51-65 Clarke Street shapes as a Southbank tower with a twist

Approval is being sought for a mixed use Southbank skyscraper that will assume the form of a flower. Designed by Elenberg Fraser, 51-65 Clarke Street would surpass the 200 metre mark in a pocket of Southbank nestled alongside the West Gate Freeway.

Developer Newcity Group has also sought to add a unique feature to the project; a dedicated business and cultural exchange centre atop the tower that would seek to strengthen ties between Melbourne and southern China's economic powerhouse city of Guangzhou.

Documents within the planning application also indicate that the project would create thousands of construction jobs over the life of the project and 140 ongoing jobs linked to the hotel element within the tower.

The plans for 51-65 Clarke Street follows on from the site's successful sale during 2014, where CBRE City Sales were able to secure the vendor $30.4 million for the tri-fronted development plot.

51-65 Clarke Street planning application summary

51-65 Clarke Street as seen within the project Town Planning Report
  • Site area: 1,787 square metres
  • Current use: three storey commercial building
  • Proposed 73 level tower at 245.05 RL to top of architectural feature
  • 112 hotel suites
  • 512 apartments: 166 x 1BR, 318 x 2BR, 28 x 3BR
  • Business Hub: 1,042 square metres
  • Level 8 & 54 facilities and amenities
  • Retail and function centre: 1,541 square metres
  • 120 car parking spaces and 327 bicycle spaces

Newcity for an old relationship

Newcity Development (One) Pty Ltd is behind the proposal, one of many Chinese-backed developers that have descended upon Melbourne in recent years.

According to the application's Town Planning Report, "The Newcity Group and more relevantly Cao Zhiwei, the Chairman of ‘Newcity Group’ is a member of the political advisory body of Guangzhou. This development, and in particular the exchange hub is seen as a significant step in establishing a destination and beacon for commerce between Guangzhou and Melbourne."

Thus far the following businesses have been noted as providing support for the intended business and cultural exchange:

  • The People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality
  • Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Guangzhou Committee
  • Guangzhou Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries
  • Guangzhou University
  • Guangzhou Real Estate Association
  • Department of Culture Guangzhou Municipality
  • Guangzhou Women’s Federation

Seeking exemption

The site is subject to Design and Development Overlay Schedule 10 (DDO10), which was introduced into the Melbourne Planning Scheme during September 2015 as part of the broader C262 amendments implemented by Minister Wynne.

As initially submitted, the Elenberg Fraser design complied to podium height, street setback and tower setback requirements, although a plot ratio of 35:1 results. Above the discretionary desired plot ratio of 24:1, the development team has in turn requested a variation to allow the tower to proceed as planned.

It is worth noting that the development team sought and was granted an extension of time request for the submission during February 2016; what results from subsequent projects refinements remains to be seen.

Shaping Southbank

51-65 Clarke Street's form which is based upon the shape of a Bombax Ceiba Flower is the latest of a number of shapely Southbank talls to create headlines of late.

Last week it was widely reported that Crown Limited and Schiavello have formally submitted a proposal for their 1 Queensbridge Street tower. According to Fairfax, the tower would hold 306,666 of Gross Floor Area and maintain a plot ratio of 57:1.

54-56 Clarke Street markeying material. Image: CBRE City Sales

Also in the news is the flowing 54-56 Clarke Street project created by BKK Architects which has been placed on the market with planning approval in tow.

At 240 metres 54-56 Clarke Street shadows 51-65 Clarke Street for height, with both future towers opposite one another.

51-65 Clarke Street development team

  • Developer: Newcity Group (Newcity Development (One) Pty Ltd)
  • Architectural plans: Elenberg Fraser Architects
  • Urban Context Report: Elenberg Fraser Architects
  • Planning: Urbis
  • Traffic Engineering Assessment: One Mile Grid Traffic Consultants
  • Waste Management Plan: Wastech
  • Sustainability Management Plan: Norman Disney and Young
  • Economic Investment Impact Analysis: ShineWing
  • Landscape and Masterplan: Aspect Landscape Architects
  • Environmental Wind Assessment: MEL


SYmlb's picture

Would like to see some better renders of the facade and ground level before commenting further but it seems the goods so far.

At 240m+ I would hope this gets a decent finish to it, even in Southbank.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Guangzhou is a city with metropolitan population about the same as the population of Australia and a GDP almost as high as Singapore. Anything that contributes to Closer ties between Victoria and Guangzhou would definitely be of state significance.

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theboynoodle's picture

Do you think? Because all I saw there was PR claptrap aimed at increasing the site value by getting a regulatory exemption. How is a shiny tower going to provide any measurable benefits to the state from these supposedly closer ties? How will this tower and this 'cultural exchange centre' do so in a way that a smaller tower, or a 'cultural exchange centre' elsewhere won't?

The only way a new tower will make a difference to ties with Guangzhou is if it's used to house an additional 500 students from Guangzhou who will come here to study and build genuine and lasting connections between the two cities, and engage in meaningful cultural exchange by living, studying and working with the people of Melbourne. And if those students are coming they can live anywhere.

I would be amazed (and dismayed) if the minister granted an exemption on that basis.

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