Blue Sky's ambitious student accommodation project: 42-50 La Trobe Street

Brisbane-based asset manager Blue Sky is behind a proposed tower that would see near on 800 additional student beds added to the Melbourne sector. Lodged with DELWP only last week, the proposal calls for a 47 level bronze tower, replacing dual historic buildings onsite in the process.

Both existing structures are not subject to heritage controls and are slated for demolition.

Blue Sky's expected entry into the Melbourne student housing market comes at a time when a host of other developers are looking to supply thousands of additional beds to cater for strong demand. Scape Student Living alone is looking to deliver in excess of 2,000 student beds nearby on the intersection of La Trobe and Swanston.

Application summary

Rendered perspective of 42-50 La Trobe Street. Image courtesy Hayball
  • Application lodged: October 2015
  • Site area: 1,321sqm
  • Proposed 47 level tower @ approximately 150 metres
  • Plot ratio of 1:20
  • Total student beds: 793
  • 65% Studio, 13% 2 bed shared, 22% 5 bed cluster rooms
  • 0 car parks and 159 bicycle spaces
  • 1,004sqm internal communal space
  • Total GFA: 26,700sqm

A snake skin exterior

Facade study as prepared by Hayball

42-50 La Trobe Street is set to be clad in bronze metallic modules which overlap, creating an exterior that architects Hayball believe mimics that of a snake skin. The offset panels when viewed in totality will appear to change, with Hayball describing the result as a "subtle shimmer in contrast to the flush, silver-green glazed facade of Trillium" which is currently under construction and abuts the subject site.

At 47 levels the tower ranks as the tallest proposal in this pocket of the CBD, with only the existing 56 levels of Abode 318 taller. Directly opposite 42-50 La Trobe Street, Melbourne developer VIMG recently gained approval via VCAT for a 44 level residential tower at 141 La Trobe Street,.

A new public lane

The through link from La Trobe Street to Bell Place. Image courtesy Hayball

The proposal outlined within this report is intended to create an invitation to occupy. The ground plane will be a verdant, attractive and high quality landscape for the amenity of the users of the city.

The project creates a transition between La Trobe Street and Mackenzie Street by providing a fine grain lane space. The invitation to enter the lane and to linger is provided by a richly textured timber wall. The wall allows intriguing crevices for the purpose of seating, planting, lighting and exhibition.

The contrast between existing blue stone paving and the proposed natural timber and planting creates an ambient glow and feeling of intimacy within the bustling city environment.

Haybal: Urban Context Report

Communal spaces to the fore

Images of the communal spaces within the proposed development. Image courtesy Hayball

42-50 La Trobe Street is flush with communal areas, all of which hold prominent positions within the proposal. In addition to the quintessential ‘Melbourne Laneway’ public space incorporated into the project, further communal areas are located at levels 1, 12-13, 36-37 and at the roof line.

Level 1 provides a reading room perched above the laneway in additional to a communal kitchen and function area. The double height void of levels 12 and 13 sees an informal area with lounges, cinema and videogame spaces in addition to an external terrace.

Level 36 and 37 are considered as a collaborative space, encapsulating hot-desks, break-out spaces and study coves while the roof level provides students with indoor/outdoor facilities for exercise and socialising.

Development team

  • Developer: La Trobe Street Property Trust (Blue Sky Funds)
  • Architect: Hayball
  • Planning: Urbis
  • Traffic and Transport: TTM Consulting PTY LTD
  • Waste Management: Leigh Design
  • Wind and Acoustic: Vipac
  • ESD and Building Services: Simpson Kotzman
  • Structural Engineer: McVeigh
  • Building Surveyor: Mckenzie Group
  • Landscape: Oculus
  • Facade Engineer: Inhabit


Nicholas Harrison's picture

48 levels 144.87m high.

This site is not affected by the new CBD building controls.

The City of Melbourne decided not to apply a heritage overlay to the buildings on the site in 2012.

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Adam Ford's picture

Yes. That was hardly C of M's finest hour.

Just look at this dross. Get these riff raff off our streets ....

The one on the left's been polluting the lanscape since 1862 no less.

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Bilby's picture

Melbourne now ranks behind Sydney in terms of heritage protections - soon the CBD will be gutted of all but a few "A" grade historic structures. And they stand to be turned into mere facades under the current planning framework. The litany of demolitions of high quality Victorian buildings is accelerating - we haven't seen anything like this since the 1960s in Melbourne. We are in the midst of an urban emergency that will engender deep regret in the community for decades to come. Once the dust settles, history will judge the decade of destruction to 2015, with its devaluing of Melbourne's remaining low-rise 19th and early 20th century commercial building stock very harshly indeed. Taken as a whole, the collected works of 19th century Melbourne now currently being obliterated are the Federal Coffee Palace of the early 2010s.

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Bilby's picture

All the above were demolished over the last few years, or approved for demolition shortly (or, in the case of the Robb's Building Annexe, demolished just a few days ago) - and they represent just a small sample of our fast accumulating losses.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

There really is no need to be melodramatic, it just makes it easier for people to dismiss your arguments.

To say that the number and quality of heritage buildings demolished over the past ten years is anything like the scale and significance of demolition that occurred between 1970-1980 is ridiculous.

But there are still Too many buildings and precincts in the CBD still do not adequate have heritage protections

COM has spent a huge amount of time and resources trying to get mandatory height controls and plot ratios introduced in the CBD. This money and resources that would have been better spent on a comprehensive heritage study of the CBD, not just a review of studies done 20-30 years ago.

Heritage is always evolving and heritage controls should be reviewed very 10 years or so.

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Bilby's picture

It would be "ridiculous" if the losses depicted above were the extent of it. Unfortunately, they are the tip of the iceberg - literally. Many dozens of Melbourne's best heritage buildings have been gutted, facaded or the majority of their built fabric demolished in the same time period. It would take many hours to catalogue the losses in a post here. We certainly are living through a period of heritage damage on the scale of the '60s and '70s - it's just that much of it is invisible to the general public.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

While Bilby is being a bit overblown in comparing now to the destruction in the 1970s, he does make a fairly valid point there. we aren't exactly losing massive landmarks everyone will notice, but there is a steady rate of demolition that adds up overall to quite a loss, both in the CBD (buildings he mentions + entire post office / department store precinct on Lt Bourke) as well as interiors and other elements lost for blandness, not to mention many adaptive-reusable placed across the inner city simply knocked down,

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Agreed. But while we remember the landmarks that were lost after WWII until the early 80's at the same time there were hundreds of less significant buildings that were also demolished without anybody noticing. The scale and significance of what was lost during that time was an order of magnitude greater.

There are still well known gaps in the heritage system that need to be addressed such as outdated assessments, building interiors, heritage precincts in the CBD and post WWII buildings.

The COM knows what needs to be done but are not giving it the priority it deserves.

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Bilby's picture

Yes, indeed - its time for CofM to take real action here if they are serious about urban amenity for a the coming hundreds of thousands - or even millions - of new residents. Notice, though, that I said the current wave of demolitions and facading of buildings is the Federal Coffee Palace of our time. Heritage protection now has to be relative to what we have left standing, not what we have already lost. In that context, the losses the city is now experiencing, including the removal of so much built fabric from so-called "restorations" of heritage buildings, such as the facades left standing after the near total demolitions undertaken for the Myer / Emporium complex, represent a loss on a scale not incomparable with what was happening in the '60s and '70s. Much of the heritage Melbourne has retained is in the form of smaller commercial buildings, laneway buildings, rear building profiles and remnant commercial interiors. The last ten years have seen a steady - and at times, dramatic - erosion of this built fabric. Now that so much is gone, I think it is clear that the damage done has been both extensive and permanent. We can but hope that the Palace Theatre will be one of the exceptions, when the Minister finally intervenes in this matter, and the building gets the restoration it deserves. As for the rest of the CBD - I 100% stand by my claim: we are in the midst of a heritage emergency. Now is the time to act before real regret sets in for the residents of Melbourne.

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theboynoodle's picture

I am a newcomer to Melbourne, having moved from the UK at the start of this year. So I only know the city, and it's heritage element, as it is now.

There is a great deal of historical/heritage character in the suburbs. It's a character that exists as entire streets and blocks, not individual buildings, and it's wonderful.

The CBD has no such character, and never will have. I don't think it could ever have been possible to preserve a coherent heritage feel within such a tightly constrained grid. European cities that have preserved historical character in their business and commercial districts do so by having those districts spread far wider - to the extent that they don't really have CBD's at all... good luck getting someone to tell you where the centre of London is.

When you've got to the point where your centre has no overriding heritage identity (or, alternatively, where one decides that the identity is principally a modern one) then the value of residual older buildings is diminished. Instead of being part of a coherent identity (like the heritage buildings from the golden ages of London or Paris) they become burdens on everything around them.

Where a heritage building stands as one with unique significance or stature then adds to the texture of the city. Of course the many ages of the Melbourne CBD should be preserved to some degree. But that doesn't mean that each and every 100 year old building that is demolished should be mourned. If the building was never significant in it's own right (as determined by the view of the ordinary people of Melbourne) then it's work is now done and we should bid it a happy farewell.

Melbourne's heritage character exists in Richmond and Fitzroy (et al). Not the CBD. The CBD is a modern, dense, tall district. It has beautiful old buildings that stand proudly and speak to the history of the city. nobody is going to knock down the state library, the churches, or Flinders Street Station. But those little runs of two or three remaining old buildings between a couple of towers aren't all that special.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

depends what you mean by 'overridding heritage' , sure Melbourne doesn't have a uniform heritage character like Paris, but then it never had that, and heritage as a lived experience is hardly just about 'uniformality in mass' it's the collection of eclectic buildings, and precincts of diverse style and character around Guildford Lane, Elizabeth Street, Hardware lane ,Bourke Hill, Collins st etc... that give melbourne it's heritage.
The thing is also that older buildings, even if not outstanding architecturally have social significance, and also economic signifiance if you look at the way Melbourne's laneways, hospitality and creative industries have utilised them.

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Bilby's picture

Theboynoodle, "I am a newcomer to Melbourne, having moved from the UK at the start of this year. " So, please have some respect for the place you have moved to and refrain from comment on our unique heritage until you have become more educated about it. Your comments are potentially damaging to the city and community in which you are now living.

Melbourne's urban heritage and history is nothing remotely like London's or even Paris, and cannot be evaluated with respect to a European context. Melbourne was a colony, and as such, its colonial heritage and urban development is markedly different from the european experience. We grew up in a short time as a city from the height of the Industrial Revolution, so our settlement pattern bares no resemblance to the villages of London, for example. We had no feudal era, we had no period of "enclosure" or immigration from rural peasant communities to the cities for work.

Our civic institutions were democratic and more open in many ways from an early date in our settlement, so we have no remnants of a monarchical past. In Melbourne, the land boom and the gold rush in large part determined our architectural and planning heritage, accompanied by the unique conditions associated with colonisation, the influence of the Enlightenment and visionary figures like Russell and Hoddle. The city was also built on land speculation, so many of our buildings were grander and more prominent than one might expect for such a far flung colony. And later, our industrial development was marked by the necessity of homegrown production, given the distance from overseas markets, hence our heritage is often more utilitarian in nature than what might be considered to have value in Europe.

Your comments are frankly more in line with the views of Melburnians of the '50s and '60s - still pining for the grand vision of heritage in the "mother country" that for many of them, existed only in the imagination. Melbourne has never been London, it's unique heritage lies in what many might consider the 'ordinary', utilitarian and humble back lanes, industrial precincts and small and disconnected commercial rows that remain - in other words, exactly the historic relics of the city that you attempt to denigrate above.

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theboynoodle's picture

@ Bilby

I don't think that offering up thoughts for comment or challenge should ever be called 'damaging'.

You misinterpret what I said with regards to European cities. Perhaps I said it badly, but I was trying to explicitly say that Melbourne is not like them. Or, rather, the CBD is not like them. Once you hit the inner suburbs there is much to compare in terms of that strong and unified heritage - even though the age and look are very different.

I have not denigrated anything. I was talking explicitly about the CBD, and my view (which anyone is free to disagree with) that it does not have an overriding heritage character, in the sense that the word 'heritage' tends to be used around here (that is to say that when someone talks about a heritage building, they tend to be talking about an old one).

Of course the CBD has character. From what I see that lies in it's diversity and texture. I articulated that badly. And I know that such diversity and texture dies if buildings from the various ages of the city are destroyed. It's just that this doesn't mean that anything built before 1920 is inherently valuable.

I lived most of my adult life in Nottingham, a provincial English city with medieval roots. The 50's and 60's were bad times for many English cities. What the Nazi's didn't bomb, the planners bulldozed. Some cities were, from a heritage perspective, almost entirely razed. Nottingham was only half done (for some reason) and in the long-term I think that was a good thing. Many of the most interesting parts of the city are there because of that juxtaposition of the very old and the very concrete. It might not be a postcard-friendly as those cities that were never touched by the planners pens, but it's beautiful to me because it tells a story. Where else can you walk between a brutalist carpark and a pub that was carved into a cave in 1189AD? Melbourne's CBD seems similar (without the 12th century bits etc) - but a thousand times more, because it has come so far in such a short time.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm arguing back. I'm not. I really appreciated your comments.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

Both in the UK and in Australia, heritage is always being re-defined, and means many things to many people, and isn't inherently about historicity, nor is every single pre-war building inherently worth protecting agreed, though the social and economic benfiits of having older, lower rent character places can't be underestimated for a post-industrial city like Melbourne, hence the listing both her and in the UK of many post-war and even post-modern places of significance.

I think the lack of a clear city wide identity is Melbourne's heritage strength, as you say, it's about a mixture of styles, ages, socio-economic values and conditions etc.. hence the various heritage precincts in the CBD covering everything from the High end of Collins St to former slum districts.

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Bilby's picture

Theboynoodle, I appreciate your comments - thanks for the clarification. The last decade has been a major battleground for heritage and planning in Melbourne, but there has been a tradition of fighting hard for our heritage in the inner city since the '70s, hence the defensive response. We owe the activists of the '70s a major debt - small groups of dedicated individuals effectively saved South Melbourne, Fitzroy and Carlton from the bulldozer. The best parts of inner Melbourne that you identify are there because of the activists. Now it's the turn of a new generation to take up that urban responsibility - or at least that's how I feel about it. Heritage in 21st century cities is not a luxury or street decor for the middle class, it is part of the main game when it comes to urban amenity for residents and businesses. So thanks for your words, and welcome to Melbourne!

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