The former Coburg High School site seeks a fresh beginning

Perhaps it's a case of third time lucky for the vacant former home of Coburg High School on Bell Street.

The monster 1.2 hectare site at 81 A Bell Street is back at planning, representing the third design to be proposed for the key site in recent years. Gone is the intent to deliver hundreds of apartments, but rather now advisory and project management firm Beca is overseeing efforts to deliver a substantial retirement village onsite.

Ryman Healthcare is the nominated operator for the intended development which would include 106 high care rooms, 76 assisted living suites 207 apartments tagged as independent living units. Ryman Healthcare specialises in aged care for people over the age of 65.

Five buildings are proposed across the site which is situated within the Coburg Activity Centre, with the tallest rising to 11 levels.

Below left is the previous design which gained a permit during 2015 for then owner Double LZ Development. 391 dwellings were the approved outcome, supported by 430 car parking spaces and retail tenancies.

Former designs for the former Coburg High School site

Under the proposed amendment to the approved scheme, Beca and Ryman Healthcare are looking to implement a markedly different outcome for the site, albeit one which is generally within the built form envelope of the currently approved design.

The sought-after design now at planning is a far way from the initial scheme headed by developer Hamton, seen above right. Hamton, Macquarie Real Estate Equity Fund, Jackson Clement Burrows and SJB Planning were behind the abnormally shaped circular and interlinked development which would have bought 500 plus apartments, 3,000sqm of office/retail space, community facilities and a significant landscaping.

With that particular 2010-approved project consigned to history, the push to amend the currently approved scheme would also see landscaped areas, supplemented by a bowling green, activities areas, swimming pool and library.

According to planning documents, Plus Architecture aided Ryman Healthcare in the design process.

Ryman's scheme as rendered from Bell Street with Rodda Street to the left

The proposed village has been designed to appropriately address the site interfaces, with careful consideration of adjacent residential properties and existing public open space. Building design has also responded to the neighbourhood character observed throughout the surrounding area.

Site buildings have been carefully articulated to maximise views of open space from windows and balconies, enhancing community living and interaction among residents.

The buildings are proposed to be constructed of a combination of brick, render and aluminium cladding with feature glazing. These materials are consistent with materials used for construction in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Beca: Planning & Urban Context Report

The pending resolution of the Coburg High School site and its eventual delivery would shape as one of, if not Coburg's largest development in the pipeline.

The highly touted $1 billion, 20-year Coburg Initiative urban regeneration project in partnership between developer Equiset and Moreland City Council was scuttled six years ago. The second big-ticket project to falter within Coburg came by way of Epworth Healthcare's bid to open a private hospital diagonally opposite the Coburg High School site, which eventually amounted to nothing.

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