A new beginning for St Kilda's Novotel?

The Latin expression 'De Novo' is generally understood to mean 'a new beginning' or 'starting afresh' and while not the name of the proposed development at 14-16 The Esplanade, it's quite an apt description as it ushers in a new era for the highly recognisable bayside site. The four-star Novotel St Kilda situated over 5,800sqm is subject to a current planning application which would do away with the predominantly precast structure in favour of hundreds of dwellings.

View from The Esplanade. © Metier3

Designed by local firm Metier3, the 7-storey, 300 apartment development marks Sydney firm Barana Group's first foray into the Melbourne residential market given they own the existing hotel. According to a 2014 AFR article Novotel will likely continue to operate for some years yet due to Accor's existing management agreement, so the development is very much a long term prospect.

Regardless a planning application has been lodged with City of Port Phillip with plans available for public perusal over the new year period.

14-16 The Esplanade

  • Project value: $55 million
  • 300 apartments in a converted and expanded existing structure
  • 166 * 1BR, 71 * 2BR, 31 * 3BR, 32 * townhouse
  • Two Buildings to RL 27.2 metres in height
  • 352 car spaces, 30 motor bike spaces and 145 bicycle spaces across three levels of basement parking
  • Swimming pool, gym, spa and associated facilities at basement level
14-16 The Esplanade Level 1 Plan. © Metier3

Alfred Square

A key consideration of the proposal is its response to the objectives and strategies of the St Kilda Foreshore Urban Design Framework (2003) with regard to improving the public realm. 14-16 The Esplanade's proposed development would see engagement with Upper Esplanade and Alfred Square, outlined in the following ways:

  • Improve the Alfred Square edge to Upper Esplanade to make the square more accessible and inviting to enter from the street;
  • Prepare a landscape plan for Alfred Square that recognises the role of the square as a ceremonial, commemorative and contemplative space and traditional viewing place;
  • Address the conservation of heritage fabric, augmentation of the formal design, enhancement of interpretive values and views, improvements to amenity, provision of additional, coordinated seating and shelter, and replacement of aging surface materials of Alfred Square.
Strategy for Alfred Square. © Metier3

Site history

The site has seen a numerous entertainment-based uses over the course of almost a century with the first building to open on the site being the Wattle Path Dance Saloon and Café. It later played host to Melbourne's most famous ice skating rink, St Moritz between 1939 and 1981, becoming enormously popular during the war years and accommodating up to 2,000 people on its 1,850sqm ice rink.

St Moritz Ice Rink, St Kilda. © City of Port Phillip

Following its closure the complex succumbed to fire during 1984, which is not unusual for buildings in St Kilda...or so it would seem. The St Moritz Bar at Medibank IceHouse in is named in honour of the famous rink. The St Moritz hotel was then developed onsite during the early 1990's before being renamed as Novotel ­Bayside upon Accor taking over the venue, only to assume the current Novotel Melbourne, St Kilda thereafter.


The proposal seeks to create a stronger edge and definition to Alfred Square and The Esplanade by occupying the full extent of the site. There exists the risk that the development will read as a great big wall, due to the articulation of the form and consistent height of both buildings. Further division of the proposals form via the introduction of a north-south site link, thus creating three buildings, would provide some variation to the height of each building and go some way to alleviating the potential perception of uniform bulk.

Additionally while the three buildings could be treated as a 'family' with a variation of the modular facade, a shared DNA that while similar offers a point of difference for each building.

Overall the proposal breathes new life into a site that while prominent does not fulfill its true potential as a cornerstone of the St Kilda foreshore. It will certainly be interesting to see how the greater community responds to the development plans, could it be another St Kilda Triangle episode?

Project team

  • Developer: Barana Group
  • Architects: Metier3
  • ​Town Planning: Message Consultants​
  • Traffic: Cardno
  • ESD: JBA
  • Landscaping: Papworth Design
  • Waste: Leigh Design
  • Land sales agent: Mark Wizel, CBRE

Development & Planning

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 12:00
The swirl of development activity in Footscray has found another gear as new projects are submitted for approval, or are on the verge of beginning construction. Two separate planning applications have been advertised by Maribyrnong City Council; their subsequent addition to the Urban Melbourne Project Database has seen the overall number of apartment developments within Footscray in development swell to 40.

Policy, Culture & Opinion

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 12:00
The marriage of old and new can be a difficult process, particularly when the existing structure has intrinsic heritage value. In previous times Fitzroy's 237 Napier Street served as the home of furniture manufacturer C.F. Rojo and Sons. Taking root during 1887, Christobel Rojo oversaw operations though over time the site would become home to furniture manufacturer Thonet.

Visual Melbourne

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 07:00
The former site of John Batman's home, Batman's Hill is entering the final stages of its redevelopment. Collins Square's final tower has begun its skyward ascent, as has Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter Commercial and Residential precinct already. Melbourne Quarter's first stage is at construction and involves a new 12-storey home for consultancy firm Arup along with a skypark.


Transport & Design

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 12:00
When a site spans 19,280 square metres, it becomes a 'district'. That's the case according to the development team behind the Jam Factory's pending overhaul. Reporting on the project to date has focused on the close to 60,000 square metres of new commercial space that is earmarked for the site, but more importantly from a layperson's perspective is the extensive new public realm that is planned as part of the development.

Sustainability & Environment

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00
Cbus Property's office development for Medibank at 720 Bourke Street in Docklands recently became the first Australian existing property to receive a WELL Certification, Gold Shell and Core rating. The WELL rating goes beyond sustainable building features with a greater focus on the health and well-being of a building's occupants.