City of Melbourne's Future (Planning) Committee convened last week to consider the merits of the tri-tower residential development that forms part of developer Lend Lease's $1.9 billion Melbourne Quarter development fronting Collins Street. The Committee resolved to provide conditional support for the Fender Katsalidis-designed towers, with final approval from Planning Minister Richard Wynne likely to follow as the development does not overshadow Southbank and has its own planning controls in place.
This follows the Minister's approval of the first stage of Melbourne Quarter last month which features a commercial building of 25,000sqm and a 2,000sqm sky park to be built above Collins Street. Lend Lease secured engineering firm Arup for the building known as One Melbourne Quarter.
The proposal for the Flinders Street neighbourhood comprises two residential towers of 136 metres known as R1 and R2 and a shorter 58m building adjacent to the Batman’s Garden park. While Council are generally supportive of the height and form of the towers, which are in keeping with the approved development plan, there is a degree of concern that a uniform and singular visual expression will result in a greater visual dominance and mass on the skyline.
While the general bulk, height, setbacks and scale of the proposed buildings are supported, there is concern about the uniform materials, in particular to R1 and R2. To limit the visual dominance of the two towers it is recommended that there be a greater differentiation between R1 and R2 through a combination of variations in height, podium / tower distinction, diversity of materials and varied upper level setbacksFuture Melbourne Committee Report
As per the recommendations of the report a variation in height and facade articulation and materiality looks to be a likely outcome. Further to this the applicants have been asked to provide additional 3D renders and 1:50 detailed elevations for the lower sections of the towers to ensure that the buildings are designed with an active and engaging interface with the public realm.
The towers feature a diverse mix of housing options with a total of 595 x 1 bedroom, 1014 x 2 bedroom, 27 x 3 bedroom apartments and 6 x studio apartments. Despite this, council have also raised concerns about the layouts of some apartments and the quality of amenity to them, namely borrowed light to the certain studio apartments and ‘saddlebag’ bedrooms.
Meanwhile, rumours abound that Lend Lease are also in negotiations with hotel operator W Hotels for the Melbourne Quarter site.
Should a hotel eventuate within Melbourne Quarter it would also add further diversity to the precinct. Melbourne Quarter would be the third (known) site investigated by W Hotels after previously considering the Savoy site at 134-160 Spencer Street and the failed development on the site of the Palace Theatre.
Construction on the Melbourne Quarter development is expected to begin in earnest later this year, beginning with One Melbourne Quarter and the Skypark. The next stage, construction of C2 / Two Melbourne Quarter, the North-South Link and the City Room, are expected to be lodged soon following pre-application meetings.
Melbourne Quarter's emergence follows on from Lend Lease's successful residential cluster further west along Collins Street. 888 Collins Street is the area's tallest building and has seen its final facade elements added whilst the sizeable 839-889 Collins Street has made rapid progress dureing the early stages of 2016.
Combined these two projects contain in excess of 1,300 apartments, with Melbourne Quarter likely to yield another 1,600 dwellings.