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Is there still a place for the 'skinny skyscraper' in Melbourne?

Augmented planning rules introduced over recent years has made it impossible for the 'skinny skyscraper' to grace the vast majority of inner Melbourne's skyline. That is, after a number of eyebrow-raising developments were approved under now defunct planning regulations.

Whilst the CBD and Southbank may be off limits, a proposal has landed upon Elizabeth Street that looks to keep the typology viable in Melbourne. Kerstin Thompson Architects are the driving force behind 656-658 Elizabeth Street, with the hope of realising a 15-storey tower on a 169sqm site.

Carrying a 7.9m frontage to Elizabeth Street, the site also fills in another relatively minuscule plot along the thoroughfare that has been subject to intense development over the past decade.

A street level perspective. Planning image: Kerstin Thompson Architects

Whilst not a skyscraper in the strictest interpretation, 656-658 Elizabeth Street does fall into the 'skinny' category, with the project's particulars reflecting this.

Ground floor will host a 21.6sqm retail tenancy with the immediate two floor above hosting offices; both of which carry 123sqm floor plates. Apartments planned within the tower are varied in size, ranging up to four bedroom dwellings set over split levels. 10 dwellings will be included within the tower which will be serviced by 3 basement levels.

In order to facilitate the development, an 1870's era building onsite will be demolished.

A former foundry, the single-storey structure falls within the Elizabeth Street North (Boulevard) Precinct is a graded heritage building. The development's proponents argue that its loss and the subsequent tower "will not have an unacceptable impact on the character, appearance or identified significance of the heritage place that is...Elizabeth Street North (Boulevard) Precinct."

Phoenix Flinders Street & Collins House. Images: Bosco Johnson & Golden Age

Although not of their scale, 656-658 Elizabeth Street is reminiscent of Phoenix Apartments and Collins House; both super skinny residential towers.

Prior to Planning Minster Richard Wynne's regulatory intervention, towers such as Phoenix Apartments were touted as becoming more prevalent across Melbourne's CBD owing to the decreasing number of viable large sites available for development. Rising 28 storeys, the site which Phoenix Apartments sits upon spans a mere 6.7m.

Perhaps better described as a skinny tower, 656-658 Elizabeth Street's fate is with City of Melbourne. Lodged during January, the Elizabeth Street project is currently at advertising prior to City of Melbourne deciding whether there is still a place for the skinny tower in Melbourne.

3 comments

Adam Ford's picture

Well that's given me a good chuckle to start the day.
"The development's proponents argue that its loss and the subsequent tower "will not have an unacceptable impact on the character, appearance or identified significance of the heritage place that is...Elizabeth Street North (Boulevard) Precinct."

So, "demolishing a graded heritage building with an individual overlay within a heritage precinct won't affect the significance of the heritage precinct."

I guess those Corkman blokes were fine then. I wonder what they think WOULD adversely affect heritage significance, if not demolishing actual listed heritage buildings...

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Jon McLeod's picture

Adam Ford - I agree with you.

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Bilby's picture

This is the heritage listed building proposed for demolition that supposedly won't negatively impact on the heritage values of the heritage place!

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