GURNER's affinity with Yarra continues

Developer GURNER continues to rack up apartment projects within City of Yarra, with the latest an intended apartment development at 23-33 Johnston Street, Collingwood.

Although active across many of Melbourne's inner city suburbs, GURNER continues to cherry pick sites across City of Yarra, with the municipality a honey hole for the Prahran-based outfit. GURNER has also maintained its penchant for well-regarded architecture firms, utilising COX Architecture as the design lead for 23-33 Johnston Street.

COX Architecture joins the likes of Warren and Mahoney, Elenberg Fraser and Koichi Takada Architects as design outfits which have produced apartment schemes for the developer within City of Yarra. 

Johnston Street as is. Planning image: COX Architecture

Urban Melbourne's Project Database shows five active projects for GURNER within City of Yarra, headlined by 26-56 Queens Parade which has garnered considerable media attention in recent times.

GURNER's latest entrant at 23-33 Johnston Street encompasses four allotments over 1,873sqm. Located within the Johnston Street Activity Centre, 23-33 Johnston Street would overlook the adjoining Contemporary Arts Precinct which in times gone by, acted as a campus for education provider NMIT.

The recently submitted proposal seeks to replace an existing planning permit onsite for a six level student accommodation complex encompassing 189 student apartments.

Headline figures for the COX Architecture design sees a 12 level mixed use building comprising 154 apartments, dual ground floor food and drink retail outlets over 460sqm and car parking for 121 vehicles. 154 storage cages and 48 bikes are included, as is a landscaped roof garden on level 8.

23-33 Johnston Street. Planning image: COX Architecture

The proposal will also maintain a considerable portion of the original building's frontage to Johnston Street, with the tower's curved facade taking its design impetus from the nearby Keith Haring mural.

23-33 Johnston Street aside, 1-35 Wellington Street and the Spanish Club's redevelopment join 26-56 Queens Parade as projects that are at planning for the developer. Across these combined four projects currently at planning, roughly 570 apartments can be added to GURNER's pipeline. This number would have been far greater, but for the redesign of 26-56 Queens Parade which has seen the proposal lose as many as 120 apartments.

Other projects directly under the guidance of GURNER include 28 Stanley Street which is receiving its finishing touches and the freshly completed 107 Cambridge Street which has revamped part of the Foy & Gibson Precinct to include 90 new apartments.

107 Cambridge along with the original 26-56 Queens Parade. Image: Koichi Takada Architects


George D's picture

I wonder when we are going to see one bike space as the minimum per apartment?

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Aussie Steve's picture

Why does ANY of that Johnston Street facade need to be demolished?
That is outrageous?
It is in a Heritage Overlay for goodness sake!

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johnproctor's picture

totally agree Steve. I go past here regularly (live 500m away) and will probably comment on the planning permit to that effect.

As you can see below from Google Street View this is one single building with frontage to Johnston Street and they propose to demolish the eastern portion for carpark access (presumably).

Couple of nice little shops there (everyday coffee and the little bar that just got refurbed), the bike shop out the back down the laneway.

Also another example of a glossy glassy tower being plonked into what is a decidely non glass vibe area. (but thats architecture and change and stuff),144.9859167,3a,75y,225.93h,103.37t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sk9lzOrReEOTK_RvWM8x1TA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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3000's picture

Thanks for Street View. This is not a good outcome imo.
If you look at where the carpark entrance is you can see where they tried to "respond" to the existing built form but this is a thumbs down from me.
I feel like the people buildings these don't understand these areas. People enjoy the long, grungy shopping/lifestyle strips and (not always) low-rise character.
Also, I like the way the render shows what looks like a Ferrari leaving the carpark.

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Aussie Steve's picture

PS: I suspect VicRoads (and this time - thank god!) may object to the vehicle entry/exit being off a main road like Johnston Street, so they may have to relocate it (good!) to the laneway to the west.

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Bilby's picture

These architects have little respect for heritage, let alone good design sense when it comes to creating buildings that work in with unique heritage precincts like Melbourne's strip shopping areas - 288-298 Johnston Street, Abbotsford being a case in point:

... which is ironic, given their outrage at the demolition of what should have been the firm's most enduring public building in Sydney:

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Bilby's picture

In addition to the above comments, I'll also point out that the proposed carpark entrance not only ruins a very walkable and active section of Johnston Street, but would demolish an Individually Significant graded building under the Heritage Overlay! This is the highest level of protection under a local HO:

So, it's going to be one hell of an uphill battle if they are even contemplating this particular design on such an important heritage site.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

I have no issue with the tower, this section of Johnson Street has pretty robust streetscape but the demolition of part of the heritage buildings is completely unessercary, particularilty for a car park entrance.

If you can't provide reasonable car arpking access via the laneway then don't provide any parking sapces.

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theboynoodle's picture

I think the tower looks like it would be ok. It's not especially tall and it suggests a fairly earthy tone to it all. Setting that atop a retained/restored brick building ought to sit fairly comfortably. It's not the norm for the area, but I think it would add contrast rather than do damage.

Replacing an active heritage building with a massive car park entrance, however, is a different thing. I'm curious as to why they aren't proposing put the entry on the laneway when it seems so obvious as it avoids a heritage argument and avoids the loss of a commercial frontage.. albeit that I'm not sure how valuable such frontages are in that spot. Most of the action in that part of town is along Smith and Brunswick streets, less so along the horizontals.

I wonder if they just want to have something to give away if they need to make concessions. Does it work like that at all?

Also, re. George's point at the top, I wonder if the planners have looked at the adequacy of bike accommodation in existing developments with a view to having a policy on this. My building (not so far from the proposal and only a few years old) has insufficient bike storage, but we 'make do' by bolting them wherever there's space and/or cramming them into the designated areas so that we all get to solve complex puzzles each time we want to untangle a bike from the amorphous blob. It's not optimal.

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3000's picture

My current building also has awful bike space. To be fair, it was built when cars were still a priority.
As for the carpark entrance, terrible idea for its proposed placement.
This end is starting to get some small business in the area and I see this as a middle finger to that. Like you said, put it in the laneway or something.

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johnproctor's picture

one problem that will need to be overcome for vehicle access is that this site doesn't have alteranative street access.

They'll argue the laneway is too narrow for vehicle access to the site especially as I imagine the access would also provide for service vehicle access (rubbish and removalists).

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Bilby's picture

Theboynoodle - the section of Johnston St. between Hoddle and Smith Street is really starting to become a lively area now - the retail along there has changed massively over the past 5 years. It's worth going for a walk along there to have a look at all the new businesses appearing - even in the specific building we are talking about there are some great places.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

furthermore is there any heritage justfication for blandifyign and sandblasting the art deco facade for what looks like generic bricks? losing all the built up character of this paticular building with it's layered paint and old signs. The interface with the significant former Collingwood Tech/ now Circus Oz building also looks very clunky.

(not to mention, kicking out a cafe, bar , and event/art space which have all revitilised this section of Johnston Street for what, carpark access and a boring large scale tenancy?

and how does a big car entrance here co-exist with the increasing bike activity along Johnston St?

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johnproctor's picture

I just read the heritage report for this...

Reads like the client did a good job specifying that they wanted something written that would justify demolition.

Basically the building was built in the stages. The western end (from memory) 1929, middle section 1932 and then the eastern end 1950ish. The 1950ish is supposedly inferior to the western end and 'detracts' from the heritage value of the original buildings because the brickwork is slightly different etc.

Also as the heritage precinct the buildings sit within is largely heritage for Victorian/Edwardian significance the 'moderne' factories are less significant and probably don't warrant individual listing. Although the immediately adjacent moderne Collingwood Technical school does warrant it (go figure!).

btw. the eastern end (1950ish) was a facading of a 1860's hotel on the site.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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johnproctor's picture

and btw. I lied with respect to no alternative parking access. The development does propose to use the 3m wide laneway at its western boundary to provide access to 24 visitor parking bays.

probably some way to create a 1 way vehicle loop in and out of the site to reduce the monstrous vehicle entry at the eastern end of the site and potentially retain the whole facade.

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Aussie Steve's picture

There is no real justification for the demolition of the facade, no mater what the age. It clearly shows that the extension respected the original facade and kept it in sync and respects the original streetscape.

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