A City of Melbourne amendment C262 case study

Following on from Craig Yelland’s article, I thought it might be worth looking at the application of amendment C262’s new planning controls on a block within the city.

This largely came about of a request from forum regular John Proctor, who suggested a study of:

…the block bordered by Little La Trobe, La Trobe, Swanston, Elizabeth, do a comparison of the approved towers and what the 24:1 plot ratio would allow.

That block has 5/6 approved towers including Aurora - [it] would be quite interesting to see that sort of comparison.

I have increased the study area slightly to extend a block further to A’Beckett Street, to allow for the inclusion of 398 Elizabeth Street (Empire) and A’Beckett Tower. This is illustrated in the diagram below. Melbourne Central has been included as a point of reference and for scale.

Existing conditions 2015. © Urban Melbourne

The diagram highlights that the Elenberg Fraser designed A’Beckett Tower is currently the tallest on the two blocks, weighing in at 103 metres. The tower is built out to three boundaries with a minor setback from A’Beckett Street on a 900sqm site.

Now let’s take a look at the same study area with all approved towers highlighted.

Approved towers. © Urban Melbourne

This diagram illustrates a substantial change in scale and density for the block with six additional towers over 100 metres in height, the tallest of which supersedes Melbourne Central’s 211 metres:

  • Scape Melbourne: 393 Swanston Street, 42-storeys / 137.6 metres (Site Area: 780sqm)
  • 389 Swanston Street: 33-storeys / 121.5 metres (Site Area: 615sqm)
  • Aurora Melbourne Central: 224 LaTrobe Street, 88-storeys / 267.15 metres (Site Area: 3,197sqm)
  • Scape: 212-222 LaTrobe Street and 17-25 Little LaTrobe Street, 39-storeys / ~120 metres and 54-storeys / ~ 164 metres (Site Area: 942sqm)
  • Empire: 398 Elizabeth Street, 55-storeys / 177 metres

What would those same two blocks look like if we applied the setback and height controls of amendment C262 and the floor area ratio (FAR) of 24:1?

With amendment C262 restrictions applied. © Urban Melbourne

It is worth noting this is a very high level study that does not delve into apartment layouts etc or architectural form and articulation, these are merely building envelopes to provide an idea of what the implications of amendment C262 are. The modelling was done on the basis that all the sites had 40 metre high podiums with any tower element(s) set back from the podiums.

The transparent pink building envelopes indicate it might be possible to accommodate a tower above the podium as far as FAR is concerned: five metre setbacks have been applied with overall heights (podium and tower) capped at 100 metres. The proportions of the floorplate make it difficult but with some innovative design (refer to Phoenix and Collins House) it would be possible to develop or in the case of the Scape dual site, a tower bridging across both sites.

Site consolidation might be necessary to achieve setbacks plus FAR requirements, in addition to producing a feasible scheme. As such, a site like 224 LaTrobe Street which covers 3,200sqm could still accommodate a 81-storey tower but with a typical tower floor plate of 500sqm; significantly less than that of Aurora.

To finish off is a comparative study of approvals overlaid with the amendment C262 masses.

A comparison of the approved towers and C262 controls. © Urban Melbourne

I will leave it to you to decide which is the better outcome for Melbourne.


Bilby's picture

Wow. Stick a fork in that block - it's done.

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3000's picture

What a trainwreck. Either way we get blocks pushed to the boundries and outcomes that aim to pack as much into a block as possible.

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Craig Yelland's picture

Great piece Laurence.

I agree that the pink sites are unlikely to be developed: The building at 212 La Trobe would need to straddle a street so that wont happen. The one on the A'Beckett st site is too skinny. The building on Swanston St has a chance but needs to combine sites.

So this leaves two or three viable development sites in an entire city block. Multiply that over the city and have a look at what it does to the supply of apartments.

Supply goes down. Demand goes up. Apartments become unaffordable.

Director of Plus Architecture

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Bilby's picture

So, your conclusion, Craig, is that, regardless of what happens in the next few years, unaffordable apartments are inevitable in the longer term, since supply will either be constricted through policy, or developable sites being used up.

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Rohan Storey's picture

The second one does look more sensible, with the tower well spaced (though is it s bit exaggerated, since they only have to be 10m apart ?). The first one looks scary, and not because its dense, but theres obviously going to be a lot of apartments at lower levels basically looking at other towers not far away, where hardly any daylight, let alone direct sunlight, will ever reach. I pity anyone who has to live in Aurora units within the inset on the east side in the lower half - they will be looking only into a very dim not very big lightwell. Apartment standards might eliminate this sort of crowding too.

Sad to think that in the future much of this block of LaTrobe Street will be in deep shadow most of the year - even the Melb Central dome will not get any winter sun !

Its also worth remembering that the 24:1 is discretionary, so taller / wider towers than those shown may well get permits. And that the market being what it is, if site consolidation is required, then its more likely to happen, rather than being an impediment. There's plenty happening already.

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

^The Aurora site has increased setbacks to illustrate that a similar height can be achieved bit would require a much smaller floor plate to achieve height and sit within the 24:1 FAR.

There's obviously a number of permutations possible for that site.

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Rohan Storey's picture

OK, that makes sense, I was wondering.

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