design were to remain as is although I suspect the State Government will take a stance in line with that of City of Melbourne's recommendations for height reduction.


Adrian's picture

Once again opposing the height purely because of that small amount of extra shadowing on top of an already overshadowed park on the coldest darkest day in winter just smacks of ridiculous political posturing and 'opposing for the sake of opposing'.

If there were no pre-existing shadowing from the Fish Markets they *might* have a case to argue, but this is just anti-overshadowing gone mad. The place where people would spend any substantial amount of time down there is on the grass that is already overshadowed, not in transit along the waterfront. Either way it should be measured at Equinox and not Mid-Winter when the probability of being overcast would be >50%, and the usage of that park with colder winter temperatures quite minimal.

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Ross's picture

It is hard to comment on the architecture (other than height) as once again the so-called "Artist's Impression" show a building that verges on invisibility. These images provide no indication whatsoever as to what the product will look like- the Bourke St image in particular is ridiculous.

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Adrian's picture

It is hard to comment on the architecture (other than height) as once again the so-called "Artist's Impression" show a building that verges on invisibility. These images provide no indication whatsoever as to what the product will look like- the Bourke St image in particular is ridiculous.

Are you serious ??

The main renders makes it pretty darn clear what the building will look like - which is to say fantastic. Modern & futuristic and the waviness will be a perfect vertical complement to the waves of the Southern Cross Station roof across the road.

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troy's picture

This Overshadowing is becoming ridicolous and beyond a joke now.Stop opposing the heights and let them continue.

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Craig Skipsey's picture

Adrian, you hit the nail on the head. Shadowing should consider into account what the likely temperature will be for that time of the year. Its the same with wind effects, typically wind speed is the only factor considered. It all relates back to human comfort, and comfort means much more than shadows.

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Adrian's picture

Indeed - and for a minute amount of overshadowing on said coldest darkest day we are being robbed of potentially another stunning landmark skyline enhancing tower being stunted.

This political opposition along with PAN-OPS will soon see Melbourne overtaken by Brisbane for the tallest most impressive skyline in Australia with at least two 300m+ towers in the works breaking the existing height limit - which their council appears fully supportive of recognizing what a growing skyline means to the international image of a prosperous city (and the tourism & investment that attracts), and keeping up with other growing cities across Asia.

Something our local council and newly elected state government apparently fails to realise.

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Rohan Storey's picture

Height isnt everything, a good dash of style goes a long way. Look at Dubai - lots of tallies, but mostly horrendous. The point about the overshadowing of the river (not batman park - its not protected) is that its open space that looks best when the sun is shining on it, providing some sparkle. A river in the dark is a dull thing indeed. However, it isnt really protected from overshadowing any more (it went from 'mandatory' to discretionary' in 1999) and so now that rule is simply ignored, and its only the southbank promenade itself thats sacrosanct (mostly) which has the justification that its a heavily used pedestrian environment, where sunlight is even more valued.

As to the podium levels, Im disappointed they're so glassy, and so fail to provide a substantial 'infill' between the great old tramways building and the Savoy Hotel; could have made a link between the two to create a great urban ensemble. The Boulke Street side is actually within the little heritage precinct covering that end of Bourke Street, but obviously no-one took any notice of that. Lucky to get this though, I think the original design was even more open, with gaps and setbacks breaking up the streetline !

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Bilby's picture

Personally, I am happy for Brisbane to 'compete' favourably with Melbourne and Asian cities in terms of a skyline - they have already flattened most of their heritage assets, and there is now little else to recommend the city in an international context. In other words, good luck to them ... but what culture will exist within and beneath all their supertalls in 20 years' time?

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Adrian's picture

Melbourne has the unique opportunity to have both like so few cities do, so why not ?

Sadly we are currently destroying both our ground level culture & heritage and stunting our best proposals all due to political posturing & profiteering.

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