Bridge Road's apartment transformation gathers pace

The struggles of Bridge Road have been well documented both on Urban Melbourne and via many other media outlets. For so long synonymous with 'warehouse fashion' shopping, many have said Bridge Road has suffered a sustained decline due to the rise of DFO's and the substantial investment pumped into the CBD's retail offerings in recent years.

Remedies such as free parking have been put forward, while others such as Fred Nucara of Beller Commercial suggested during 2014 that Bridge Road is due for a fundamental shift in how and who uses and peruses the precinct. As destination shoppers choosing Bridge Road diminish, the struggling retail segment is likely to drift toward catering for the burgeoning population now choosing to call the area home.

This reshaping of Bridge Road into an apartment hotspot has gathered a head of steam over the preceding six months in particular, with a raft of residential planning applications in progress. Now three more new residential projects seek to compound the trend, appearing on City of Yarra's Major Development page within the last fortnight. They are in no particular order:

195 Bridge Road

The slight 195 Bridge Road. Image courtesy Archsign

This eight storey building designed by Archsign on behalf of a private developer seeks to fill a slender site with Bridge Road frontage. Located next to the at sales Newbridge Apartments, 195 Bridge Road would maintain a simple form behind a retained frontage holding a 130sqm retail space.

With only 10 apartments split between 7 one-bedroom, 2 two-bedroom and 1 three-bedroom options, 195 Bridge Road's apartments will range between 52sqm for a single bedroom apartment through to a dual level 228sqm penthouse of sorts. Two car parking spaces have been included with general access via Leggo Place.

19-21 Judd Street

19-21 Judd Street. Image courtesy Hayball

50 dwellings are included within this Hayball-designed planning application. Holding 5 one-bedroom, 44 two-bedroom and 1 three-bedroom apartments, the distinctly precast design is initially valued at $12 million and is on behalf of Bridge Road-based G3 Projects.

Included at ground level is a 33sqm cafe while 33 car parking and 59 bicycle spaces have been catered for. 19-21 Judd Street finds itself in close proximity to Charlie Richmond; the 96-apartment development on of the area's early large-scale residential developments.

239-245 Church Street

Armsby Architects' 239-245 Church Street.

Consultancy Planned FX has lodged documents on behalf of Katama Pty Ltd and Bider Pty Ltd for a redevelopment of a low-rise string of retail tenancies metres from Bridge Road. A structure dated 1925 is amongst the buildings slated to go in favour of an eight level apartment block with an initial development value of $8.5 million.

With basement car parking, the Armsby Architects-designed building will hold 53 apartments, split between 16 one-bedroom, 29 two-bedroom and 8 three-bedroom options. Retail tenancies line Church Street while basement access is via Tullo Place to the rear.

A bridge from here to there

The fresh planning applications above join the list of eleven projects either on or in the immediate vicinity of Bridge Road as seen below. At varying stages of the planning process, only Isola is at construction with Collingwood-based construction firm Lexicon at the reigns of the build which is in its infancy.

Estelle by Milbex and Newbridge Apartments on behalf of Longriver Group are at sales, with the remainder at lower rungs of the development process.

If the projects shown above and below are realised, the Urban Melbourne Project Database indicates that in excess of 1,130 new apartments will be pumped into the Bridge Road Precinct in the medium term. Add large-scale peripheral projects such as Lend Lease's Studio 9 and Riverlee's multi-staged Jaques site redevelopment, and the transformation of Bridge Road from retail destination to a strip serving the needs of a burgeoning and immediate population looks to be in full swing.


Wink Brand Design's picture

The apartment boom around the Bridge rd area is well warranted.. who wouldn't want to live in such a great inner suburb location? There's some fantastic developments going up. I particularly like the slender design of 195 Bridge rd.

Wink Brand Design

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Bilby's picture

What do you like about that particular design at 195 Bridge Rd.? It certainly has retro appeal - a bit like a 1970s office building, which might be aesthetically interesting to some, but the deep plan doesn't look great to live with. How has the architect resolved the issue of getting light and views into the centre of the narrow block - particularly since it will be built out eventually on each side? To answer your question, then - I wouldn't want to live in such a great location if it meant being wedged in a dark apartment with poor design. But perhaps it's not as bad as all that - if these were floor-through apartments they could work with the service areas in the centre.

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CM's picture

I don't get this. Are development companies really so detached from the impact they have on the surrounding street scape - community? The (most really ugly) high rise apartment development has actually killed off Bridge Road and the also Swan Street. The demographics of the inhabitants of these developments are all the same - young, very mobile and mostly working in the CBD. They neither shop nor "live" in Richmond. They do drink in Richmond but that's it. Consequently the economy of Richmond has been destroyed and what was once a really interesting place to live, is now little more than inner urban dormitory. A walk around Richmond mid week in the middle of the day is simply weird - there are so few people about. Instead of praising the unending profit making of the "apartment boom" perhaps the local council should be refusing more developments of the same kind. How about catering for people with kids? Or elderly people? Or ... Anything rather than more of the same.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

To say that high rise apartment development has actually killed off Bridge Road and the also Swan Street is simply not supported by any evidence.

The decline of Bridge Road and Swan Street has largely been attributed to the decline of manufacturing in the area (due to the rise of cheap manufacturing in China) and the closure of the associated retail outlet stores.

The opening of outlet malls such as DFO across Melbourne also meant that people no longer had to go to Richmond for this kind of shopping.

There was simply not a high enough population base in Richmond to support the extent of retail along Bridge Road and Swan Streets without these shoppers from outside the local area.

In the early 1990's the population of Richmond had started to decline so if there had been no apartment development over the past 20 years then things would be much worse along Bridge Road and Swan Street.

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CM's picture

I disagree entirely. The reference to the collapse of manufacturing is a complete red herring. Manufacturing collapsed way back in the 1970s. It did so in places like Carlton too – but Carlton is not in the doldrums that Richmond suffers.

It is certainly true that discount clothing was once a draw card – although that was primarily in Swan Street not Bridge Road. Bridge Road was known for its fashion houses – only later in the early 2000's did it slide into the discount field. More parking is certainly NOT likely to fix the collapse of this area of the economy because, as you note, discount clothing is now available everywhere.

The point that is missed – not addressed at all – is the fact that the high rise apartment development was sold to the local population as a way of improving the local economy. It has not. Richmond remains a dormitory suburb with no major economic life precisely because the residents of your high rise apartments do not shop or eat in Richmond. The exception to this dismal view is Victoria Street. Victoria Street is not surrounded by high rise apartments and its restaurants and small Asian groceries continue to thrive – for now. Why? In part, because it has a mixed population – families, old people and young people.

In addition, the apartment "boom" in Richmond has so inflated land costs that any hope of using the 'creative industries' to kick start the local economy is now hopeless. Small start-ups and creative individuals simply can't afford Richmond anymore.

The continued construction of high rise apartments that serve only one section of the population can only produce long term economic decline.

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johnproctor's picture

^^ are you kidding?

Victoria Street thrives because it has thousands of residents in high rise public housing 150m away and because its Little Vietnam restaurant scene attracts visitors from across the metropolitan area including continuing to attract viet people who largely no longer live in the area.

Meanwhile in a development sense it is bookended by a couple of thousand apartments in Victoria Gardens (which has started to see that end of Victoria Street open up with Pub's getting refurbed and a slow spread of more regular shops) and development along Nicholson Street like the Hat Factory, the safeway development on Victoria and the one on the corner of Gipps Street.

This 'accomodation for families' line also gives me the shits... I lived in Richmond for 5 years from 2006-2011 and in that time I saw quite a few familes move in... all after buying a terrace house for $800k, ripping the guts out of it spending half a million more on renovations and then rolling up in their BMW/Mercedes/Volvo 4wd's. Family living in the inner city is not representative of anything and does not help 'local shops'... it largely moves out the shops that have been in existance on shopping strips for long periods of time and brings in gentrified cafe after cafe.

I was a 20 something in Richmond (with 5 of my best mates also living in separate places in Richmond though that time) and we "shopped" locally all the time, pubs, restaurants, supermarkets, cafes, bike shops, convenience shopping, clothes etc.

Bridge Road has been dying for the last 15 years and that well preceded any apartment boom. It died because it got outcompeted in the fashion stakes (Chapel, Chadstone, CBD Shopping, DFO's, online, hipster boutiques - you name it they beat Bridge Road at it) and it was never able to reinvent itself largely because the other shopping strips were already established doing something different, grungy/bogan Swan Street, viet Victoria Street, bar crawl Brunswick, cheapo Smith Street, foody Lygon, Fashion Chapel, local Village Rathdowne, ethnic Sydney Road, snobby High Street armadale, Toorak Road and Glenferrie Road. etc.

meanwhile Bridge Road traders are still whingeing about Council and State Government needing to provide more parking or advertise for them or whatever so that the existing struggling shops can return to their glory days. Rather than waking up to themselves that their business model (and rents) are out of date and need to be reset.

The only way any glory is coming back is to embrace the new residents and give them what they want... local convenience (services) shopping and food in every format possible.

Look at hte resurgance in Swan Street in the last 5-8 years.
Better Restaurants: Noir, Union, Meatball Place, Dimitris, Meatmother,
Better Bars: Post Office, Precinct, Noir Wineroom, rebuilt Richmond Club
Better 'hip' shops: Lily and Weasal, Royal Order of Nothing, Nelson Brown

now a proper full line supermarket not the toy one that used to be there. and all the while maintaining local service shops like the Butchers, the banks, the phone providers, Dr Follicles, newsagents, asian Bakery, fish and chips, burger joint, kebab house, indian, love pho etc.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

 ^^ Totally agree with you John, I grew up and lived in an apartment in Richmond until 2007 and in that time while I was single I did all my shopping locally and it was the family next door who used to jump into their 4WD and go shopping at Chadstone of all places!

The Dimmey's restoration and apartments development has been one of the best things to happen to Richmond in recent history, it has transformed that part of Swan Street for the better in so many ways.smiley

I collect, therefore I am.

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