If Rob Adams were to nominate a prime example for his Transforming Australian Cities blueprint which was presented over the 2009-2010 period, I wonder if Essendon would be the most appropriate locale today? Advocating medium density housing along major transport corridors, with tram lines to the fore, the document was designed to address the pending population squeeze while also increasing patronage on public transport.
Much discussion ensued post the document's release, with Ivan Rijavec writing an article for Urban Melbourne touching upon the problems of containing development purely along transport corridors. While differing opinions on the document were prevalent, Essendon would surely be the closest fit to what was envisaged five years ago.
With the bulk of the suburb's development occurring in the past five years, the mixed-use nature of Essendon has seen commercial, hotel/serviced apartment, residential and low-cost housing uses delivered; all within metres of rail, tram and bus services.
If general development activity along Mt Alexander Road and Keilor Road is any indicator, the area is well and truly doing its bit to accommodate an increasing population in line with the principles of Transforming Australian Cities. Seen below are a selection of current projects in the area ranging from planning assessment to under construction.
Currently Mt Alexander Road, Keilor Road and the immediate surrounds sees six major apartment developments under construction, with Accord Property Group's Alexa at 1048 Mt Alexander Road currently at site demolition.
Two fresh proposals are looking to reinforce the successes of Essendon while also pushing the boundaries for their respective developers.
First up is Russendon Holdings Pty Ltd seeking approval of a ten level apartment complex directly opposite Essendon Station; with an address of 13-21 Russell Street it would be the tallest building in the suburb if approved. Within the Essendon Junction Activity Centre, the apartment building designed by Plus Architecture would carry 99 dwellings over a 1,196sqm site.
At 34.5 metres in height the design features a 296sqm commercial tenancy at ground level in addition to a 197sqm communal garden while a 192sqm rooftop garden will crown the development.
More ambitious in terms of apartment numbers is established developer Blue Earth Group's proposal for 144-160 Keilor Road. Nearby to the developer's previous project on Keilor Road and with Tram 59 at its doorstep, the proposed six level complex designed by CHT Architects is looking to add 260 dwellings over a sizeable 5,306sqm site.
To be delivered over two stages, the project would consist of two distinctive buildings finished externally in either cream or black, located above a 296 basement car park. The large site has allowed CHT Architects to deliver three separate northern-facing communal courtyards totalling 829.5sqm while five retail tenancies will front Keilor Road, further enhancing an emerging retail strip found at the base of the numerous higher-density developments completed along Keilor Road during recent years.
The stretch of land bookended by Essendon Station and the Keilor Road Activity Centre has certainly seen its fair share of development in recent years, much in line with Rob Adams' Transforming Australian Cities model. With an abundance of development sites along the roughly three kilometre stretch which fronts multiple modes of transport, higher-density development along the corridor is no longer a trend but now the norm.