Heritage Listing – Is it always what it seems?

Festival Hall in West Melbourne is a venue familiar to many readers. Music performers from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Doobie Bros and many more such acts have performed there over the last 70 years. World Champion Boxer Lionel Rose fought there and had a funeral there in his honour. But – the building is unsightly externally. The owners wish to demolish it and develop the site. What is the real solution?


Festival Hall still hosts live concerts and events

Heritage Victoria has announced the building’s inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register. Based on this the current owners plans are unlikely to proceed.

It’s an interesting conundrum, one that architecturally may require some lateral thinking. The ‘House of Stoush’ was designed to stage Boxing and Wrestling matches. Without massive volume, the hall is acoustically a nightmare. Perhaps the old auditorium can be improved internally with better soundproofing and modern equipment and just perhaps it can become part of a bigger complex, dedicated to Melbourne’s popular music history and performing arts.


The proposed development would see two apartment towers built on the site

The other main objection is that another series of soulless apartment towers will be built, adding nothing to the city or its activities and likely to be something less than desirable in ten years time when what is now modern becomes passé.

If ever there was an opportunity for the State Government and City of Melbourne to create a unique precinct, then this may be it. West Melbourne has always been the rump of industrial Melbourne until now. Extractive industries, rail yards and the edge of Yarra Ports have meant that this side of Melbourne (originally an extensive saltwater swamp fed by the Moonee ponds Creek and the Yarra) has remained dreary and industrial.


The planning application has been under consideration by the City of Melbourne

This is no longer the case. The rail yards are gone, the extractive industries have moved way out west, and the city hub has moved closer.

With some imagination and foresight (not to mention a realistic budget) this iconic location could house a concert hall, recording studios, art gallery and much more. It could become a performance venue on many different levels, with outdoor plazas, clever bars dedicated to Melbourne’s famous Pub music scene of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

A competitive tender situation as was evolved with Federation Square could ensure a truly magnificent result.

For now here are the latest reports from the Age Newspaper. The first confirms the Heritage Victoria listing, the second presents the rather intransigent response from the Wren family (yes, that Wren family – John Wren – Power without Glory), the current owners.

Festival Hall gets heritage listing, could be spared wrecking ball


West Melbourne’s Festival Hall has been recommended for inclusion on Victoria’s Heritage Register

The springy timber floor at its centre; the old, tiered wooden bleachers to the east and west; the theatre-like balcony to the south; the low stage to the north.

Like points on a compass, many of us can pinpoint moments in our lives, and the music that accompanied them, by these various parts within the brutalist brick structure that is West Melbourne’s Festival Hall.

And, thanks to a decision by Heritage Victoria, we may be able to do so for many decades more.

The state government body will on Friday announce it has recommended Festival Hall be included on the Victorian Heritage Register, meaning its owners’ plan to demolish the much-loved music venue are unlikely to be approved.

Festival Hall’s significance is more cultural than architectural, as the statement attached to Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery’s recommendation attests.


 The venue was built in 1956, in time to host events during the Melbourne Olympic, after a 1912-era stadium on the site burnt down

Mr Avery determined that Festival Hall should be included on the heritage register for its historical and social significance as Victoria’s principal purpose-built boxing and wrestling venue and as one of Victoria’s primary live music venues.

The statement of significance cites the hall’s “importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history” and “strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons”.

And it lists the specific features – the floor, bleachers, stage and balcony – among its charms worth preserving. Even the “volume of the internal space” – it can hold up to 4500 people – was a factor in the decision.


John and Chris Wren, grandsons of bookmaker John Wren who built the current Festival Hall venue, are directors of the company that owns venue

The venue hosted boxing and gymnastics at the 1956 Olympic Games as well as bouts featuring revered Australian boxers including Johnny Famechon and Lionel Rose, whose funeral was held there in 2011.

For many years Melbourne’s only large concert hall, it bore witness to Judy Garland and the Beatles in the 1960s, Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker in the 1970s, and Radiohead, Kanye West and Patti Smith more recently, the latter performing with hometown hero Courtney Barnett last year.

Music identity Molly Meldrum said Festival Hall held a unique place in Victoria’s live music history.

“There’s been so much of Melbourne’s music history in there, back to the days of Johnny O’Keeffe and then Skyhooks, Sherbet, Daddy Cool and of course the Beatles,” he said.

Meldrum – who said he was thrown out of the Beatles concert by bouncers who couldn’t handle the sight of a bloke screaming his love for John and Paul – called on the venue’s owners to turn its interior into a museum and live music venue.

“Let the people enjoy it,” he said.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he welcomed Heritage Victoria’s decision to accept a nomination to heritage-list Festival Hall.


Interiors such as the timber floors and wooden bleachers, where Chris and John Wren are pictured standing, are deemed to be of cultural significance

“Inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register will mean that any development of the site will have to protect and preserve [it’s] character and the history,” Mr Wynne said.

An anonymous application to heritage-list the venue was made in January, days after The Age revealed the owners had applied to knock down all but its facade.

The Heritage Council of Victoria will make the final decision.

The venue’s owner, Stadiums Limited, has indicated it plans to sell the site, and has lodged a planning application to demolish most of the hall and build two 16-storey buildings on the site.

Chris Wren, a director of the business, could not be contacted for comment before deadline.


Where’s Molly? Beatles fans scream as the Liverpudlians played Festival Hall in 1964

Festival Hall has risen like a phoenix before. The original structure, built in 1912, was known as the West Melbourne Stadium. It was taken over by John Wren, a well-known bookmaker, in 1915.

The building burnt down in 1955 but by 1956 Wren had built a new Festival Hall on the site in time for the Olympics.

Courtney Barnett’s September 1 gig is the latest listed on the Festival Hall website.

Good thing her show – perhaps capped off with Depreston, her ode to Melbourne’s overheated property market – is unlikely to be its last.

Source: theage.com.au

Festival Hall owners not done with demolition despite heritage listing


Festival Hall was built in 1955, in time to host events during the Melbourne Olympics, after a 1912-era stadium on the site burnt down

The owners of Melbourne’s Festival Hall are pushing ahead with their plan to demolish the historic music venue and build apartment towers on the site, despite it being recommended for heritage protection.

Melbourne QC Chris Wren, representing venue owners Stadiums Limited, said the heritage referral came as no surprise, and the planning approvals process had a long way to go.

“We expected that this might happen and we will now follow due process while the matter is being considered by the Heritage Council,” Mr Wren said on Friday.


The development proposal would see all but the facade of the West Melbourne venue demolished

Stadiums Limited plans to sell the site and has lodged an application with the City of Melbourne to demolish all but the facade of the hall and build two 16-storey apartment towers.

The hall was built in 1955 by Mr Wren’s grandfather, well-known bookmaker John Wren, after a 1912-era stadium that he had owned since 1915 burnt down. It has hosted musical acts including the Beatles, Olympic boxing and gymnastics, televised wrestling bouts, trade union rallies and even a state funeral for world boxing champion Lionel Rose.

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery has recommended Festival Hall be included on the Victorian Heritage Register, meaning that any development would need approval from the Heritage Council before it could be considered by the City of Melbourne.

Mr Avery noted the building’s significance was more cultural than architectural and highlighted interior features including its timber floor and tiered wooden bleachers among elements that warrant protection.

The application will be open for public consultation for 60 days before the Heritage Council makes its decision. The Heritage Council is independent of government. Heritage Victoria is a state government body that advises the Heritage Council.

Listing of the building on the heritage register would not necessarily stop the development from going ahead, Mr Wren told ABC Radio.

He said the development proposal already incorporated elements of the building’s heritage and the original plans would be revised on the advice of Victoria’s government architect.

“They’ve had a look at it and have made some suggestions, and we’re about to incorporate those suggestions into a revised plan. They otherwise thought it wasn’t such a bad proposal, subject to some things that needed to be touched up.


Chris Wren announced the development plans in January

“We’ve gone and spoken to people we regard as having expertise in this area and got their recommendations and sought to incorporate that because we recognise that the building for some people has great memories.

“We can make submissions about whether it’s got heritage significance – the extent of [it], what should or shouldn’t be retained, and what may be capable of being removed – but still maintaining some of the significance so that people’s memories … can be retained, at the same time recognising that you’ve got to move on.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne could intervene on any development.

But Mr Wren said he thought Mr Wynne’s comments in support of Festival Hall’s heritage listing could disqualify him on the grounds of bias.


A state funeral was held at Festival Hall for world boxing champion Lionel Rose in 2011

Mr Wynne has acknowledged the proposal could still go ahead regardless of heritage protection.

“Heritage Victoria will advertise the application for 60 days and ultimately the Heritage Council which is independent of government will make a final decision,” Mr Wynne told 3AW.

“Clearly I would have the capacity to intervene as Minister for Planning but I think (heritage protection) would be widely supported … it doesn’t mean that all of Festival Hall would be retained, but any application has to respect the cultural and social significance of the site.”

Source: theage.com.au

From the outside this looks to be likely to be an interesting battle. Let’s hope the current State Government steps up to the plate and develops a realistic program to ensure the retention of this most iconic Melbourne location. Without Festival Hall through the mid twentieth century to the early twenty-first century Melbourne would be a very different place. As Bon Scott and AC/DC once belted out from its low level stage ‘Let there be rock, Sound Light and Music’ – and this our very own Festival Hall will always be the place.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.


Our Heritage – It really does matter. The Corkman Irish Pub, The Queen Victoria Market and new Heritage Victoria powers.

For those who appreciate Heritage listings and the buildings protected by such rulings, the month of May has seen three spectacular results. In the first, the Corkman Developers have broken ranks with one developer Mr Raman Shaquiri (Partner) admitting to illegally demolishing the heritage listed hotel in October 2016. In another major coup, the City of Melbourne have agreed with Heritage Victoria to drastically alter its plans to ‘redevelop’ the Queen Victoria Market. The council now acknowledge the need for a new plan for the ‘project’. Finally those who own Heritage buildings and leave them in disrepair and neglect face the prospect of now being served an order to carry out urgent repairs or face hefty fines. These rulings have all been welcomed by the State Government and its Planning Minister Mr Richard Wynne.


In the Corkman case it seems there is a rather futile attempt by the development company’s other Director Mr Stefc Kutlesovski to avoid penalties, pleading not guilty to the charges associated with knocking down the hotel. As well their company ‘160 Leicester Property Ltd’ has been charged. It too has pleaded guilty to a number of charges.

Here is the report on the court proceedings from the ABC News.

Developer pleads guilty to illegal demolition of Melbourne’s historic Corkman pub


The pub, which was popular with students, was destroyed without a permit

One of the developers charged over the illegal demolition of a 160-year-old Irish pub in inner Melbourne has pleaded guilty, but his fellow director is preparing to fight the charges.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, and their company 160 Leicester Proprietary Limited, were charged for knocking down the Corkman Irish Pub at Carlton in October, 2016.

It is alleged they were planning to develop the property occupied by the pub, which was built in 1858.

Mr Shaqiri left the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court briskly to avoid the waiting media after admitting to being a director of a company that permitted the demolition despite not having a building permit, and failing to exercise due diligence to prevent the company from contravening the planning scheme.

The company, 160 Leicester Proprietary Limited, also pleaded guilty to a number of charges.


The Carlton Inn Hotel, on the corner of Pelham and Leicester streets, Carlton in 1957. It was later known as the Corkman Irish Pub

Co-director prepares to fight charges

Mr Kutlesovski has indicated he will plead not guilty and is set to face a four-day hearing in January. The court heard up to nine witnesses will give evidence.

Mr Shaqiri will have to wait until his co-director’s case has been finalised before he’s sentenced.

Magistrate Sarah Dawes earlier expressed her frustration at the delay in hearing the case, after it was initially scheduled to happen earlier this week.

The court heard the men and their business were initially being represented by the same lawyer but a conflict of interest between the parties had arisen and it was not able to go ahead.

Ms Dawes said it was “unacceptable” that the hearing had to be delayed seven months, effectively for the developers’ “convenience”.

Mr Shaqiri’s barrister agreed it was “regrettable”.

Ms Dawes refused the media’s request for access to the prosecution summary of evidence against Mr Shaqiri despite his guilty plea.

Source: abc.net.au

The Queen Victoria Market re-development has been stalled since Robert Doyle stepped down as Mayor of Melbourne. It appears that council has recognised this is a project that needs a drastic re-think. Apart from the general community disquiet over the presented plans, the ruling by Heritage Victoria has halted the project forthwith.

Read about it here in an article from the Age Newspaper dated 14th of May 2018.

Queen Vic Market plans on ice after council backs down from shed fight

Plans for the Queen Victoria Market will be drastically altered by Melbourne City Council, after it backed down from a battle with the state’s heritage authority over its proposal to refurbish 140-year-old sheds.

The city council had wanted to temporarily remove four of the market’s heritage sheds and, while they were being restored, dig three levels of underground parking and service areas for traders.


The $250-million redevelopment plan for the Queen Victoria Market has been put on ice

But that plan was halted in March when Heritage Victoria said it could not accept assurances the sheds could be returned to the site in their original condition.

The heritage authority also rejected the council plan because its officers believed the fabric of the 19th-century market would be irreversibly altered if the project went ahead.

On Monday, council officers and acting lord mayor Arron Wood said they would go back to the drawing board with plans for the project.

The council may dump altogether plans for underground services beneath market sheds A to D as it had planned.

It will spend around six months coming up with a new plan for hundreds of car parking spaces the council must provide under an agreement struck with the Victorian government in 2013.

What has been proposed?


Under that deal, the council will build a new park on the site of the current open-air car park next to the market.

But in return for other state-owned land next to the market being given to it, the council must provide an equal amount of car parking elsewhere.

It had relied on putting car parking underneath the refurbished heritage sheds.

The council wants to redevelop the market to ensure it provides a brighter future for the produce and retail centre – which because of apartment development on its doorsteps will have an extra 22,000 residents living nearby within half a decade.

Acting lord mayor Arron Wood said he was disappointed the council would not proceed with its original plan for the market sheds.

“I can’t fathom the fact that you can’t dismantle some pretty basic construction like those sheds and refurbish them and return them in a much better state,” he said.

He had initially reacted with anger at the Heritage Victoria ruling, pledging to challenge it.


Acting lord mayor Arron Wood at the market

But Cr Wood said he had “gone through the five stages [of grief] here and spent a fair bit of time and anger”; he was now reconciled to revamping plans for the market.

While he wanted the underground project to go ahead, Cr Wood it was just one of 13 works packages in the redevelopment plan.

And he said a legal challenge by the council against Heritage Victoria’s decision to reject the underground plan would not have been ‘‘a great look, for one government entity to be going after another government entity through the courts. It doesn’t win hearts and minds’’.

He said perhaps the council had failed to sell its redevelopment plans effectively, but that there had been a massive amount of consultation of traders and customers before it had pressed ahead with its ultimate plans for putting services underground.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne is expected to soon release his decision on a separate project tied to the Queen Victoria Market renewal, a 42-storey apartment tower and community centre to be co-developed by the city council and property group PDG.


The Age asked Mr Wynne his views on the council’s rethink of its current plans for underground services beneath the heritage sheds.

“We’ve been very clear that any development of the market will have to respect and preserve the rich character and heritage that makes it what it is,” Mr Wynne said.

Some traders who would have been directly affected by the underground project were celebrating on Monday, saying they were glad it would be re-thought.

Among them was Paul Ansaldo, who with his wife and children has run a fruit stand at the market for the past 31 years.

Their stalls are in the sheds that were to be dug up, and he said the implications of putting their storage areas underground had never been properly thought through by the council.

This included making traders reliant on lifts to bring fruit and vegetables up to the surface from cold stores below ground.


Paul Ansaldo, a trader at the market for 31 years, is pleased the council’s underground plans will be revised

“There are a lot of people who don’t get along around here – can you imagine the debacle we would have had if we were all underground in a tight space?

“If you don’t talk to one bloke, you’re going to have a blue over who gets their fruit in the lifts first. There would’ve been a murder committed,” he joked.

He said the council should focus on promoting the market, not redeveloping the sheds.

But another trader, wine seller Marshall Waters who celebrated a decade at the market last week, said there was already enough promotion.


A supporter of the council’s plans, Mr Waters said it was tragic the project would not go ahead in the format proposed before Heritage Victoria struck it down.

“Why Heritage [Victoria] refused that permit is totally beyond me – I don’t think it’s anything to do with heritage, it’s to do with politics. It’s appalling we are so ruled by stupid populist decisions like this. It was a great project and now it’s basically dismantled.”

Source: theage.com.au

Finally, perhaps the most significant news item. The State Government has introduced new laws to ensure Heritage listed buildings are not left neglected, to be demolished, damaged or excavated. The penalties for doing so now include fines up to $375K or a maximum five years jail.

It has long been the practice of some developers to simply allow a building to become so damaged and beyond repair, the simplest solution seemed to be to demolish the building. With the blatant actions at the Corkman Irish Pub and the former Metro Night Club at the top of Bourke St it became an imperative to step in and protect Victoria’s rich heritage.

Read about the new laws and some examples of how these laws are to be enacted in this article, also from The Age, May 3 2018.

Owners of neglected heritage-listed buildings in Victoria ordered to start repairs


The new owner of Macedon House has been ordered to clean the property up

Derelict, abandoned and vandalised: at first glance it is hard to believe Macedon House in Gisborne and Valetta House in East Melbourne are prized state-listed heritage assets.

The owners of the two heritage-protected homes, neglected for many years, have just been ordered to carry out urgent repairs or face hefty fines.

It is the first time the state government has issued a repair order since new laws were passed last year aimed at cracking down on property owners or developers who flout heritage rules.


Photographed in 2015, Macedon House was unused except by vandals

The two buildings have fallen into such a state of disrepair that the state government’s heritage authority has ruled their future preservation is under threat.

After years of concern from conservation lobby groups, planning minister Richard Wynne last week signed off on orders that require the owners to comply with a list of repairs by a given deadline.

The state government last year strengthened its power to enforce repairs and doubled penalties for unauthorised works to heritage-listed places.


A hotel, Macedon House was built in the pre-Goldrush era

People found to have demolished, damaged or excavated one of Victoria’s 2400 heritage-listed assets face fines of up to $373,000 or a maximum five years’ jail.

“Those lucky enough to own heritage assets have a responsibility to maintain them — and we’ll ensure they do,” Mr Wynne said.

Macedon House, about 50 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, dates back to the 1840s. The single-storey bluestone building is considered a rare surviving example of an early Victorian hotel.


Local groups fear the house may be demolished by neglect

Once buzzing with travellers in the gold rush era, the building has long been abandoned and left to decay. Windows have been smashed and boarded up, the walls punched with holes and graffiti scrawled on the building’s facade.

Melbourne businessman and developer Brian Forshaw last year sold the property, with plans to develop it into a retirement village, for $1.21 million — but the transaction is yet to settle. Title records show Gary Braude placed a caveat over the title in September.

The local council’s website states the application for the retirement village was withdrawn in March.

The repair orders state the site must be cleaned up, and all doors and windows secured within 21 days. The government has also given a 90-day deadline for drainage works and the underpinning of external bluestone.

In East Melbourne, Valetta House, built in 1856, was the home of Sir Redmond Barry, the Supreme Court judge who presided over the Ned Kelly trial. The grand mansion has been empty for many years but its owner, psychiatrist Despina Mouratides, has previously said she plans to renovate and move into the residence.

Ms Mouratides declined to comment when contacted by Domain on Thursday.

She has been ordered to reinstate all windows, doors and locks, and undertake external conservation works by May 14.

In the past two decades, the state government has only stepped in and issued repair orders for two other buildings: the Criterion Hotel in Sale and Camberwell’s Boyd House.

Property owners served with a repair order can seek a review in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Source: domain.com.au

Heritage isn’t just a word. Our Heritage is in fact who we are and how we came to be who we are. It’s the buildings, the culture, the people, the social interaction. In terms of buildings and structures it’s often something of great beauty, other times it’s just something simple, something unique, ultimately something precious.

There are battles ahead. St Vincent’s Private Hospital is planning to demolish or partly demolish three significant buildings in Old Fitzroy. The Queen Victoria Market is by no means safe. Safer, but not yet safe. Each week new buildings are earmarked for development. In South Melbourne just last week the old AAV Building in Bank St with associated property has been offered for sale – and development – for a cool $40 Million. The owners of the current ANZ bank building on the corner of Bank St and Clarendon St have applied to demolish the rear ‘addition’ completed quite tastefully in the 1970s and throw up a multi-storey office block.

The choice is rather stark. Keep the facades and build canyons of multi-storey apartment blocks or provide real heritage protection. And the truth is the choice is really yours – if you choose to exercise it. Beautiful streetscapes, wonderful old buildings, or concrete canyons. What legacy do you want to leave the next generation?

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.

Heritage in Essendon – Clydebank, Rosebank and St Columba’s College – The Beginning.

This week we review another 3 grand homes, mansions if you like, in the Essendon district. Again each of these interesting and historic heritage properties were purchased last century with the intent and purpose of providing either educational facilities or accommodation for nuns staffing such schools. Clydebank in Aberfeldie, Rosebank in Strathmore and St Columba’s College in Essendon were all built by very successful businessmen of the early colony of Victoria.



Statement of Significance – Victorian Heritage Register

The former mansion Clydebank, now Ave Maria College, was built in 1888 for Congregational lay preacher and land agent, John Ramsay. The stuccoed Italianate residence of two storeys was designed with a slate, hipped-roof, and apart from the two-level return cast iron verandah and parapeted tower, the house displays little that would distinguish it from the many other large metropolitan houses built during Melbourne’s boom years. John Ramsay prospered and his large family pursued successful careers in their chosen domains. Two sons, William and James founded the Kiwi Boot Polish firm, both predeceasing their father who then acted as chairman for the company. Another son, John Ramsay Jnr., became Surgeon Superintendent at Launceston General Hospital and was knighted in 1939. The most celebrated of the sons, Hugh (1877-1906) pursued a short but brilliant career as an artist, prior to his death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine. Many of Hugh Ramsay’s now famous portraits were painted at Clydebank and several of his works continued to grace the building’s walls until
the Catholic Church purchased the property from the Ramsay family in 1943.


The former mansion Clydebank is of historical importance to the State of Victoria.

The former mansion Clydebank is of historical importance for its association with the life and oeuvre of Hugh Ramsay, one of the nation’s most gifted artists. Ramsay’s response to character and environment and the tonal quality of his paintwork is quite distinct from all other painting of the Edwardian period in Australia.

Clydebank is historically important as the backdrop to most of Hugh Ramsay’s short life; it was here that he established his first studio and painted many of his finest works, and it was here that he died, his career scarcely spanning a decade. Ramsay’s strong attachments to home and family are demonstrated by the many portraits painted at Clydebank of his sisters, with the house and its interior ever-present in the background. That some of these elements can still be identified within the rooms of the former mansion today adds further texture to the interpretation of the artist, the paintings, and the house Hugh Ramsay inhabited.


Clydebank was initially surrounded by fifteen acres of land. The north and south fence lines were planted with trees, and at some distance from the house, a line of outbuildings separated the house and formal gardens from the cow and horse paddock. The stuccoed, Italianate mansion of two storeys had a slate, hipped-roof, and apart from the two-level return caste-iron verandah and parapeted tower, the house displayed little external ornamentation. In this respect it was not unlike many of the large metropolitan houses built during Melbourne’s property boom.

The ground floor included many reception rooms, John Ramsay’s study with built-in safe, and bedroom the family referred to as the ‘low bedroom’ or visitor’s room. The drawing room, to the left of the front door, contained a marble fireplace that featured in the background to some of Hugh Ramsay’s family portraits. Behind this room was the dining room containing the onyx mantel where for many years hung the portrait of Jessie Ramsay. Other rooms on this level included a parlour, breakfast room, kitchen, as well as a wash house, scullery and other service rooms. Upstairs there were six bedrooms and a billiard room where paintings by Hugh Ramsay hung until the 1940s. The family bedrooms had access to the very spacious verandah which wrapped around the north east corner of the house, and it is here that three of the Ramsay siblings spent time resting during the last years of their lives. The tower, reached by steep stairs, contained John Ramsay’s telescope. From here could be seen the Macedon Ranges, the Dandenongs and Port Phillip Bay.

At the back of the south west (rear) wing of the house was a room which Hugh Ramsay used as a studio. Above the door was written ‘studio’ together with a painting applied directly onto the wall, entitled The Duellists. Both existed until this section of the house was altered in 1946. After Hugh’s death the studio reverted to its former use of staff bedroom. The north west, single storey wing containing the ironing room, a bootroom and generator room, was completely rebuilt in 1946.


Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 11.22.03 amAlthough considerable additions were made to the house after it was sold to the Roman Catholic Property Trust, many original features remain to help interpret the seemingly gracious late Victorian and Edwardian lifestyle of the Ramsay family, and the paintings of Hugh. The stained glass windows survive on the north and west walls, as does the glass on the front door minus the Ramsay coat of arms. Door handles and panels are still in use. Fireplaces in the bedrooms have been removed. With the exception of the drawing room fireplace, all those on the ground floor remain with their onyx or marble mantels. Many of these formed the backdrop to the famous family portraits painted in the last years of the artist’s life. The hall and verandah tiles, the stairs and ornate newel post show little evidence of their use for over one hundred years. Very little remains of the original garden. The cypresses forming the backdrop to the painting, Jessie with Collie, were removed in the early 1980s because they were diseased. However Clydebank’s rendered front door pillars have been retained, and one of these can be seen in this painting of Jessie.

When Ellen Ramsay died in 1943, the building and its grounds were purchased by the Roman Catholic Trusts Corporation.

The Ave Maria Retreat House (a place for religious contemplation) for women was officially opened in Clydebank on 19 December 1943, by Archbishop Mannix. The first retreat was held over the weekend of 22-24 January 1944 for a group of munition workers. It was run by the Legion of Mary until 1946 and thereafter by the American organisation, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, founded in India in 1877. Extensive additions were made to the house in keeping with the original style. On the south side the drawing room was lengthened for the chapel and the Ramsay breakfast room was extended to make a larger dining room. Upstairs the bedrooms were modified to dormitory accommodation. The north west wing became two storeys, and both it and the south west wing were almost doubled in width. Extra bathrooms were included on both levels. A further extension was made in 1958 to provide an enclosed verandah outside the Ramsay breakfast room.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

In 1957 a kindergarten opened on the property. Planning for a secondary school began in 1961. Ave Maria College opened on the property in 1963, in a separate building, and operates to this day as a Secondary Girls School.

Rosebank House also has an interesting and varied history. It was originally built for Thomas Napier, the earliest European resident of Strathmore. The original house was built on what became known as Napier Hill in 1845. Napier lived there all his life. When he died in 1881, the property passed to his wife Jessie and surviving son Theodore.

Rosebank House


It was about this time the original house was badly damaged by fire. The current house was built at around this time.

The second Rosebank House was a large two storey brick house with a wide verandah and balcony and a rooftop lookout. Iron lace work adorns the verandah, the balcony and rooftop lookout. Inside the house the main feature is the beautiful wide timber staircase. Many of the rooms have ornate fireplaces of marble or wood, some with inset hand painted tiles with rural scenes. The house also has a number of beautiful stained glass windows.

Eleanor Barber died in 1902 and her husband George died in August 1914. Because of the First World War and the scattering of the family immediate sale of the property was not possible.The furniture was stacked away, the house locked up and a caretaker put in charge. George’s son, Dr Norman Barber visited the house in 1917 he discovered that the house had fallen into some disrepair.


When the war finished a plan of subdivision was prepared dividing the Rosebank property into 63 housing blocks, and 17 shop sites facing Woodland St and the railway line. The Rosebank house together with 2 acres of land was offered separately. An auction sale was was held in November, 1920. The price of the residential blocks was advertised as around 3 pounds each.

“Rosebank” house was purchased by the Catholic Columban mission in 1923 and is now a convent of the Sisters of Charity. Restoration work was performed on the house in the early 1990’s and the house is in excellent condition internally and externally.

Source: strathmore3041.org


The Victorian Heritage Database ‘Statement of Significance’ is as follows

Architecturally, an externally original, successfully designed and richly ornamented house which follows the Medieval revival, illustrating its influence on established Italianate forms of that period, and possessed unusually formed and applied details; also it is the subject of distant views which include the related North Park mansion and clearly identifiable as prior to the surrounding residential subdivision; of state importance.

Historically, is connected with perhaps Essendon’s first resident land owner and represents a pastoral property dating from 1845, now part of suburban Melbourne; of local importance and regional interest.

Physical Description

A two-storeyed polychrome brick and stucco house with a two-level return verandah, constructed on masonry piers with iron intermediate supports.

Atypically, the verandah extends under a high hipped and slated roof, whilst the roof, itself supports a lookout with cast iron balustrading. Further unusual details include the two gabled and raised entablatures which are placed over the verandah bressumer, flanked by scrolled brackets, and a coved eaves treatment which extends around the house. The verandah has panelled iron friezework and balustrading, enriched by rosettes, and tapered iron columns of and unusual pattern. Beneath the verandah, bay windows, with cream brick quoining and voussoirs, create a varied elevation at both levels, whilst central to the ground floor verandah, is a gabled pediment resting on brick piers. Exotic planting (of a later date) and gravel paving are sympathetic to the house.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

It’s an interesting situation. These homes all now sit in relative obscurity. Yet they are the foundations of the areas of Essendon, Strathmore and beyond.

St Columba’s College


The last property for consideration is a mansion built between Buckley St and Leslie Rd Essendon by successful Flour Miller Mr Alexander Gillespie. Mr Gillespie built his extravagant Italian Renaissance style home in 1882. Not much is recorded of his situation other than he was a very wealthy man who like others of the time was severely impacted by the economic crash of the 1890s. In 1896 he was forced to sell his home to cover crushing debts. The Sisters of Charity purchased the estate. St Columba’s Girls School commenced classes in 1897 with 47 students.


The Sisters of Charity, an Irish order, made many canny purchases in the 1890s and early 1900s. The buildings have stood the test of time and remain largely intact as they stood at the time of their sales, with some clumsy ‘improvements’ detracting form the overall effect.


The Essendon and Flemington areas are rich in heritage values with a large number of original homes dating back to the early settlement of the area. Our principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz knows the area and its heritage well. As such he has re-developed many properties sympathetically, winning awards along the way. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here. Alternatively you can call the number listed on our Facebook page – 0418 341 443.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.


Grand old Mansions of Essendon – Recycled as Religious Headquarters and Girls Grammar Schools.

North Park Mansion is built upon ‘the highest point in Essendon’. The land was purchased in 1887 by Mr Alexander McCracken for the sum of 5000 pounds. Architects Oakden, Addison and Kemp designed the house for Mr McCracken, and Mr D Sinclair built the rather grand home, described as being in the Queen Anne revival style.

Alexander McCracken was described as ‘a brewer and a sportsman’. He had joined the family brewery firm ‘McCrackens’ as a junior partner in 1884.


The crash of the 1890s all but destroyed the company. It did however keep trading, avoiding liquidation. In May 1907 McCrackens and five other brewing firms became a merged company – known as Carlton and United Breweries. Alexander McCracken was made a director.

McCracken was the genial spokesman for the brewing industry from early in his career in 1891 through until his demise in 1915. The irony? He died from cirrhosis of the liver.


During his lifetime he was President of the Essendon Football Club and then the first President of the Victorian Football League. He raced horses with some success and indulged in a myriad of other activities in his region of Essendon – all manner of sports, debating and a keen interest in poultry, pigeons and canaries.

In 1915, his widow sold off the remaining North Park Estate lands – only the Mansion and six acres remained. The Mansion was first sold to Mr Harvey Patterson, a BHP executive. In turn Mr Patterson onsold it to its current owners – the Columban Order – a Catholic Church Missionary Order.


The house is built utilising Red Northcote Bricks, Sandstone from Waurn Ponds (near Geelong), Basalt from Malmsbury and roofing tiles imported from Marseilles in France.

As previously mentioned this rather elaborate home was constructed in a Queen Anne Revival Style – red bricks for the walls and timbering with rough cast in the gables, orange terracotta tiles, ornamental barge boards, decorative finials and chimneys and ornate glazing.

It was in fact a riot of architectural styles, a combination of Scottish Baronial, French, Victorian and Tudor. Or perhaps ‘Tudor with modifications’. By all accounts it was truly the home of a big spending, articulate brewer – Alexander McCracken. A spacious ballroom, since converted to be a chapel, was added in the early 20th Century. The Columban Order added a new wing in 1966 and an office building replaced the original stables in 1968. The Coach House is substantially retained. And stranger than fiction – from 1923 onwards, it has been a virtual monastery. The building was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 1997 – for both the building and its ‘gardenesque style’.


The former North Park is architecturally important in demonstrating a high degree of creative achievement, being a pioneering example of the Queen Anne Revival domestic architecture in Australia. This style became the dominant expression in Australian domestic architecture in the decades immediately before and after 1900. The house is architecturally important for its use of imported Marseilles terracotta roof tiles in possibly their first application in Australia. Made by the French company, Guichard Carvin de Cie, St Andr, these unique tiles feature the firm’s signature bee imprint. The interior is architecturally important for its rich decoration including multi-coloured pressed metal ceilings, plaster friezes, timber panelling, encaustic tiling and elaborate stained and coloured glass. Other important extant detail includes ornate door knobs and push plates, and gas light hardware. Three ornately carved chairs in the entrance hall dating from the McCracken ownership are important for their continued association with the house.


The grounds of North Park are of aesthetic importance as an outstanding example of the gardenesque style and for the unusual three curved terraces, wide drive, garden path remains, and the evergreen trees and large conifers which contribute to the picturesque profile of the overall composition. The circular fish pond (disused) with its central figurine fountain and random rubble base is of unusual design and an important garden element now uncommon in Victoria. The location of this structure opposite the ballroom bay window is an important design feature. The cast iron gates, fence and hand gate supported by dressed bluestone are of an outstanding design, with particularly large spears and large scale iron members. The coach house and gardener’s shed are important contributions to the interpretation of a late nineteenth century large house and garden.

source: vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au

The second Mansion for review is ‘Earlsbrae Hall’ – an incredibly grand building now known as the Private Girls School – Lowther Hall.


The building was originally constructed in 1890 for the brewer Mr Collier McCracken – of the McCracken brewing family. He was Alexander McCracken’s uncle.

The actual building was commissioned by Architects Lawson and Grey. It was monumental in scale and a ‘classical revival’ building. Builder WK Noble took two years to build it. It consisted of 27 rooms on two levels with a promenade roof. It was originally surrounded by 3 acres of grounds.


The property was purchased in 1911 by the entrepreneur Mr Edward William Cole, a most flamboyant character. As an ‘out of town’ residence, Cole moved there with his family and a colony of his favourite monkeys. He added a vast aviary and set up a 75ft long floral rainbow in his front garden.

Cole was the owner of the famous Coles Book Arcade in Bourke St Melbourne. When he died in 1918, Earlsbrae was sold to the Anglican Church. The church redeveloped it as a Girls Grammar School.

“The main former residence retains its pedimented front and 16 giant order corinthian columns, the dwarf walls, the opdium overlooking the steps to the verandah and the steps themselves are of importance within the area of land as defined on the plan” Victorian Heritage Database


Remarkable old buildings saved by the Churches in the early part of the 19th Century. Next week we review two more grand mansions in the same area – Clydebank, now Ava Maria College, and St Columbans Girls School, formerly home of a very well heeled pastoralist names Gillespie.


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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Frognall – The Original Canterbury Mansion


Melbourne in the 1880s was a boom town. With the influx of wealth from both the Golden Fleece (the Merino Wool) and the Gold Diggings of both Ballarat and Bendigo, many of the newly rich (noveau riche) set about building their Shangri-Las. At the same time the rest of the population were also building and expanding into the outer suburbs of Kew, Essendon, Williamstown and Malvern. Mr Clarence Hicks, the original owner of Frognall, the very large mansion situated on 7 acres of land at 54 Mt Albert Rd Canterbury, was a timber merchant, arguably Melbourne’s largest and most successful.

The most recent valuation of Frognall done in recent years put the property value at an estimated $20 million.


Unlike many of the homes we have reviewed in the past Clarence Hicks the original owner was neither a pastoralist nor a mining magnate. He was – a timber merchant – the material of choice for most building projects during the 1880s. Clarence was very well connected with Melbourne’s early elite. His father had been the registrar for Copyrights and Patents and a close friend and confidant of both John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner.

804Clarence Hicks commissioned the colony’s leading builder of the times, Mr Robert Gimlin to ‘erect one of the finest mansions in the colony’. It appears to have been oft quoted in respect of many of Melbourne’s mansions. The elite of the colony were somewhat competitive. At the time Mr Clarence Hicks was the President of the Boorondoora Shire (better known as Camberwell).

The mansion constructed became known as Frognall. True to trend in the 1880s it was an Italianate style mansion. However it was unique in that it featured an amazing degree of concrete architectural renderings including arcaded and balustraded loggia. The grand building is enhanced with a pedimented entrance and deep bracket eaves with a tower capped on each side by projecting broken pediments.

The major difference between Frognall and other impressive 1880s mansions is that the estate and gardens remained largely intact. As well, the service wing, stables and coach house block remained in relatively original condition. It has however since been subdivided, unfortunately.


Clarence Hicks was not to enjoy his creation for long. Located less than a mile and a bit from his timber yards in Upper Hawthorn (opposite the Tower Hotel) it all went pear-shaped with the crash of the 1890s. All that remained of the original extensive timber yards was a Mitre 10 hardware store and carpark.


Clarence fought valiantly to protect himself from bankruptcy and managed to do so. He headed to Western Australia where he had previous dealings with the WA Jarrah Timber Company. He had resurrected his career, but unfortunately met with an untimely early death at 46 years of age. He was by that stage also the Grand Master of the Western Australia branch of the Masonic Lodge – a connection that may well have saved him from total misfortune during the crash of the 1890s.

The estate was purchased by the Laycock family in 1901 who remained in residence there until 1942. The family offered the building to the Commonwealth Government as a gesture to the then War effort. The house became an RAAF base, part of the communications network, and remained so for over 40 years.


Frognall was privately purchased in the early 1990s. The present owners received permission to subdivide and there are now a further 4 properties on the estate.


Many of Melbourne’s grand homes and mansions did not survive the early 20th century or if they did, were modified terribly during the 1960s through until 1980s. Frognall has survived and for that we are fortunate. A grand home with an equally grand and impressive beginning. A reminder perhaps of more genteel times.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

The Manchester Unity Building – Owners fear Metro Tunnel risks


The Manchester Unity Building, an iconic Melbourne landmark located on the North West corner of Swanston and Collins St is considered to be ‘at risk’ by its owners corporation, from the tunneling works in Swanston St for the new Metro Tunnel.

The fragile facade of the tower is ‘at risk’ from the tunnelling but the danger is being overlooked says Kia Pajouhesh, Chairman of the Manchester’s owners corporation.


But first let’s get some perspective here. The Manchester Unity Building, located opposite the Melbourne Town Hall was constructed in 1932. The site had been purchased in 1928, but the onset of the Great Depression meant construction was initially delayed.

Architect Marcus Barlow designed the building which was duly constructed by W.E. Cooper Pty Ltd reputedly for a contract price of £215,000.


The building was constructed to a very tight construction schedule, using tracking methods for the first time in Australia. The build was completed in record time and the first section was opened to the public for shopping on the 1st of September 1932.

A grand opening celebrating the formal declaration of the building’s completion, featuring lights illuminating its tower and spine occurred on the 12th of December 1932.

The building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. In its ‘Statement of Significance’ it is described as a ‘modern commercial gothic style’

Statement of Significance


The Manchester Unity Building was built in 1932 by Walter Cooper Pty Ltd. It was designed by the architect Marcus R Barlow to meet the corporate needs of the Manchester Unity Group, a friendly society with 28,000 members in 1932. The twelve storey building, located prominently on the corner of Collins Street and Swanston Street, has a concrete encased steel structure and is clad with moulded terra cotta faience. The overall effect is one of a modern commercial Gothic style. The structure is crowned with a corner tower of soaring, diminishing buttresses in a style presumed to be inspired by the Chicago Tribune Building, which received worldwide publicity when built in 1927.

Within twelve months of commencement of work the Manchester Unity building was officially opened by the Premier of Victoria. By early May 1932 the sub-basement, basement and ground floors were ready for shopfitters and other finishing trades to move in. The remaining floors were added at the rate of one a week, and by late July 1932 the roof was laid and work started on the tower. Newspapers carried regular reports on the progress of the building, and a trip to the city to watch construction was a regular event for many Melbournians.

440The Manchester Unity building was the first in Victoria to have escalators. These provided access to the basement and the first floor directly from the main arcade entrance at Swanston Street. It was also one of the first Victorian buildings with automatic cooling, and rubbish and postal chutes on every floor. Australia’s largest diesel generator, located in the sub-basement, provided an emergency power supply. Of the original lifts, two of the three have been converted to automatic operation but the beautiful inlaid timber and panelled interiors to the lift cars have been retained.
The exterior facade is clad in biscuit coloured terra cotta faience. The faience is intricately moulded to produce continuous narrow columns and shafts rising up the facade, serving to emphasise the verticality of the building. The bulk of the building extends to 40.2metres, which was the height limit for central Melbourne at the time. Prominence is given to the corner by the tower, which soars above the main bulk. Towers were permitted to break the city’s height limit as long as they did not contain occupiable rooms.


Internally there is extensive use of various Australian marbles as cladding to the walls. The ground floor lobby ceiling and cornices have high-relief depictions of Aboriginals, Australian flora and fauna as well as transport, building and primary industries. Cornice plaster panels in the corridors of all the floors carry depictions of the friendly society’s role in welfare provision.

Located on the eleventh floor are the former offices and boardroom of Manchester Unity. They walls are decorated with sliced timber veneer panelling. The boardroom table was constructed in situ and is nearly six metres long. The top is finished with a rosewood veneer and rosewood inlay border, and a moulded and carved edge. Twelve monogrammed leather chairs also survive. It is likely that the table and chairs were also designed by Marcus Barlow’s office, part of the total design of the building.


How is it significant?

The Manchester Unity Building is of architectural, historical, social, aesthetic and technical significance to the State of Victoria.

437Why is it significant?

The Manchester Unity Building is architecturally significant as one of the tallest building in Melbourne when it was completed in 1932. The architectural styling, with its soaring vertical emphasis, was a daring break from the conservative palazzo architecture of the 1920s, which was typified by large and dominant cornices. The styling was complemented by the fashionable cladding material of glazed terra cotta faience. The modern commercial Gothic style of the Manchester Unity Building stands in contrast to the ecclesiastical Gothic of nearby St Paul’s Cathedral. The building is architecturally significant as the greatest achievement of noted architect Marcus Barlow.

The Manchester Unity Building is historically significant as the initiative that convinced Melbournians that the building slump caused by the Depression was almost over, such was the grand scale of the project and the speed at which building progressed. The fast building programme was controlled by the use of a works progress schedule, an innovation to the local building industry at the time.
The Manchester Unity Building is socially significant as a landmark in both positioning and scale. It challenges, for scale and presence, the Melbourne Town Hall located opposite.


The Manchester Unity Building is technically significant for the surviving original Otis-Waygood escalator between the ground floor lobby and mezzanine. The Manchester Unity Building was the first in Victoria to have escalators installed.

The Manchester Unity Building is aesthetically significant for its intact interiors. The intricate plaster panel cornices and ceilings, the use of marble, and the inlays to the lift cars and sliced timber veneers in the boardroom all display a high standard of artistic workmanship that is without par for a building of this period. The boardroom table and chairs are historically and aesthetically significant. The survival of a boardroom table of this scale and grandeur from this period, complete with chairs, is unusual in Victoria. They formed part of the total design for the building.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

The potential risk of damage to this building calls into question the difficult but necessary juxtaposition of development and preservation. It would appear that the building’s owners believe that not enough research or examination of potential damage to the building has been undertaken by the Authority charged with constructing the tunnel – the Cross Yarra Partnership, nor has it perhaps done enough due diligence on such risks to historic buildings – Manchester Unity, the Town Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral.

For a more rounded picture please read the article here reprinted from the Age Newspaper, April 12 2018.

Manchester Unity building warns of Metro Tunnel damage

Melbourne gothic landmark the Manchester Unity Building is at risk of cracking from tunnelling for the Metro Tunnel, its owners fear.

The fragile facade of the tower is at risk of cracking from the tunnelling, but the danger is being overlooked, says Kia Pajouhesh, chairman of the Manchester’s owners corporation.

The soaring Art Deco building on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets, built in 1932, is renowned for its narrow columns, glass walls and terracotta tiles.


The Manchester Unity Building on Swanston Street

Dr Pajouhesh has accused the authority and the consortium overseeing the project, the Cross Yarra Partnership, of failing to properly assess the building’s capacity to cope with vibrations caused by tunnelling under Swanston Street.

A one-hour property inspection was done on the building in February last year, but the assessment was “substantially deficient”, Dr Pajouhesh claims in a scathing eight-page letter sent to the authority.

“We are at a loss to understand the basis behind the decision to use land under the [Manchester] without this critical information,” he wrote.

Dr Pajouhesh is the owner of Smile Solutions, which occupies six levels of the building.

“This conduct leaves us with no confidence that the consortium has at heart the interests of the custodians of one of Melbourne’s most prized heritage assets.”


The 1932 building is one of Melbourne’s most beloved.

It comes amid revelations that five hairline cracks have emerged on the Westin building as a result of the early works at the City Square construction site.

A spokesman for the authority said the cracks in the building’s plasterboard were superficial, would not pose any structural risk, and would be rectified.

The Metro Tunnel project will provide much-needed extra capacity on the city’s rail network by allowing more trains to run through the city, outside of the City Loop. Once complete, the project will include five new stations and a nine-kilometre tunnel connecting the Cranbourne-Pakenham and Sunbury lines.

ad2ddc53bd65504e0bd52a527f836bc9edc9cf33Work is already under way to build the underground Town Hall station at City Square, but tunnelling under Swanston Street will not begin until next year.

The Town Hall station has recently been re-designed to make it larger and more spacious, and that will require more land.

The new designs indicate that tunnelling will occur closer to the Manchester building.

The consortium has already warned that St Paul’s Cathedral and Town Hall may have some superficial cracking, but their risk assessment did not include the Manchester building.

“[The Manchester] is much closer to the project’s CBD south station site than both St Paul’s cathedral and the Melbourne Town Hall,” Dr Pajouhesh says.

He also warns that “the grout between the tiles, which contains asbestos, is prone to failure.”

Dr Pajouhesh’s letter was sent on Tuesday this week, just as Melbourne University warned that the $11 billion underground rail project could damage equipment and facilities in the Parkville Biomedical Precinct.

The university’s chief financial officer Allan Tait said he was concerned that vibrations from tunnelling, and electromagnetic interference caused by trains running through the underground station, would “render critical research equipment inoperable”.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has also warned that radiotherapy treatment machines may be affected by vibrations.

The Metro Tunnel spokesman said the authority had been engaging with the owners of the Manchester building since 2015.

He said two property condition surveys were carried out for the building in February this year and a comprehensive condition survey would be done before tunnelling began.

“The project has some of the world’s best engineers and tunnelling experts working through these challenges,” he said.

A government spokesperson said the building owners’ concerns were “the types of issues that are routinely managed on similar tunnel projects in busy cities around the world”.

Source: theage.com.au

These are quite serious matters. Note that the grout used on the Manchester Unity Building securing the external tiles contains Asbestos.

It would be appropriate that the Engineers responsible for the tunnel, its excavations and its infrastructure do more than pay lip service to heritage values.

Recently, the Cross Yarra Partnership facilitated the removal of many heritage listed trees on St Kilda Rd and Albert St in preparation for the Anzac Station excavation. It was said these trees could not be moved as there would be too much disturbance of underground services. Somewhat surprising in that the proposed excavation is to be ‘six stories deep’ – and action that surely may ‘disturb underground services’.

Melbourne has some wonderful historic heritage treasures. This soaring Art Deco building – the Manchester Unity Building, the grand old Melbourne Town Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral are just the most obvious of many buildings possibly subject to damage with construction of the new Metro Tunnel. And at this stage it is certainly not too late to put in place remedial research and provisional works to protect these heritage treasures.

Progress and development don’t necessarily require wholesale destruction. It is a bold and exciting project (the Metro Tunnel). But let’s at least ensure the protection of our city’s icons for future generations. It’s really time for action and re-assurance.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Call to Halt Temporary Queen Victoria Market Structure. Update on St Vincent’s Hospital Appealing Heritage Rulings.

This week we bring you two further updates – one on the Queen Victoria Market re-development and renovation, and one on the state of play regarding the St Vincent’s Hospital 11 storey extension project. In both instances there are serious challenges to Heritage Listings or Heritage Victoria rulings.

With candidates lining up to replace former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, there is a significant indication that the Robert Doyle backed plan for the Queen Victoria Market will not proceed in its present format.


The issues involved are not just the heritage sheds, but the difficult and uncompromising trading conditions being imposed upon market traders during the construction period. Add to this the multi storey adjacent developments (approved) there is a general sense that the Queen Victoria Market would entirely lose its character and sense of history.

The market is a ‘people’s’ venue. Its stalls, its produce, its trading hours all reflect the demographics it has traditionally served – workers, students, migrants, bohemians and more recently city and inner city dwellers. It provides choice, quality and product simply not found in supply line marketing such as Supermarkets and Department Stores.


Alternative plans have been mooted, prepared and submitted by the ‘Friends of the Queen Victoria Market’ – and ignored.

There are strong objections from both traders and the market’s shoppers to the proposed development. Opponents are now asking that the temporary structure planned for traders to use during the shed dismantlement and basement construction now be shelved – permanently. Read this article from the Age Newspaper dated 02/03/18

Ditch $7m temporary pavilion, say opponents of Queen Vic Market plans


An artist’s impression of a proposed temporary “greenhouse” pavilion to be built on Queen Street, between the two sides of the Queen Victoria Market.

Opponents of redevelopment plans for the Queen Victoria Market say a $7.4 million temporary “greenhouse” pavilion is a waste of money that should be abandoned.

Melbourne City Council is set to approve new plans on Tuesday for the Queen Street pavilion, proposed to temporarily accommodate traders dislodged by council redevelopment works.

But those works were thrown into disarray last week when the state’s heritage authority refused to grant Melbourne City Council a permit.


The city council wants to put services for traders working in some of the 140-year-old upper market sheds below ground. It also wants to dig underground parking for 220 cars.

Heritage Victoria, though, ruled that this should not be done saying the proposed works were “unacceptably detrimental” to the heritage sheds, and that the works were unnecessary on economic grounds. Acting lord mayor Arron Wood has vowed to challenge the refusal.

But this challenge will take up to a year.


A view of the proposed temporary greenhouse pavilion, in Queen Street.

The council is pressing ahead with the planned temporary pavilion, designed by architects Breathe.

While the cost has risen from $5 million to $7.4 million, the structure is shorter than one the council approved last year – it will be 111 metres long, not 264 metres.

The pavilion’s ground level will be for traders while the upper level will include a greenhouse.

A council spokeswoman said the temporary pavilion would ensure stallholders could continue to trade within the market while works were carried out.

And she said the new pavilion would allow operators to test stalls with better access to refrigeration and storage, and trial different opening hours.

The greenhouse, designed to raise environmental awareness, will necessitate seven plane trees being cut down.

A lobby group representing some traders and shoppers, the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, said the pavilion project should be put on hold.

Spokeswoman Miriam Faine said a group of opponents to the plan intended to be at Tuesday night’s council meeting to speak against the pavilion.

She said there were two reasons it was not needed: “Their [the council’s] plans are up in the air, and the market at the moment, it’s half empty so they don’t need it for that reason too.”

She said the market needed more stall holders, “not more structures like this”.


An artist’s impression of the proposed buildings on the “Munro site”, on the corner of Queen and Therry streets, opposite the Queen Victoria Market’s deli hall.

Also at the council on Tuesday are designs going to Planning Minister Richard Wynne for a tower and linked low-rise building developer PDG is building, with the city council.

On land known as the “Munro site”, the tower will rise to 40 storeys. Together with the council’s building, it will include 410 apartments – including 56 low-cost housing units.

Ms Faine said Mr Wynne and the state government should be given credit for having refused the 60-storey skyscraper Melbourne City Council had wanted built there.

Source: theage.com.au

It would seem somewhat preemptory to continue with this part of the project if the heritage appeal is a minimum one year away.

The second update pertains to the St Vincent’s Hospital multi-storey development. The Hospital intends to press ahead with its plans to demolish a portion of the historical Eastern Hill Hotel (the former headquarters of the Eight Hour Day movement), the historic Easthill House and the rear of the Dodgshun House, on the location where the cottage St Mary McKillop was born in 1842 was located.

There is deep dissension within the local community and with the local Council (Yarra Council) with all relevant properties being covered by a full suburb heritage overlay.

Again, please read the Sydney Morning Herald article here reprinted from the 27/03/18.

Private hospital plans to demolish heritage-listed buildings

St Vincent’s Private hospital is seeking to partially demolish two heritage-listed Fitzroy buildings, one associated with the eight-hour day movement and the other with Saint Mary McKillop, to make way for an 11-storey hospital extension.


An artists impression of the new St Vincent’s Private hospital.

The hospital’s plans, labelled “imperialist” by local opponents, were approved by Yarra Council with strict conditions around the heritage buildings.

St Vincent’s Private subsequently appealed the decision at Victoria’s planning tribunal.

A justification for the development submitted by St Vincent’s says the hospital is facing “bed block” during the week, forcing it to divert non-elective or urgent private patients to other hospitals.

The new hospital wing will replace part of the existing hospital and includes demolishing a portion of the Eastern Hill Hotel, razing the historic Easthill House and removing the rear of the two-storey Italianate mansion, Dodgshun House.

The gold-rush era former Eastern Hill Hotel, on the corner of Brunswick Street and Victoria Parade, is listed on Victoria’s heritage register and was once used by trade unionists as the headquarters for the eight-hour day movement.

Dodgshun House, also on the register, is the Brunswick Street location of Marino Cottage where Saint Mary McKillop was born in 1842.

Easthill House on Victoria Parade is considered individually significant from a heritage perspective.

The entire site of the hospital also falls under a heritage overlay.

St Vincent’s hopes to replace all three buildings with a $94 million structure featuring natural and midnight copper cladding that will house 91 new multi-day beds for patients, 12 same-day beds and additional operating rooms.

The building will be set above a new podium on Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street.

Yarra councillor Steve Jolly said the plans also included building over a heritage bluestone lane and demolishing a three-storey building at 5 Brunswick Street that was an Indigenous birthing center in the 1970s.

“St Vincent’s Private can expand like invading imperialists or show a bit of respect for local heritage. It’s up to them,” Mr Jolly said.

“We can’t let big cheque books override our history.”

The hospital has also applied to expand an existing multi-storey car park at 93-99 Victoria Parade.

Unfortunately for St Vincent’s, its application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review conditions put on its planning permit failed to get a clear result.

The conditions effectively stopped the hospital extension from intruding on any part of the sites listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Tribunal deputy president Helen Gibson said it wasn’t possible to provide an “easy or straightforward response” to the question asked of the tribunal.

“My opinion must be qualified and will not necessarily produce a simple, definitive answer to the underlying question of whether [the] conditions .. are valid,” she said.

Source: smh.com.au

The business case for the extension simply doesn’t stack up when considered against the actions of other inner city Hospitals. The Jessie McPherson and Mercy Hospitals moved to suburban locations where building provided no issues. Fitzroy is an iconic reminder of our original history. Apart from eyesores like the Housing Commission Flats on Brunswick St and the full estate there, it remains largely intact. On the surface it would appear that demanding the demolition or part demolition of heritage buildings of quite some significance is simply bloody minded. And remember, this is not an extension of the ‘Public Hospital’ but purely a money making venture, by St Vincent’s ‘Private’ Hospital.

It’s a well funded and clever ‘sleight of hand’ with smart copywriting of press releases hinting at minimalist effect to the area and its heritage. Well this time, many people both local and otherwise say ‘No!’

It’s an integral part of our heritage and it deserves to be preserved and acknowledged.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.