Some relief from an otherwise boxy outcome

Box Hill is booming - no surprise there.

Yet Box Hill's most recent project to be advertised has raised an interesting question - has the heart of the suburb become a victim of its own rapid high-density success via a lack of foresight?

The question has been prompted by the emergence of 16-22 Wellington Street which is yet another residential tower seeking its place in Box Hill. The difference arises with project architect Elenberg Fraser's treatment of the design's ground level which provides both extensive greenery and some built form relief by way of a cavernous plaza at ground level.

This in turn prompted a scan of the Urban Melbourne Project Database to see how many of Box Hill's 30 apartment project listings have included any greenery and/or built form relief to ground level. 

39 Harrow Street and Chloe provide limited greenery to their facades by way of planter boxes, whilst only 109 Carrington Road has its built form set back from the main frontage.

Coupled with existing recent builds and Box Hill's built form environment begins to look somewhat generic.

Plaza and laneway format. Planning image: Rush \ Wright Associates

Which in turn is why 16-22 Wellington Road stands out as a prospective Box Hill development. Elenberg Fraser along with landscape architects Rush \ Wright Associates have conceived something Box Hill has failed to deliver thus far - an intreresting, purposeful and green ground level activation to a tower.

The proposal incorporates an important public realm initiative in the form of a public, north-facing plaza space/forecourt fronting Wellington Road and the adjacent pedestrian laneway linking to Spring Street. The plaza space is approximately 245 sqm in area.

This space...occupies approximately 41% of the Wellington Road frontage, and approximately 40% of the laneway frontage. Approximately 50% of the space is located below the building form above, but the triple-height space is 8.5m high (clearance), and is oriented north and west, so is expected to provide substantial spatial volume and natural light.

The plaza space is positioned and designed to align with movement flows between the two nearby easy-west pedestrian laneways, along pedestrians moving east-to-west to move across this part of the site, and to spend time in the space. 

Urban Design Review: SJB Urban
Rendered activation of 16 Wellington Street's laneway. Planning image: Elenberg Fraser

Has enough been done to encourage benchmarks which would result in designs such as 16-22 Wellington Street becoming the standard? Without having intimate knowledge of City of Whitehorse's planning controls one can only base opinions on what is reality; and reality shows that the vast majority of completed and pending developments in Box Hill have a lack of street level nous.

The sample images below clearly illustrate that.

Whilst many of Box Hill current streets are graced with greenery and a decent level of variation, the sweeping change of higher density development should not come at the cost of public realm. 

Hats off to Elenberg Fraser for creating a standout project for what it brings to the public realm.

A sample of Box Hill's built form
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