What's in a podium? 9-27 Downie Street, Melbourne

A development site with a long and varied history is back in focus as an application for a substantial residential tower continues to go through the necessary planning channels. 9-27 Downie Street with the south west corner of Melbourne's CBD is the site in question, intermittently finding itself in and out of the news over the past decade.

Once a site held by Key Securities Investments Group Pty Ltd, 9-27 Downie Street was to be rebirthed during 2002 as The Archer with 200 apartments within an Edgard Pirrotta-designed 35 level tower. Key Securities Investments Group Pty Ltd's subsequent demise laid low any plans for redevelopment of the site in the medium term.

With the site changing hands once more during 2014, developer Einwood Pty Ltd wasted little time in advancing plans for a 52 storey building onsite, lodging documents with the then DTPLI during November 2014. After receiving feedback identifying various design issues with the initial proposal, a revised scheme of some 38 levels was put forward during April 2015.

With the revised application in hand, Melbourne City Council has recently had its say on the proposal, deeming certain aspects of it, and particularly the lack of setbacks to Downie Street, unacceptable.

9-27 Downie Street, Melbourne application summary

Differing views of the proposal's lower levels. Image courtesy Peddle Thorp
  • Demolition of the existing structure over the 1,188sqm site
  • Construction of a 38 level apartment tower at 118.8 metres in height
  • 335 apartments split between 150 x 1BR and 185 x 2BR dwellings
  • Four retail tenancies to Downie Street, each with an area of 40-42sqm
  • Level 34 communal area of 137.9sqm
  • Proposal GFA: 27,893sqm
  • Podium capacity for 101 vehicles and 139 bicycle spaces
  • Nominal project value: $50 million

Form and materials

East elevation. Image courtesy Peddle Thorp

Given the tight nature of the site the proposal seeks to maximise its utilisation of available space. Over levels 2-7 the building extends as much as 950mm over Downie Street, constituting a podium of sorts with an overall height of 27 metres.

According to the Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee, setbacks to other boundaries include a minimum five metres over levels 9-33 from the south boundary, minimum five metres from the west boundary and zero to the northern site boundary.

Externally Peddle Thorp have employed a materials schedule that could be considered their signature of sorts. Tones of blue and black with white and precast horizontal elements are prevalent, with timber applied to the lower levels.

Melbourne City council have their say

As taken from the Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee, recommending that the proposal be rejected:

The combination of podium level balconies overhanging Downie Street and minimal/zero setbacks from Downie Street at the tower levels will result in a building which will overwhelm the pedestrian, be visually intrusive and dominant from the public realm and create a canyon-like effect in Downie Street.

Tower setbacks from the south boundary represent an inadequate response to the potential for further development of the land to the south. The proposal also raises issues relating to the amenity of a number of bedrooms including west-facing saddle-back bedrooms which will experience relatively poor daylight and ventilation compared to that which would be provided by conventional windows.

The proposed building will overshadow Batman Park at 1 pm and 2 pm on 22 June, contrary to Clause 22.02 of the Melbourne Planning Scheme. 7. The changes to the development required to render it consistent with requirements of the Melbourne Planning Scheme are considered so significant that they cannot be addressed by conditions.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee, 7 July 2015

The final decision will rest with DELWP and Planning Minister Richard Wynne. Interestingly enough Downie Street maintains two examples of towers sans podiums; the under construction 560 Flinders Street and the completed Eifel mixed-use tower at 8 Downie Street. Whether the precedence is maintained or broken with 9-27 Downie Street remains to be seen.

9-27 Downie Street, Melbourne development team

  • Developer: Einwood Pty Ltd
  • Architect: Peddle Thorp
  • Planning: proUrban

1 comment

Bilby's picture

What ... no developer contributions for the free airspace being taken from council / the public? If that cantilever was over a neighbouring property, the owner would surely demand payment for it. Why not here?

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