The wraps are off Toyota Australia's ambitious plans to capitalise upon Melbourne's insatiable desire for inner-city apartment and student accommodation. As had been reported earlier during 2015, the car manufacturer has turned its hand to converting a large majority of its Elizabeth Street site into a residential enclave capable of holding in excess of 1000 apartments.
Sydney-based property advisory firm LEFTA has been nominated as the developer within the planning documents, acting in effect as a proxy for Toyota Australia. Not recognised as a developer, Toyota Australia will wait upon a planning decision before revealing its intentions; a likely outcome being the sale of the expansive site to a recognised developer while maintaining its Melbourne showroom within the retained Melford Motors building onsite.
Project architect SJB has gone to unusual lengths to distinguish the quartet of towers envisaged as part of the development. Father, mother, son and daughter have been allocated to describe the towers, reflecting the differing design responses associated with each building. A summary description of each tower sees:
A clean and sophisticated feminine form that echoes the corner of the existing ‘Melford Motors’ building. The existing façade, which will be retained, has a curved and angular corner that is projected and set back to give the impression of a true extension of the heritage building.
Soft curtain walls will allow the tower to reflect its context and compliment the Heritage building below.SJB Architects, Town planning presentation
With three street frontages including 185 metres to Elizabeth Street and a site area in excess of 7,00sqm, the Inner City Toyota site lends itself to quite an extensive street level interface. Dual East West laneways will feature within 611-681 Elizabeth Street, connecting Elizabeth Street with O'Connell Street to the west.
All frontages are split between retail and residential activation, with only the existing Melford Motors building to be left as is. Lower Ground will feature a public gym, bike park, 589sqm supermarket, dual showrooms (likely for Toyota Australia) and four tenancies ranging between 81-149sqm.
Ground floor encompassing the northern portion of the site (owing to the site gradient) will see limited dwellings fronting O'Connell Street while a further seven tenancies of between 51-300sqm are located either side of an additional laneway/plaza.
611-681 Elizabeth Street's ground level plane looks particularly well resolved with masses of active frontage and solid site permeability. Should the project be realised it would bring a motherload of street level activity to the otherwise underutilised area on the CBD's doorstep.
The student living towers follow a well worm path in Melbourne of design repetition both internally and externally for tertiary accommodation, but what will be made of the 626 studio dwellings with only 24sqm of living space. As the current debate over apartment standards and sizes continues, are student living spaces simply disregarded as 'transient' dwellings and not included within the Better Apartments debate?
Quite simply student dwellings are altogether different to residential apartments, but nonetheless it will be interesting to read the wider media commentary to this planning application if and when it gains approval.