Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

Urban Melbourne can reveal Singaporean firm Figtree Holdings Limited's proposal for what was formerly the Duke of Kent hotel on La Trobe Street. Better known as a builder of commercial and industrial facilities throughout east Asia, the group will press into Melbourne's high-rise residential sector via its subsidiary Figtree La Trobe Pty Ltd.

Securing the Duke of Kent for $14.08 million during 2014, Figtree subsequently added the adjoining 301-303 La Trobe Street in order to amalgamate both sites in the hope of gaining approval for a 213 metre residential tower.

Responsible for the preliminary development scheme devised for the Duke of Kent's sales campaign, DKO Architecture were also engaged in order to conceive the scheme for approval, with the application currently before the State Government. If successfully approved, 293-303 La Trobe Street would see 370 apartments delivered, consisting of one, two and three bedroom dwellings.

293-303 La Trobe Street application summary

Facing demolition. Image courtesy DKO Architecture
  • Planning application lodged April 2015
  • Site area: 667sqm with the Duke of Kent to be demolished
  • 66 level tower at 213m above ground (OLS ceiling)
  • Total GFA sought: 34,353sqm
  • ​370 apartments: 1/2/3 bedroom options
  • Podium parking for 61 vehicles and basement allowances for 168 bicycles
  • 50.2sqm of ground floor retail tenancy space
  • Level 1 amenities area and level 13/44 communal spaces

Ground level greatness?

DKO Architecture have employed a visually unique and highly interesting ground level interface to the site's three frontages, namely La Trobe Street, Sutherland Street and Flanigan Lane. To avoid creating a 'choke point' of sorts by building to the site's boundaries, the lower levels has been arched inwards so as to improve the pedestrian experience to both Sutherland Street and Flanigan Lane.

Framed by perforated golden metallic screens, a new plaza to the eastern perimeter will open up Sutherland Street in particular while also allowing for enhanced solar penetration.

According to the town planning report, the proposed urban realm will not only allow for increased pedestrian movement north and south along Sutherland Street, but also create a space where pedestrians can relax and congregate. Landscape consultancy T.C.L have envisaged bluestone public seating and Bower Vines climbing the metallic screens as a means of softening the space.

Street level interface. Image courtesy DKO Architecture

Tight site, tight fit

The tower is architectural resolved in a cylindrical shape with convex ends east and west which make a tower form unique to Melbourne. The use of dark blue glazing to the façade, interspersed with gold-colour glass, complements the perforated gold metal of the ground level plaza to create a building that will be an iconic building within the CBD.

The proposed built form has been sensitively designed to offer improved public amenity at ground level and excellent internal amenity, while also responding to the surrounding built (existing and approved / under construction).

Urbis, town planning report

The tight nature of the site has led to minimal setbacks to La Trobe Street and Flanigan Lane, although there is precedence in the area with current towers under construction also maintaining minor setbacks to all frontages. The design's intended setback to La Trobe Street ranges between 0 and 2.3 metres over levels 14 to 43, while the west boundary is setback between 4 and 5.57 metres in anticipation of a possible redevelopment of the adjoining property into the future.

Beyond level 44 the tower's form bulges, resulting in decreased east and west setbacks. It is noted within the planning documents that although 293-303 La Trobe Street's setbacks are minimal, recent projects in the area such as Victoria One and Brady Group's completed Melbourne Star & Sky employ little if any setbacks.

The tall and the short of it

As per many other pockets of inner Melbourne, the southern footpath of La Trobe Street between Elizabeth Street and Queen Street is in the grips of mass development with five residential towers at various stages of the development process. Eporo Tower, La Trobe Tower and The Carlson are all under construction, with another 48 level residential development approved atop the Celtic Club.

The above projects border the Guildford Lane Heritage Precinct which is a prime example of early twentieth century low-rise industrial and warehousing buildings, and quite a unique aspect of Melbourne's CBD. With limited blocks fronting La Trobe Street available for development, 293-303 La Trobe Street shapes as one of the last sizeable residential towers that will front both La Trobe Street and the heritage precinct.

Only in the last year has the scale of La Trobe Street as depicted below begun to change immensely; it remains to be seen how Figtree's proposal along with the aforementioned towers slot into the streetscape and what effect, if any, they have upon the adjoining Guildford Lane Heritage Precinct.

The Duke of Kent in times gone by. Image courtesy

293-303 La Trobe Street development team

  • Developer: Figtree La Trobe Pty Ltd
  • Architect: DKO Architecture
  • Town Planner: Urbis
  • Structural: Webber Design
  • Services & ESD: ADP Consulting
  • Building Surveyor: SW Partners
  • Traffic: GTA Consultants
  • Waste: Leigh Design
  • Land Surveyor: Bosco Johnson
  • Wind: MEL Consultants
  • Landscape Consultant: T.C.L


Adam Ford's picture

So we just mention in passing the actual demolition of heritage buildings, yet spend all this time wondering about how it will relate to Guildford Lane? There is no reading of this proposal where it will do anything other than dominate and ruin the heritage precinct.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

The design response fails to comprehend what is special about the Guilford Lane precinct and the importance of this site as one of the entrances to the precinct.

One of the characteristics of this precinct that makes it special is that the laneways are very narrow and maze like in contrast to the very wide and orderly streets of the Hoddle Grid. This is one of the reasons why the lanes of Melbourne have become so beloved by residents and tourists alike.

Making these laneways significantly wider, particularly where they interface with the wider streets of the hoddle grid, will not improve the pedestrian experience but will do the exact opposite.

There is no reason why the three storey corner section of the hotel could not be retained and the tower constructed above. The demolition of the rear section of the hotel would provide ample opportunity for widening the lane by a couple of metres and the inclusion of an active frontage and some outdoor seating adjacent to the lane way while retaining an intimate pedestrian experience.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

Nicholas says it all perfectly.
Should also note, Guildford lane is not a heritage precinct, and not a single building in the lane is actually protected. Duke of Kent would have been a natural inclusion in a precinct protecting the lane

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urban eyes's picture

Great building but it belongs elsewhere e.g. Fishermens bend.
This has gone straight to the minister. If you have an objection call this number: 9208-3333, ref TPM2015NO11.

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Bilby's picture

Thanks for providing that note, Urban Eyes. This proposal is a dog. Loss of a whole heritage streetscape, impact on the (unprotected) Guildford Lane historic precinct and loss of the fully intact and very rare Duke of Kent hotel. Melbourne deserves better.

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