Geelong Gaol – 19th century Old Geelong Gaol up for sale

It would seem that old Gaols make a great development prospect. Built in 1864, the Geelong Gaol is heritage listed. It has been offered for sale as of last weekend.

Geelong agents Colliers International have listed the property. There is a two stage Expression of Interest campaign being run by the group on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong


Colliers, Geelong agent Andrew Lewis said at least six local parties, including three of five property developers that were keen to buy the site prior to the campaign, had already flagged their intention to bid for the property.


The iconic 19th century gaol was once home to Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, after he was transferred there when another inmate in Pentridge Prison cut Chopper’s ears off in 1984. Squizzy Taylor has also served time inside the prison.

Mr Lewis had previously told the Advertiser he knew of at least four local parties — all developers or hospitality operators, that would be keen to buy it.

He said the council is involved in the two-stage sale process in vetting proposals against a set of heritage guidelines to seek an outcome beneficial to the community.

Buyers with proposals the council considered satisfactory would be short-listed before price would come into the equation, he said.

“As long as we get to a point where we’ve got a couple of proposals that we’re happy with and their intentions are clear and they understand they’ll look after the building going forward by way of a schedule of maintenance, then it will come down to the bidding,” Mr Lewis said.


A heritage guideline report would provide a framework for buyers, but parties could negotiate with the council to seek an outcome, he said.

“Obviously, complete demolition is never going to be an option. And substantial variation of the cell block isn’t really an option either,” Mr Lewis said.

“But the block has additional buildings added over the years and we can look at those being removed, demolished or altered.

“There’s a lot of land there and a lot of land that isn’t being used by the cell block that could be used.”


The site measures 9423sq m, with a potential development area of 3993sq m with a Residential Growth zoning.

It’s a similar sale process used by St Mary’s Parish when it sold the heritage-listed St Mary’s Hall and former school site in 2009 by vetting tenders on the net community benefit before accepting a bid from Common Equity Housing Ltd, which planned to build up to 150 apartments in two parcels around the heritage-listed school building and hall.
“We don’t want to be touching the heritage buildings, but you’ve got additional land to work on,” Mr Lewis said.


Mr Lewis wouldn’t reveal a price guide for the site.

“The council hasn’t asked us to value the asset. They’ve got valuations of their own,” Mr Lewis said.

“They’ve said their goal is not to maximise the sale value but rather to maximise the outcome for the community going forward.”

But he added that selling the gaol would also eliminate a significant liability on the council’s finances.

The council has previously estimated the maintenance backlog for the gaol was at least $1.56 million.


When considering what has occurred at the former Pentridge Prison site in Coburg it is somewhat disturbing to contemplate what may occur in Geelong. We note that no such fate occurred at the Old Melbourne Gaol, the Melbourne Magistrates Court or the former Melbourne Lock-Up in Russell St. The Old Melbourne Gaol was constructed commencing in 1839 and completed by 1842 – 22 years earlier that the Geelong Gaol.

However the original Geelong Gaol is recorded as being built in 1864, it took a long time to construct with work commencing in 1849 – 7 years after Old Melbourne Gaol was completed.

The Gaol was built by Prisoners who slept on prison barges in Corio Bay during the construction period.


It is an integral part of Victoria’s history and its rather stark architecture speaks of darker times and bleak lives for the unfortunate souls condemned to live out their days there.

The extraordinary fact is that such a cruel institution with such basic facilities was still operational only 26 years ago in 1991. It was never served with plumbing to the cells and all prisoners still used a bucket – in 1991! No heating, no air conditioning. Hell in Summer or Winter.

A brutal place, but a significant heritage precinct. It will be interesting to see what the Developers come up with and what ultimately the Greater City of Geelong is prepared to accept. Will it be that the well heeled denizens of Geelong will get to sleep in luxury apartments where others just withered away and died over the years? Time will tell.

Historic Photos from Geelong Gaol

balance logo 20150209a

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


Como House – The National Trust’s Jewel in the Crown

Standing proudly on a hill overlooking the Yarra River to the North, South Yarra to the West and South and Toorak to the East stands stately Como House.

Como House, constructed 1847

Como House, situated in the City of Stonnington was constructed in 1847, owned by Sir Edwards Eyre Williams. Sir Edward was a Lawyer, Barrister and ultimately a Supreme Court Judge in the early colony, which at that stage was barely 2 years old. In 1852 it was sold to Frederick Dalgety, a well known investor. He in turn sold it to a Mr John Brown in 1853. Brown was a master builder. He accomplished a great transformation of the property, adding a second storey and creating the spectacular gardens and grounds under the direction of the renowned Landscape Designer and gardener Mr William Sangster. By 1861, Brown was broke, bankrupt and the mortgage foreclosed. Mr Charles Armytage purchased the property in 1864 for £14,000 (pounds). The Armytage family held possession until 1959 – 95 years in total – when it passed to the care of the then recently formed National Trust.

Described by the National Trust as ‘an intriguing mix of Australian Regency and classic Italianate Architecture, the property is one of the area’s, if not Melbourne’s, last surviving relics of the Gold Rush era. The former owners the Armytages were considered the pinnacle of high society for over a century and the property gives an excellent view and insight into their lives of privilege and comfort.

The current dining rooms and receptions still hold the furnishings provided by the Armitage family. With its Historic Ballroom, its fountains and its gardens it remains a popular venue for weddings and events – only 5km from the Melbourne CBD.

The Kitchen wing on the Western side dates back to the 1840s. The Ballroom wing on the East side was constructed in the 1870s, supervised by Architect Arthur Johnson, when extensions were added. Internal woodwork is cedar whilst the floors are teak. Very few changes have occurred since the 1870s so the building is a microcosm of life for the wealthy few of the 19th Century. Not surprisingly, the Armytage family were successful pastoralists. For many years the house was the centre of social activity for Melbourne’s elite. The ballroom floor was one of the first sprung timber floors in the colony, with chains being used as springs to ensure a smooth and pliable dance floor.

Servant’s quarters were set away from the main house.

The house itself is surrounded by verandahs with cast iron balustrading and a parapeted tower at the rear. The ground floor verandah with timber arcading and cast-iron pickets is unusual yet the finished image is that of a most atypical verandah.


Architect Arthur Johnson was a most talented architect, also working on the Melbourne General Post Office, Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and the Melbourne Law Courts. He was Charles Armytage’s brother in law. Charles Armytage married Caroline, and they raised their ten children at Como. Charles died in 1909. Daughters Constance, Leila and Laura lived on at Como with Constance and Leila facilitating the sale to the National Trust in 1959. It was the first house purchased by the National Trust and the sisters ensured that the Trust maintained the original integrity of their family seat. All furniture and the complete contents were sold to the Trust including an extensive archive of diaries, letters, journals and photographs. It is this social context and history that brings Como to life.

Caroline Armytage was a pioneering woman who taught her own children along with those of Fulham Station’s (their original property near Geelong) workers and the indigenous children as well. She needed to be independent and an effective manager. In her Forty Forth year, Charles died, aged 52 of Pancreatic cancer leaving her to manage the family’s large portfolio of properties and investments. She also had nine children aged from 9 upwards to raise having lost her youngest to Diptheria in 1872.

This was a grand estate covering 54 acres (21.9 hectares) with a large staff of servants. The property was greatly reduced after Caroline’s death and the settlement of her will.

The estate was subdivided into 64 allotments. The remaining house and garden was purchased by Mr John Buchan on behalf of the three Armytage sisters Ada, Laura and Leila. [The auction took place on the 25th of February 1911]

In 1921, the Armytage family sold 35 acres of Como’s river frontage. Only 5 acres remained of the house and garden. But it is Melbourne’s extremely good fortune that this wonderful property survived the excesses of modernity and was saved by the National Trust.


This time we will let pictures describe the beauty of the building, its grounds, gardens and history.

What is happening now in Victoria is not dissimilar to the vandalism and wanton destruction of the 1950s when the National Trust first came into existence to protect our precious heritage, identifying heritage homes and ensuring their preservation through either purchase or classification..

Its time again now to further refine and strengthen our protections on the architectural heritage and rich history of Melbourne and Greater Victoria. We must guard carefully the remaining treasures.

Balance Architecture fully supports the National Trust and the Heritage Council of Victoria in their endeavours to protect our precious buildings and history.

You can visit Como House from Friday to Sunday between 10am and 3pm or book a tour. [The house is closed this weekend 11/12 November]. Go to the National Trust site and click on Como House for further detail.

balance logo 20150209a

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

Heritage Listing, an interesting case

At Balance Architecture and Interior Design we like to offer ‘balanced’ viewpoints. In the heart of the Melbourne CBD lies a fairly significant dilemma – the Heritage listed carpark at 180 Russell St.

Total Carpark from Russell Street, with Total house office above

The site is now listed on the Victorian State Heritage Register. This sounds impressive, but in reality there are over 1971 Heritage sites listed in Melbourne’s CBD ranging from buildings to features such as stained glass through to well – carparks. Notably at this point the Russell St Theatre located at 19-25 Russell St does not appear to have achieved Heritage Listing.


There were differing views prior to the listing of the Total Carpark for Heritage Listing. Here is a reprint of the Age article of August 9th, 2014. The author provides a rather entertaining insight into the listing of the site and those who would choose it was otherwise.

‘Ugly’ car park in heritage legal fight

The owners of a 1960s Chinatown car park have challenged its controversial heritage listing, arguing such protection is ‘‘irrational’’ while fighting to build a hotel tower on the site.

The Total House car park on Russell Street, once labelled ‘‘ugly’’ by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, secured a place on the heritage register in April due to its cultural significance.

The building, completed in 1965, is made up of seven concrete decks of above-ground parking, a nightclub, and a small box-shaped office. It’s considered to be an early example of Brutalist architecture in Victoria and a key site from the post-war car ownership boom.

But the site’s new owner, AXF Group, is fighting the heritage listing and wants to demolish the car park to build a glittering skyscraper.

In legal documents filed in the Victorian Supreme Court, the developer’s lawyers argue the heritage listing process was flawed on over a dozen grounds.

The Heritage Council of Victoria should have taken economic issues into account, thus making the listing ‘‘irrational, illogical or not based on findings or inferences of fact supported by logical grounds,’’ according to the court documents.

The developer’s lawyer, Stuart Morris, QC, told court on Friday that while development plans had stalled, wind tunnelling tests were still continuing.

The National Trust’s Paul Roser said the emerging legal battle could be a key moment in heritage protection. ‘‘The fight is clearly on to preserve our significant post-war modernist legacy,’’ he said.

The site was snapped up by AXF in 2012, reportedly for $40 million, and has been listed as ‘‘Sovereign Plaza’’ in legal filings. Early plans for the site show a 70-storey hotel and apartment tower decorated in gold and silver, but only if the car park can be torn down.
With its distinctive design, the Heritage Council found the existing car park was a ‘‘landmark’’ while the nightclub, most recently known as Billboard, was ‘‘the most extravagant nightclub experience in the city’’ when it opened nearly 40 years ago.
Melbourne Heritage Action Group originally nominated Total House for the heritage register. Spokesman Tristan Davies said the developer’s economic arguments were already tested during the heritage listing process.

“It doesn’t have to remain as a car park. There could be a few adapted reuses for it,” he said.

CBRE property director Mark Wizel said the case wouldn’t deter other Chinese investors from buying up 1960s-era buildings out of fear of facing a similar heritage battle. That’s because property owners still have an avenue of appeal, he said.

‘‘This shows the transparency of our planning system and our legal system,” he said.

A hearing for a court challenge is not expected until early next year.


Note the lawyer specialising in ‘Development’ and Heritage cases is a Mr Stuart Morris QC. Familiar? Mr Morris is currently representing the Corkman ‘Demolisher’ Developers.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin. Dr Alan Davies – the Urbanist frequently writes blogs for Crikey amongst others. He is a principal of the Melbourne based economic and planning consultancy Pollard Davies Consulting.

Here is his article in Crikey at the time, the second he had written on the subject.

Architectural merit: has this building got enough to save it?

There’re moves to preserve this 1960s “brutalist” building, but it’s architectural distinction is questionable. It’s unoriginal, uninspired and captures little of the vision of the movement.


Total Car Park, Russell Street, Melbourne

Last week I discussed moves to place a 1965 modernist building in Melbourne – the Total Car Park – on the Victorian State Heritage Register.

The point I sought to make is protecting buildings imposes costs on the wider community. We therefore want to be very sure the buildings we protect from redevelopment are really worth the cost.

I’ve subsequently had a closer look at the claims of architectural and historical distinction made for this building.

Its defenders worry its design virtues will be overlooked because it’s primarily a car park. I don’t think that matters – my conclusion is its intrinsic architectural merit is not only insufficient to justify formal preservation, it isn’t especially compelling on any level.

Commenters at Melbourne Heritage Action, the group leading the charge to register the building, think it’s worthy of preservation because it resembles, variously, a “1980s Apple Mac”, “something out of The Thunderbirds” and an “old-fashioned TV set”.

I acknowledge it’s interesting to a newer generation, but I don’t think the fact it evokes (unintended) similes in the minds of some observers is adequate grounds for preservation.

The fact that none of these references would’ve made sense when the building was constructed reinforces that doubt. By definition, they’re not historical claims at all.

Indeed, I think the architect would’ve been horrified at the time by references of this type. He had pretensions to something much grander and more formal i.e. Japanese brutalism.

According to the write-up of the building in Melbourne City Council’s i-Heritage database (which only gives it a ‘B’ rating, incidentally):

Pre-cast or off-form concrete finishes successfully complete the prevailing Japanese Brutalist image, particularly that of the much lauded Kenzo Tange (see balustrade detail of the Kagawa Town Hall). More than any other multi storey commercial building in Melbourne, this design achieves the closest empathy with Tange’s work as well as a powerfully expressed, yet functional set of forms……

The ‘Statement of Significance’ says:

Melbourne’s most significant Japanese Brutalist design, achieving empathy with the style without plagiarism. Also a distinctive treatment of an adventurous use-combination, unmatched in form elsewhere in Victoria if not Australia.

Well, I think there’s an alternative interpretation: that it’s a derivative, second-rate implementation that captures none of the inspiration of the original style.

The second exhibit (scroll down) shows an image of a museum completed in 1960 by Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake. It’s a building that would’ve undoubtedly been familiar at the time to architects elsewhere.

I think it looks remarkably similar to the office “pod” on top of the Total Car Park.

The third exhibit (scroll down) shows the balustrade of the Kagawa Town Hall by the very famous Japanese architect of the era, Kenzo Tange. Again, the balustrade looks quite similar to the balustrade on the Total Car Park.

The i-Heritage database goes on to laud the structural design of the car park:

The base itself also consists of seemingly floating parking decks and the bland curtain wall of the office level is recessed so far as to appear almost disembodied from its frame. All of this was achieved with two-way cantilevering of the concrete slabs, done elegantly with cruciform beam cross-heads.

These details can be seen in the slide show provided by Melbourne Heritage Action.

But compare this building with how the cruciform beam cross-heads were executed by Tange in the Kagawa Town Hall. The Total Car Park looks like a bland, insipid imitation.

There’s subjectivity in these sorts of judgement of course, but to my eye it seems like certain elements in the Tange architectural vocabulary were picked up and applied directly in Melbourne.

I don’t have a sense that they’ve been creatively and imaginatively adapted to local circumstances, or even applied in ways that would justify terms like “interpretation”, “inspiration”, or “empathy”.

Here are some other buildings from the era by Kenzo Tange – Hiroshima Peace Palace (1955), Yoyogi National Gymnasium (1964), Yamanashi Culture Chamber (1966).

The designer of Total Car Park, who would’ve known of them, shows very little of the assurance and understanding of the brutalist style that Tange exhibits.

Whether one likes this style or not, Tange’s clearly on another plane. Those are buildings worth preserving.

The Total Car Park, by comparison, is dull, plodding and, to be frank, imitative. It’s a journeyman’s design.

It has pretensions to the Japanese Brutalist style, but it’s unoriginal, derivative, offers nothing new in its interpretation and captures none of the vision or energy of the movement.

It doubtless functioned well and satisfied users over the years and I can see why some think it’s “wacky”. But I can’t see a case for preserving it on the grounds of architectural distinction.


Museum designed by Kiyonori Kikutake (1960)


Kagawa Prefectural Government Office, designed by Kenzo Tange (1958)



It would appear to be somewhat of a divided opinion on this particular building. What do you think? Is it meritorious? Does it provide a unique perspective on the times it was constructed? It is a very valuable piece of Real Estate. Do you think that given the State Government overruled a Heritage listing for the first time earlier this week (the APM Boiler House in Fairfield) that Heritage Listings such as this will stand unchallenged?

From a National Perspective the following locations feature on the National Heritage List here in Victoria:

  • Abbotsford Convent
  • Bonegilla Migrant Camp – Block 19
  • Echuca Wharf
  • Eureka Stockade Gardens
  • Flemington Racecourse (the old Grandstand was recently demolished
  • Glenrowan Heritage Precinct
  • HMVS Cerberus
  • High Court of Australia (former)
  • ICI Building (former)
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground (completely new Grandstands)
  • Murtoa No. 1 Grain Store
  • Newman College
  • Point Cook Air Base
  • Point Nepean Defence Sites and Quarantine Station Area
  • Rippon Lea House and Garden
  • Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
  • Sidney Myer Music Bowl
  • St Kilda Road and Environs

There appears to be little rhyme or reason to selection on this list or for that matter on the State Heritage Lists. It comes down to opinion. Of those we have listed, 7 sites have undergone or are undergoing very significant change in more recent times. It is precisely for this reason that our suggestion is to convene a summit of involved and interested parties to qualify, identify and protect our true Heritage buildings based on Architecture, history and community expectations and usage.


Old Member’s Grandstand at Flemington Racecourse

So at 3pm (or thereabouts) when the horses thunder down the track at Flemington and head into the straight to finish their two mile romp, look across to the right of screen at the construction project – the new Grandstand. That’s where the original Grandstand stood and the delightful ornate Grandstand that replaced it in the 1920s also stood. It’s gone, like last week’s pay, as probably will be your selection as they cross the line. But be comforted in the fact. Flemington Racecourse is Heritage Listed.

Back next week after a short break. Good luck on Tuesday.

balance logo 20150209a

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

High rise developments challenge the character of Heritage suburbs.

In recent years there has been a growing trend amongst developers to purchase former ‘Industry Zoned’ buildings in inner city locations such as South Melbourne, Brunswick and Port Melbourne – and up they go! The simple fact is that is where the money is, but at what cost to the community, our heritage and our lifestyles?

It’s interesting to consider what is happening and where. The CBD of Melbourne is creeping outwards. The area of South Melbourne bounded by Whiteside St, City Road, St Kilda Rd and Ferrars St has seen intensive renewal over the last 10 years. Older warehouses have been usurped by the Crown Casino facility and various high rise apartment towers. Older buildings utilised by motor traders, furniture retailers and converted studio and office facilities were replaced by towers of up to 30 storeys. The boundary seemingly of this development was the southern end of the City of Melbourne.
Development does have an insatiable appetite. So it is not surprising to see sites appearing with building approvals further up the hill in South Melbourne, part of the Port Phillip Council region.

In Dorcas St, Developers successfully challenged the Council’s height restriction, gaining approval for an eight storey building. The former building, a terrace, was deemed to be a replica and sanctioned for complete demolition. Importantly, the new development, once completed is directly behind the historic South Melbourne Town Hall, with buildings in between no longer receiving sunlight for up to 6 hours per day.. On the Urban Melbourne website it nominates this project as an important construction marker for South Melbourne.

Here is the full article…

The heart of South Melbourne is seeing increased development activity as a swag of projects look to use the turn of 2016 as an important construction marker. Emerald Hill as it was once known serves as the heart of the suburb and has traditionally been been subject to limited low and medium-rise developments relative to its loftier neighbours in Southbank.

Developers and apartment buyers alike have been seeking out the stretch of South Melbourne west of Clarendon Street, with no less than six apartment project builds on the go which will in time add 430 new apartments to the area.

Market Street is front and centre for the moment with ITUM’s The Walker most advanced in its construction. While it is approaching structural completion the adjoining site which is subject to Teri Apartments is at bulk excavation. Combined these two projects will add approximately 260 apartments to ‘old’ South Melbourne.



Directly opposite the two above yet technically in Southbank, 80 Market Street will also shortly receive a Maben-badged tower crane for the purpose of delivering a new commercial building designed by Billard Leece Partnership.

Push further into South Melbourne and Trio Construct have begun preliminary works on Lt. York while Figurehead will also begin works on the adjoining site at 274 Coventry Street for the purpose of a seven level mixed-use development which includes 37 apartments.

Dorcas Street holds three upcoming projects at varying stages of delivery. Evolve Development’s Jewel apartment project is as basement level with LU Simon undertaking the build while the adjoining 240-242 Dorcas Street is also poised to begin construction at the hand of builder Trimont.

Waiting in the wings is Piccolo Developments’ 228 Dorcas Street which gained approval via VCAT during November, and is expected to advance to sales this year.


The spike in apartment activity within Emerald Hill may raise questions about the erosion of sorts of the area’s unique character, with the current number of builds the highest recorded in the area. It does bear mentioning that 228 Dorcas Street aside, there are no other projects within the old Emerald Hill within the Urban Melbourne project database.

Source: Urban Melbourne

The website is unabashedly pro-development.

Considering South Melbourne is perhaps one of the last vestiges of early Melbourne’s heritage and history, this appears to be a worrying trend.

But it’s not restricted to inner Melbourne. The pure mathematics of high rise development ensures that developers are persistently pushing the boundaries – from Moonee Ponds to Box Hill, from Flemington to Cheltenham, it’s a reoccurring theme. Single dwellings on large allotments are replaced by multiple dwellings in ‘garden settings’. Former manufacturing sites, carparks, and old Hotels make way for multilevel apartment blocks.

In Box Hill, the company that runs the Box Hill Central Shopping Centre has had a significant victory. This is the shopping centre above the Box Hill Station. The company wants to build skyscrapers above the station.

The company that runs Box Hill Central shopping centre has had a big win in its bid to build skyscrapers above the suburb’s bustling railway station.
And Whitehorse Council, which had hoped to restrict high-rise development, has been handed a damning rejection by a panel of expert government planning advisers.


Box Hill is undergoing one of the biggest building booms in Melbourne’s history, as the city’s population expands to an expected 8 million by 2050.

Dozens of towers, some rising to as high as 36 levels, have been built or approved over the past five years.

To bring order to the boom, Whitehorse Council applied to Planning Minister Richard Wynne to alter rules for the suburb to cap tower heights at 30 storeys – or 90 metres – and contain them in a “major development precinct” surrounding Whitehorse Road.

But Planning Panels Victoria, which ran public hearings into the proposal in July, have found in a report to Mr Wynne that Whitehorse Council’s proposed Box Hill height limits lack “strategic rigour” given the importance of the area to Melbourne’s future.

The panel said the council’s proposed planning guidelines were unusable.

“The panel could find no identifiable rationale for the heights proposed,” their report said.


“The proposed preferred heights are not based on a well-founded understanding of the future urban form for the centre.”

While it lashed the council, Planning Panels Victoria called on Vicinity – owner of Box Hill Central shopping centre – to “develop a comprehensive proposal for its land and then prepare an appropriate suite of planning controls to facilitate and guide development”.

Vicinity Centres owns Box Hill Central, two shopping centres close to the railway and bus stations.

It also owns half of the country’s biggest shopping centre, Chadstone.

The centre operator wants to redevelop its properties into high-rise towers and had criticised Whitehorse Council’s attempts to impose 15-storey height limits on its land.

Vicinity has accused the council of trying to “frustrate” the site’s potential in a suburb earmarked in state government plans for major development since 1954.

Booming Box Hill was described in July by real estate agency Savills as the city’s hottest property market.


The council defended its plan, and said the panel’s report was “emotively written”.

Whitehorse mayor Denise Massoud said its findings could limit the ability of councils to plan for the residents they were meant to represent.

“Councillors around the state are starting to question how much influence they can exercise on behalf of their communities,” Cr Massoud said.

Cr Massoud said the council had tried to manage the heights of towers and “maximise positive outcomes” for residents.

This approach had not been accepted, she said.

A spokesman for Mr Wynne said it was the council’s job to assess the panel report and decide if it wanted to adopt or abandon the plan.

Source: The Age, October 18th, 2017

In Brunswick, opposite Princess Park

Brunswick will see its tallest apartment complex emerge yet – this time opposite Princes Park – as the hipster postcode joins a string of Melbourne suburbs quickly soaring upwards.

Building could commence this year on a 13-level, 6000-square metre development bound by Park Street, Sydney Road and Brunswick Road (now the site of the Best Western Princes Park Motor Inn) if the proposal is approved on schedule.

It comes as Melbourne’s suburbs continue to grow taller and denser, with apartment towers approved at increasing heights and suburban developers allowed to squeeze more townhouses on a block.


Comprising three buildings with 333 apartments, 699 Park Street is expected to be Brunswick’s tallest apartment tower, at an estimated 42 metres high. The tallest tower under construction is a 14-level, 40.8-metre tower on the corner of Sydney Road and Albert Street.

But developer JWLand says the Princes Park project will be the “polar opposite” of the Albert Street development, and the other investor-focused towers springing up in the suburb, given it will almost exclusively target Brunswick’s hip and cashed up young professionals and families with larger-sized apartments.

“We’re targeting those that are currently living in the area — they might be renters but want to buy their first home,” head of development Nick Weeks said. The project will also include a large childcare centre, dining and retail.


Mr Weeks, also behind the once-controversial Tip Top development in Brunswick East, said JWLand was working closely with Moreland Council, which had embraced taller buildings on the site.

“The planning scheme is actually specifically designed to encourage higher density and higher buildings,” he said, adding the design would set the tallest part of the building back from the street.

Last year, the state government knocked back the council’s push for mandatory height controls. Brunswick Residents Network’s Joanna Stanley said the community wanted mandatory limits that did not exceed 10 levels. “Brunswick residents don’t support the 13 and the 14 level heights,” she said.


Source: The Domain, March 18th, 2017

This type of development is now being rolled out seemingly unfettered – unless of course you happen to live in Boroondara.

(From 2015)

Sixty square kilometres of inner Melbourne locked away from major development


Major development in Melbourne’s inner east has been restricted, right after the state government announced that it will revise Plan Melbourne, a long-term planning strategy that looks forward to 2050.

Sixty square kilometres of inner suburban Melbourne have been locked away from significant development after the state government passed legislation containing a range of restrictions put forward by the City of Boroondara. Three storey limits have been applied to a large number of commercial precints within the area.

The municipality covers 60 square kilometres of Melbourne’s inner east, and includes established suburbs such as Kew, Camberwell, Balywyn and Hawthorn. The suburbs all sit within 15km of the CBD, and the median house prices exceed $1.5m.

The amendments limit building heights to 11 metres in commercial precincts in areas such as East Camberwell, Canterbury, Mont Albert and Surrey Hills.

Other areas such as Church Street in Hawthorn – 6km from the CBD – and Cotham Road in Kew allow buildings up to a maximum of 14.5 metres, or approximately four storeys.

Paul Donegan, author of City Limits: Why Australia’s cities are broken and how we can fix them, said that the decision by Boroondara City Council was “disappointing.”

“What we’re seeing in Melbourne at the moment is that there’s a big divide between where people live and where people work,” he said.

“That divide leads to congestion, puts pressure on family time, leads to a widening gap in access to opportunity and holds back city productivity.”

“Decisions like that made by the City of Boroondara make that divide worse,” he said.

Amendments to the Boroondara Council’s planning scheme were approved by the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, on Thursday 9 April.

Mr Wynne recently announced that the government would be revising Plan Melbourne, a planning strategy extending to 2050, and reconvening the ministerial advisory committee previously involved in the project. Members of the committee indicated that the development of inner suburbs of Melbourne would be a strong focus in the new plan.

Source: Architecture AU

But as was evidenced in our blog a fortnight ago, there other ways to evade those pesky planning requirements. Buy a mansion, fully restored in Federation style for $9.16 million, knock it down for multiple occupancy and reap a return of 17.5 million on an empty block.


As we already stated it’s now time for a Planning Summit. There is a need not only to coordinate the actions of all participants (Government, Council, VCAT, National Trust, Heritage Victoria), gain significant and meaningful input from Architects, Historians, Developers and builders, but also to consider community input on the social effect of creating sky cities.

There is a development boom occurring in Melbourne. It simply requires legislated checks and balances that enable Councils to present their vision, to ensure the overall vision for Melbourne and its nearby regional cities expressed by Planning Victoria reflects both the best interests and the wishes of the communities it purports to represent.

As Joni Mitchell sang many years ago…

Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
Paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Preserve our heritage, protect our history, ensure we remember the visions of our forefathers who created those wide avenues and broad parklands, because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

balance logo 20150209a

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

Heritage and Restoration – How it can be done

This week we feature a more positive review. We start to look at some of the more interesting restorations and Heritage renovations in and around Melbourne and we take a quick peek at one of the hidden remnants of Old Melbourne’s past – smack in the middle of Port Phillip Bay.

Metropolitan Meat Market

In recent years a number of relatively non-descript older buildings in Melbourne have been restored and featured as modern venues, suitable for events, dinners and other similar purposes.

The first such venue is the old Melbourne Meat Market. Originally built by the ‘Victorian Meat Market Company’ in 1870 it defined the new boom times in its grand edifices and halls.

Melbourne Architect George R Johnson prepared sketches suitable for the changing face of the trade. It was commissioned for construction by Mr William Reginalds, coincidentally the Mayor of Hotham (North Melbourne, a successful and notable figure in the meat trade of the times).

The building was used continually as a Meat Market up until 1974 when it was acknowledged that the grand building no longer served its purpose of servicing the meat and butchery trade. With no space for extra and required refrigeration, the stall holders began to move on to more purpose built premises.


Arts Victoria purchased the building in 1979. In 1985 the building was renamed ‘Meat Market Craft Centre’. This changed in 1998 when the venue was again renamed. It now became the ‘Metro Craft Centre’. At the time it began to be used a a Performing Arts Venue.

The building was substantially renovated in 2002-03. At the time it was over a century old. After the renovation it was for the main part managed by the City of Melbourne. The Council’s ‘Art House’ brand managed the venue. The buildings were presented as creative development and presentation space.

As of 2015 the Meat Market became a venue in its own rite. Over 30 art businesses operate from the venue to this day.

As a venue for a variety of event style functions the Meat Market can seat 600 people for a formal dinner. Dine in a first grade heritage listed building restored and fully maintained to feature its 19th Century grandeur. The cobblestone floor and barrel vault ceiling leave you with a sense that the next sound you may hear is the clip-clop of horses hooves and carts – pass the shiraz please.

It is a perfect illustration of how to retain heritage buildings that have been degraded over time.

Given what has happened recently, this iconic building could easily have ended up another pile of ‘Corkman’ style rubble without sensible intervention – from the City of Melbourne and originally Arts Victoria. It demonstrates that in many cases, it is imperative that Government intervenes.

The second venue is less spectacular externally but demonstrates a clever use of a large unused space in an intelligent creative manner. Located at 135-157 Racecourse Rd Kensington just prior to the on ramp to Citylink heading west its an unobtrusive brick building constructed post World War II in 1945-46. It was an armaments factory owned by Barge Bros. The building was designed by C.T. Gilbertson. It has been a spring factory, a foundry and then housed the complete wardrobe and props for the ‘Pharlap’ movie filmed nearby at Flemington Racecourse.

This is a unique building. Outside is rectilinear, Art Deco reminiscent of the Dutch Modernist William Dudok. However inside the factory features an immense curved roof with arches spanning 30 meters. The arches are glue-laminated Coachwood, 29 sections creating an open column-free area. This is of significant heritage value from a scientific and architectural viewpoint for Victoria, being the first time such a method was used to create open space..

And the venue now known as the Pavilion takes full advantage of this unique feature, seating 200-600 people for a unique sit-down dining experience in open style.

Finally for this bulletin we take a boat trip to the mouth of Port Phillip Bay. Here we find some of the ‘forgotten’ history of Victoria and its capital Melbourne. Man made islands for fortifications to repel invaders still stand guard. There were two forts. One is known as the Pope’s Eye. It is now protected in a Marine Reserve. It was constructed in the 1880s by Sir William Jervios. The island was formed by dumping bluestone boulders on a submerged sand bar in 12 meters of water.


It was never completed as naval advances in weaponry meant hostile ships could now be bombarded from the gunneries on Swan Island and on nearby Fort Queenscliff. It’s an interesting location with remnants of gun positions and living quarters still intact. Take a boat out on the weekend and sample the rather eerie feeling of stepping foot into the past directly.


It was complimented by a second man-made island – the South Channel Fort. Between 1890 and 1916 over 100 officers and men lived on the island. It was abandoned for the same reason. 14,000 tonnes of bluestone boulders, concrete and sand were used in its construction. There are strong remnants of its military past there with ‘disappearing’ gun mechanisms still in situation.


There was an underground living area called a ‘keep’ with a labyrinth of passages, small lobbies, magazines and a fully functional kitchen. From this island fortress the mines for the minefield in the South West Channel were stored and tested. Minefield?? Can you believe it?

Both locations were established to ward off ‘the enemy’. In those days Victoria had a navy. And Russia and France were our enemies. Rule Brittania! Oh and we also welcomed the US Confederate Navy at the time.


US Confederate Navy ship Shenandoah docked in Melbourne in 1865

All of this lends to our colourful historic past. We are fortunate in that many historic homes and buildings, indeed locations, have been preserved for posterity. We feature a number of these today photographically in this blog, and if you choose to, you can read about nearly all of them in previous blogs we have published.

This isn’t the time to back down and permit the destruction of our heritage and history. There are no good reasons to demolish buildings so rich in history, beauty and a timeless sense of being. At Balance we say protect and preserve our past. And if anyone does transgress the law, then let them be forced to restore the damage they cause. No more Corkmans, no more cultural vandalism – heritage is owned by all of us.

balance logo 20150209a

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

The Developers ruse – “Knock ‘em down”

The Corkman Irish Pub demolition (formerly the Carlton Inn) represents a rather unsavoury tactic of Developers. It’s certainly not new, but it surely was and is the most blatant example of the tactic in question, or is it? This week we look at sanctioned demolitions in St Kilda – The Greyhound Hotel, and a magnificent Residential home of grand proportions in Kew.

The tactic is to skin a property back to bare bones – land freehold. Before any further action can be taken, the ‘Developers’ must remove the existing building and structures. For those with no sense of history, heritage or beauty this makes perfect sense. It enables a clean palette from which a simple land sale through to a multi storied tower or multiple dwellings can then proceed.

Older Heritage style buildings are expensive to maintain. They are often in need of drastic repairs and maintenance. Quite often developers will let a building deteriorate to the point it simply cannot be repaired or restored, thus justifying its demolition. Buildings left derelict are pilfered for copper, lead and other materials sourced from plumbing, electricals and even decorative features.

The Larundel Asylum building in Bundoora has suffered this fate. Basically it would be very difficult to restore. [URL previous]

Look at the result in St Kilda where the Greyhound Hotel, a building 160 years old, was destroyed by the wreckers hammer, and excavators tearing down the historic hotel opposite the St Kilda Town Hall in May this year.

The Port Phillip Council (who operate from the St Kilda Town Hall) requested the Victorian Planning Minister Mr Richard Wynne to add the building to the Heritage list of Victoria. He refused. It is interesting to note that this is in fact the same Planning Minister who has orchestrated $1 million in fines against the rogue Corkman developers.

So what was different? The company that owned the Greyhound HAD a planning permit to demolish the building and erect an eight storey apartment block.

It’s a similar scenario with the destruction of the historical London Hotel in Port Melbourne demolished in April this year.

Quite simply, the local Council had waited until after permits for demolition and building were granted before applying for Heritage Listings. This is simply shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

The Heritage Policy is unclear and easily manipulated by those with a profit motive. Compare the situation to Amsterdam where owners of historic buildings can apply for substantial grants to restore, maintain, or in character redevelop such a building.

The answer is that in Melbourne, there is a clear disconnect between valuing heritage and actually funding heritage. No one wants to accept the financial responsibility.

As well it sometimes takes public action to push Local Government into acting. This happened with both the Greyhound Hotel and the London Hotel – but too late.

“The Council’s position is that the State Government planning and heritage policies has too little regard for ‘socially significant’ buildings like the Greyhound Hotel”

The Age – May 11th

The Greyhound Hotel was originally built in 1853 and in 1938 was remodelled in an Art Deco style. This undermined its claim to be considered an ‘historical building’. Originally as its name suggests a ‘sporting’ pub for workers, the first Licensee, a MR John Broad was an eager promoter of holiday race meetings for Greyhounds. The ‘sport’ involved ‘coursing’ where greyhounds would hunt down an ill fated rabbit, the winner being the dog that killed the unfortunate bunny. Different times!

It had a number of Famous local (and infamous) licensees from 1865 to 1886.

During its time of renovation (1938) many hotels Australia-wide were renovated, the renovations dating from the 1920s through to the 1940s. In the 1980s the hotel became the focal point of Melbourne’s ‘Drag’ subculture. It was a popular music venue with weekly ‘drag’ revues until its final demise in January 2017.

But look! No apartments! The developers did not proceed with the ‘Eight Storey Tower’. Instead the block is for Sale, priced at $7 million! Now that’s quite a clever gamble on the $2 million paid in 2006 for the high profile drag venue and gay bar! All legal mind you, all legal. It should be said there was considerable opposition from Council to extend the hotel’s hours, based on residents objections.

The same type of ‘renovation’ applied to the Greyhound occurred at the London Hotel in the 1930s, debarring it well from Heritage Listing.

Finally we look at what can only be described as a tragedy in Kew.

Two Chinese investors purchased the home of former Hawthorn Football Club (AFL) President – Andrew Newbold – for a cool $9.16 million. They had a grand plan – bulldoze the home and offer it as a ‘clean block’ for $17.5 million, its current listing.

What drove the action was the State Government’s ‘Plan Melbourne’ Blueprint which has removed the cap on how many dwellings can be built on a block, replacing it with mandatory garden space ‘requirements’. With Council approval, the site can now be developed into multiple dwellings and advertised as such.

The original home was a stunning, authentic and restored Federation house located on one of Melbourne’s most valuable streets.

Council (Baroondara) had campaigned heavily against the now legislated changes, alas unsuccessfully. The demolished home was fully renovated by its interior designer part owner – Mrs Newbold. This included many of its period features as well as its stately facade.

There is a lot of blame and fingerpointing currently occurring between the various City Councils and the State Government. In a nutshell its time for it to stop, for a cooperative and collaborative approach to be devised with the State Government, Local Councils, the National Trust and other relevant bodies forming a commission and conferencing to establish workable Heritage laws that not only consider the building elements but also the social and historical implications.

Enough is enough.

balance logo 20150209a

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

The Illegal Destruction of One of Carlton’s Oldest Buildings – The Corkman Hotel (formerly the Carlton Inn), circa 1856

The Corkman Irish Pub was demolished illegally without planning or heritage approval on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October, 2016. Formerly known as the ‘Carlton Inn’ it was, prior to demolition, one of the oldest buildings in Carlton, having been built in 1856. Originally a quarter acre allotment on the corner of Leicester and Pelham Streets, a Mr R Hepburn purchased it in 1853 and then subsequently subdivided the crown allotment into smaller 70ft x 70ft allotments. Construction of the hotel commenced in 1856 with the hotel trading in 1857 licensed to a Mr George Edmonds.


The Carlton Inn Hotel, 1957

The City of Melbourne Heritage Overlay described the building as follows –

Historically significant as one of the earliest extant buildings in this part of Carlton, which has undergone substantial change since the time of its original construction in 1857. The Carlton Inn is of historical significance as a good example of the Victorian Period. The facade is relatively plain and generally indicative of the early to mid Victorian period, though the parapet may date to the later Victorian period. The facade has a stucco finish but the original corner section may be partly stone.

Property Developers Stefce Kutlesovski, Raman Shaqiri and their company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd face 16 charges laid by the Victorian Building Authority and the Melbourne City Council.

Council has accused the parties of demolishing a building without a permit, ignoring a stop work order, and carry out demolition whilst unregistered and in breach of planning laws.


Penalties for the offences range from $3000 to $388,000, with Planning Minister Richard Wynne stating the developers could face fines of more than $1 million in total, at the time of the demolition.

Builders rubble containing Asbestos from the site was found dumped in the open by the EPA at Cairnlea in Melbourne’s western suburbs, uncovered and unprotected. The EPA fined the developers $7500. As of January 2017, the EPA has issued a total of $31,000 in fines for non-compliance against the Developers. At the time the developer owners informed the Victorian Government they would rebuild the pub. That was then.


The building was destroyed by Shaq Demolitions and Excavations. The business is half owned by Raman Shaqiri. In essence the company that paid $4.76 million for the pub in August 2014 half owned the demolition company.

Raman Shaqiri holds both a valid demolition license and a current building license, issued by the Victorian Building Authority. One could possibly deduce that Mr Shaquiri essentially thumbed his nose at the authority and its regulations.

The Union Movement through the Trades Hall Council and the CMFEU have imposed Green Bans on the site of the demolished building, the first such bans in over a decade.

The Developers have ‘dug in’ hiring top ‘Silk’ Stuart Morris QC, a top planning barrister, to represent them.


Initially the Developers had sent a letter to Planning Minister Richard Wynne conceding their fault, saying they had ‘breached faith with the community and made very serious errors of judgement’. They undertook to immediately restore the building at their expense. But they didn’t.

In June 2017 the Developers commenced action in the Supreme Court, suing the Planning Minister Richard Wynne, in a further bid to build a high rise construction on the site. Success would see the land purchased for $4.76 Million in 2014 ($1.56 Million above its reserve) revalued at $10 Million; Not hard to see the driving force here.

Mr Wynne will appear and defend the Supreme Court action. In his statements Mr Wynne has reiterated the Government’s requirement for a rebuild and compliance with the requirements of the Victorian Building Authority, the City of Melbourne and the Environmental Protection Authority. The order stipulates that as much of the original materials as is possible should be used in the rebuild.

For their part Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski now seek the overturning of Planning Minister Wynne’s rulings – based on the fact the demolition ‘received extensive media coverage’. They argue Mr Wynne acted with ‘ulterior purpose’ of seeking to punish them – the implication being he did so for political purposes and gain.

Further they say Mr Wynne ‘failed to give them adequate opportunity to be heard’ or ‘to observe the rules of natural justice’.

If successful, the pair can expect the 40m height limit to be restored to the site, allowing for a 13 storey building on the site. Interestingly, preliminary drawings by CHT Architects have emerged of a 12 storey building the developers were planning for the Corkman site.

The Age, July 20th 2017

In VCAT a separate case brought by the Planning Minister Mr Wynne seeks an order forcing the pair to rebuild. Again they are resisting even after previously promising to rebuild.

“The orders sought are vague, imprecise and incapable of being complied with”

Such an order would be ‘oppressive’ their lawyer said.

And so on, the lawyers seek damages, costs and so forth.

The Corkman Pub, formerly the Carlton Inn, survived 159 years. It was a favoured ‘watering hole’ for generations of Melbourne University students. Owned continuously for over a century by one family, the Nobles, as in any working pub it saw changes over the years. In 1939 Architects Thomas Watts and Sons designed a new rear addition including kitchen, and provided alterations to the front bar. A two storey section was built on the eastern boundary in 1936. J.A. Trencher was the architect, with the new addition again seeing the kitchen moved and additional bed rooms added. Further alterations in 1954 by Architect Harry D Little saw the addition of single storey sections for laundry, toilets, a garage and fuel store, all replacing former outbuildings.

It’s obvious that the works were carried out with care, skill and expertise.

The recent works carried out by Shaq Demolitions utilised a Komatsu excavator, large tippers and sledge hammers, was perhaps less subtle.

It is the view of Balance Architecture that the ‘Developers’ should be hit with the full force of the law and be fined at the level that simply makes the projected plan uneconomical and unfundable. Never again should such appalling corporate behaviour be tolerated in the building industry.

And, brick by brick, bluestone block by bluestone block, vintage doors, vintage windows, floorboard by floorboard, Mr Raman Shaqiri and his partner Mr Stefce Kutlesovski must be forced to rebuild, restore and pay all costs on rebuilding the Corkman Hotel to its original state pre-demolition.

Melbourne’s heritage is precious, its time to make a stand.

balance logo 20150209a

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