Heritage in Victoria – Time for Action.

Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there is a need for a stronger lobby group in presenting the arguments, the cases for retention and protection of heritage buildings in Greater Melbourne and Victoria.

Right now, the Government agencies responsible for such protections are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests for Heritage protection. The budget allocated to Heritage Victoria and the heritage Council of Victoria seems to be inadequate.

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‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016

 

Heritage has become a political football. The public and our grand heritage inheritance are the losers. Countless buildings are demolished whilst Heritage overlays are investigated by the Heritage Council. Without publicity, the problem is hidden and the solution becomes moot – often the building just simply disappears. There are loopholes upon loopholes. The recent events in Booroondara bear testament to this.

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Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Beautiful residential dwellings in Kew, Toorak, Hawthorn, Elsternwick, Caulfield North, Black Rock and Beaumaris have been destroyed. Old Hotels built in the 1880s, modified in the 1920s to an art nouveau style have been demolished. Why? Well, because their original architecture was diminished. What about the fabulous Art Nouveau transformations? Look at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda and the London in Port Melbourne, both now vacant blocks.

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Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda

 

At Balance Architecture, we are passionate about Heritage Architecture. The richness of Victorian era opulence engendered by the 1850s Gold Rush, the extraordinary craft and skill in the simple yet intricate details of masonry, tiling, slate roofing, monochromatic brickwork, stained glass windows – the Ballroom and Staterooms. The drawing rooms, the huge and impressive stairwells – the symmetry, the grace.

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The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

Over the last few years we have brought you the passing vista of homes and buildings saved and preserved, of those that are derelict and in need of restoration, and of those demolished and gone forever.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road

We now arrive at a crossroads. It is time for genuine action. We propose the formulation of a new group. The purpose of the group will be to lobby the government (State) to improve Heritage protections, to ensure Heritage Overlays across the entire state are up to date and to commit to the ongoing protection of our precious Heritage assets.

We are aware of other groups operating within the same arena but want to apply a more modern approach utilising online and social media opportunities to not only demonstrate the community depth of feeling on the issue, but to focus the various local groups into a strong voice for Heritage stability and protection.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished

Preparing for Heritage Listings can be both a daunting prospect and a set of difficult procedures. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be, and this is one of the objectives we believe we must work towards – a simplification of the processes combined with much increased funding to the state government bodies charged with doing the relevant inspections and determining the Heritage listings or otherwise.

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In many cases, the ultimate process will find its way to VCAT or a higher court. Often it is Heritage that is the loser. Time’s up on that nonsense. No more Corkman Fiascos, no more Currajong interventions.

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The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.

 

Let’s get a clear, open process in place. Let’s call all parties to the table – Architects, Developers, Residents and Bureaucrats, Council officials, Heritage Council officials and the National Trust – and politicians of all persuasions.

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55 Seymour Rd

It’s five past midnight and it’s time to act. Keep watching our page. We will provide details of a new group for those genuinely interested in Heritage protection. You will be able to join up on Facebook and then we can broaden the base from there. We will announce the new page here soon.

Heritage is our history, our persona, our character – the people of Victoria own it. Time to claim it.

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

Heritage Protection – the challenge is financial.

Victoria is fortunate in that State Government politicians have a bipartisan approach to heritage protection. To a major extent political parties, Local Government and the public agree on the majority of established Heritage listed properties being protected. The issue here is the updating and strengthening of protections for those buildings and properties either undergoing Heritage inspection and/or those not currently heritage listed.

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In Tasmania there is a different problem. Capital is scarce in Tasmania and the value put upon Heritage classification is definitely not uniform. The current Government, as can be seen by its pro-development stance on the Treasury Buildings in Hobart is less than enthusiastic in truly protecting Heritage buildings in the State. Add to that Local Government Councils that seemingly have little or no understanding of Heritage values and you have a disaster in the offing.

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From the ABC…

Tasmania is full of heritage-listed sites, but are they worth saving?

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The Hunters Hotel in Tasmania has seen better days

In the heart of Queenstown on Tasmania’s remote west coast stands a forest green hotel, framed with gold trimmings and a grand wooden balcony that overlooks the township.

The Hunters Hotel has a historic past, with its balcony serving as a stage for many speeches throughout its life.

In the early 1900s, workers’ rights advocate and Labor MP King O’Malley spoke from the balcony to the people in the street below.

Then in 1912, amidst the tragedy of the North Lyell mine fire where 42 men lost their lives, the community was given updates from the balcony.

But now this piece of history is facing the possibility of destruction.

The West Coast Council has issued an emergency order for the owners to dismantle the sagging balcony due to safety concerns.

West Coast Mayor, Phil Vickers said the owners have 28 days to make a decision.

“It’s a private property that has a verandah that is built over the top of a council footpath,” he said.

“It’s heritage-listed and we’ve had an engineers report that demonstrates that it needs to be either re-engineered and fixed up or dismantled.”

The owners and concerned members of the community are desperately trying to save the balcony.

One resident has started a crowdfunding page, but only $1,800 of the required $35,000 has been raised so far.

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Ralph Wildenauer says he has tried to do work himself, but health setbacks mean he needs to hire labour

Hotel owner Ralph Wildenauer said he was planning to fix the balcony next year after the rest of the hotel had been opened for business to raise the necessary funds.

“I was doing most of the work and last year I had a major stroke, so I’m not able to do work anymore and it means we have to employ people to finish everything off, which is very expensive,” Mr Wildenauer said.

Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’

Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.

“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.

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Clarendon House looks good on the surface

Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’

Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.

“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.

In Tasmania, the National Trust has eight sites ranging from Home Hill, the family home of former Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, to Hobart’s Convict Penitentiary.

However, the cost to maintain and preserve these heritage assets is huge.

Mr Smithies said the National Trust has a bit of a legacy at the moment of maintenance and conservation works that are well overdue.

“We’ve got about $3.5 million worth of conservation works that we need to carry out immediately, and raising that funding is difficult,” he said.

Clarendon House, in the north of the state, is in desperate need of maintenance and restoration — some of the building’s walls being reduced to rubble, issues with the staircase that is no longer straight and a basement that is cracked from a flood that occurred five years ago.

“From an engineers report that we’ve received, we’re actually going to lose the front face of Clarendon in the not-too-distant future,” Mr Smithies said.

The Tasmanian Branch of the National Trust has found its priority list is constantly changing due to the rapid rate their heritage sites have been deteriorating.

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A floor is in ruins inside Clarendon House, a heritage-listed site in Tasmania’s north

Last year, the Launceston City Council told them to close the Franklin House site to the public due to safety issues with a wall.

“The convict-built, brick boundary wall at Franklin House was at the brink of toppling over, causing a lot of occupational health and safety concerns as it was a boundary wall with our neighbours and at the eleventh hour we did manage to get some funding from both Launceston Council and the State Government,” Mr Smithies said.

To minimise the loss of heritage during the wall dismantlement, each brick was numbered, catalogued and photographed as it was removed.

Contemporary foundations were then laid before the wall was rebuilt, with each brick placed in its original spot.
‘Mould everywhere, mushrooms growing on the floors’

The owners of the Hunters Hotel have faced the same problem when it came to the maintenance and preservation of their heritage-listed building.

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The balcony of Hunters Hotel is in desperate need of repair

Mr Wildenauer and his wife took over the hotel more than two years ago, but before that, it had been abandoned for almost 20 years.

“You know, twenty years of leaking roofs and missing windows, there was mould growing everywhere, there were mushrooms growing on the floors, it was really, really bad,” he said.

“If we hadn’t started working on it, by now huge sections would have collapsed, you know ceilings would have come down, roofs would have come down.”

Mr Wildenauer believes if he had used professionals to work on the structure, it would have cost close to $1 million.

He tried to obtain multiple grants to help fund the needed work restorations but has been unsuccessful so far.

Cr Vickers said that small councils could not afford to help everyone, especially when the building is private property.

“It’s a historic building and we have lots of historic buildings that are in private ownership within our district, we can’t help everyone,” he said.

But the National Trust said it was a challenge for people who were custodians of heritage in both the private and public sectors.

“There is a bigger discussion that needs to be had around how we can keep our heritage assets standing,” Mr Smithies said.
What’s worth saving?

Due to limited funding, maintainers of heritage sites within the state have to decide which assets should be maintained.

Mr Smithies said it was hard to put a price on heritage.

“It’s what makes towns and cities and villages different from one another,” he said.

“I’m from Sydney, so the greater western suburbs, where they’ve just built these matchbox houses side by side, they’re absolutely soulless and I don’t think people particularly want to live like that.”

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A staircase at historic Clarendon House near Launceston has visible cracks and mould

Those within heritage management asses value by looking at what stories are linked to the asset.

Mr Smithies said there were some wonderful collections at the National Trust that would fetch a high price at auction, with some even gaining international interest.

But his favourite heritage asset is a 120-year-old kerosene tin that he believes is worth about 50 cents.

“Someone’s cut the front out and put a candle in … it comes from a farm of a well-known agricultural family and it was the kerosene tin that they used to go down to the dairy when there was calving,” he said.

“How do you measure significance? Is it the stories behind it or is it the bean counter? What is its commercial value?”

For Mr Wildenauer, although the Hunters Hotel is expensive to maintain, its history is priceless.

“Once that balcony is gone, it will be gone forever, the history will be gone with it,” he said.

“OK, they might have saved a few beams and a few bits and pieces, but it’s not going to be the same balcony if they rebuild it and the cost of rebuilding is going to be way, way more than the cost of repairing it.

“It’s not always a viable thing to restore these buildings, but to let them collapse is even worse.”

Source: abc.net.au

Heritage protection and Heritage values should not vary from State to State. In Melbourne when one of the oldest remaining buildings in the CBD was in imminent danger of collapse, its inhabitants too old and infirm to take action, the City of Melbourne stepped in and provided reinforcing whilst funding and plans for its restoration was determined. It’s still braced, located at the corner of King St and Latrobe St.

It’s time to evolve a national approach to our Heritage buildings and properties, create a funding model and provide significant education from an early age to enable people to realise the true value of such neglected buildings.

Heritage is precious – protect it.

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

The difference in heritage values Cultural Vs Architectural sees the end of Melbourne’s Iconic Metro.

Originally a theatre, now known as the Metro Nightclub, the building was constructed in 1911 replacing the original ‘Queen’s Hall’ attached to the Hotel Douglas.

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To refresh your memories or to provide the basis for discussion, here is a reprint of our blog dated Sept 27th 2017.

The Palace Theatre Melbourne – perhaps you remember it as the Metro Nightclub. Demolition of this well known Melbourne icon was approved in 2016 at VCAT. The interior was illegally demolished without permits in 2014. It is now owned by the Jinshan Investment Group. The group planned to build a 30 storey W Hotel on the site but are now restricted to a 7 storey site after the intervention of the City of Melbourne. Located at 20-30 Bourke St, the venue has a long history in the Entertainment Industry. As it stands, it is slated for demolition at any time.

The Palace Theatre is somewhat of an enigma. Its scenario is not that dissimilar to the Corkman Hotel of Carlton illegally destroyed by developers recently. The building is in fact a large, high roofed theatre. What was significant about it were its internal fittings. In 2014 a contracted demolition company removed the ornate plaster features, facades and balcony decorations, rendering the interior somewhat featureless and undermining any claims of heritage value. One could consider it a ‘tactic’ to enable a party to proceed with a demolition that might otherwise be opposed.

It this case, the venue represents a very valid principle in both planning and preservation. In the view of many – including the City of Melbourne’s representatives, it should be incumbent on the properties owners – Jinshan Investment Group – to restore the interior to its previous state.

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Originally the site was occupied from the late 1850s by the Excelsior Hotel. Hotels at the time were close relations to the Theatre and Theatre companies of the time. The Excelsior had a ‘hall’ attached known as ‘Queen’s Hall’. Vaudeville, boxing and wrestling events were staged there regularly. Name changes occurred in 1875 (Stutt’s Hotel) and 1900 (Hotel Douglas). The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1911 and the land was sold for 32,000 pounds.

In 1911, a new theatre was commissioned by the new owners, to occupy the site. Queensland Architects Eaton and Bates in association with Melbourne Architect Naham Barnet were tasked with designing the new theatre. It featured seating on 3 levels with a large proscenium and very grand ‘curtains of gold’. The theatre incorporated a hotel, the Pastorial, with bedrooms on the first floor.

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The theatre was modified in 1916 with a complete refitting of the lobby and auditorium under the instruction of Architect Henry E White. This involved the addition of ornate plaster mouldings decorating the theatre in a style recognised as ‘Louis Seize’.

Further additions to the decorative style occurred in 1923 when the theatre auditorium was extensively remodelled , retaining the Louis Seize style yet overlaying it with a further Adamesque decoration. Upon completion it reopened as the ‘New Palace’.

In 1934 a further new renovation occurred and the theatre became known as the Apollo. It was renamed again in 1940 – The St James Theatre. 1951 saw it renamed ‘The St James Theatre and Metro’. Now an MGM theatre it became a cinema and showed films exclusively from that studio.

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The street frontage and facade was remodelled in an Art Deco style – designed by a H Vivian Taylor, and to this day the design remains. The Proscenium and side boxes were removed to allow for the installation of a ‘CinemaScope’ screen.

In 1971 it reverted to live theatre with the production ‘Hair’ running for 39 weeks. By 1974 it had reverted to its original name and was a working Cinema – again. 1980-1987 saw it as a Christian Revival Centre run by the Pentecostal Church.

A major refurbishment was undertaken in 1987 by Melbourne Architects ‘Biltmoderne’. From then on it was known as the Metro Nightclub. The Nightclub was sold in 2007. The new owners were the former owners of the Palace live music venue in St Kilda.

They renamed the venue ‘The Palace’. Holding 1850 people, the venue hosted many well known touring groups and musicians over the next 7 years. It was sold to the Chinese Development Group Jinshan in late 2012.

In 2016 opponents to the demolition of the venue finally lost the fight and VCAT ruled that the Demolition should proceed and the redevelopment works go ahead.

Excerpts from Wikipedia

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This is a rather interesting case study. From an architectural viewpoint, much of the original charm of the foyer and auditorium were removed over the years but the very ornate plasterwork remained up until 2014. Additions made in 1987 including stainless steel staircases and galleries could easily have been reverted.

Its claim for heritage value was not on architectural grounds but on cultural grounds. The Bourke St Precinct has strict heritage overlays yet the Developer was prepared to challenge these, even in view of the Windsor result and the location of the Victorian Parliament, with a 30 storey tower – until challenged by Council as to its height.

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According to Professor Graeme Davidson, the Heritage listing (not ratified) for cultural importance was and is well justified.

“This is likely the last surviving expressly built Vaudeville Theatre (Variety Show) in Melbourne.”

The destruction is breathtaking when considering the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. In our view this is a glaring example of manipulation of regulations by third parties to gain an outcome that provides little recognition of heritage values. Under the Bourke Hill precinct overlay, the theatre’s internal fitout was protected as was the building’s facade. When the theatre was gutted and the interior demolished – no authority intervened.

Heritage is often more than just the value of the individual aspects of a building. It is the sum total of the history, the usage, the architecture and the decorations of a building. And as with the Corkman in Carlton and the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda, this time VCAT, you got it wrong.

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What’s your opinion? Should the developers be forced to restore unauthorised demolitions? As it stands we have precious little left to preserve.

Its time Council started to respond and intervene when required. Our city has great character and we must do whatever it takes to retain what is quintessentially Melbourne.

Source: Balance Architecture

So in this instance the application for Heritage Listing was based entirely on the Cultural Heritage of the venue, but as can be seen, the history of the venue is much older and far more impressive that just the cultural heritage. It would appear that under Heritage Victoria’s direction Art Deco is not valued, unless it is specifically mentioned in the Heritage application. Surely the umpire should have stepped in here!

Take a look at the architectural mouldings, the plasterwork, the murals – simply irreplaceable!

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Melbourne’s old vaudeville theatres have all but disappeared. The Tivoli, the Theatre Royal, Sol De Val, the Gaiety and St George’s Hall to name but a few. Bourke St East was the heart of theatre and vaudeville in old Melbourne town. Sadly it’s now lost.

From The Age…

‘Morally outrageous’: After 108 years, demolition of The Metro begins

Demolition of one of Melbourne’s best-loved music venues, The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, began this week, ending a seven-year public battle to save the venue.

The 108-year old theatre, venue of The Metro nightclub for over 20 years from 1987 as well as a live music hall, played host to artists including James Brown, The Prodigy, Slash, Jane’s Addiction, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age until its doors shut in 2014.

 

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Demolition of the Palace Theatre in Melbourne commenced this week.

 

With the site to be converted into a Marriott hotel after years of conjecture, councillors and music industry figures have lamented the demolition as an indictment on Victoria’s heritage laws, which they say fail to properly recognise the cultural value of the state’s venues.The Palace was sold in 2012 to Chinese developer Jinshan Investment Group for $11.2 million.

Melbourne City Council approved plans to build a hotel in 2013, which objectors unsuccessfully opposed in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2016, however the site was dormant until the roof was removed in the past fortnight.

Known for its marble staircase and sweeping viewing balconies, photos emerged this week of excavator trucks in the venue, the stage area in rubble and a hole in the roof where a chandelier once hung.

 

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The Metro Nightclub at midnight in January 1992

 

Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the council’s heritage division, said the 3000-capacity Palace was not previously granted heritage status because renovations had created a “mish-mash of architectural eras”.

“Even though the demolition that’s happening inside the theatre is perfectly legal, it’s still morally outrageous,” Cr Leppert said.

“Our heritage regime still rewards architectural purity above everything else, but the thing that makes The Palace special is the social history of the place, which is so extraordinary. I hope we are never in a situation like this again.”

 

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The Metro nightclub in its heyday

 

Music Victoria chief executive Patrick Donovan said The Palace closure left a “massive gap” in Melbourne for a medium-sized venue with a late-night licence.

“It was an absolutely pivotal venue in the Melbourne music scene,” he said.

“It was a popular weekly alternative music nightclub called Goo for university students, then they had live music shows up to five days a week. I really do believe our heritage laws need a good look at.”

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Heavy heart: You Am I’s Tim Rogers performs at The Metro in 1996

 

The Palace was also used as a cinema, Pentecostal church venue and theatre in its 108-year history. It’s understood the developers will be required to retain its historic facade.

 

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The Palace Theatre is being demolished

 

Mr Donovan said cities such as Vancouver and Toronto in Canada recognised cultural value more than Victoria and said The Palace should be used as a cautionary tale to protect venues such as St Kilda’s The Esplanade and Festival Hall, which survived an initial push for demolition in 2018.

“We don’t need any more apartments in this city, but we do need venues like the Espy and the Palace.”

Rebecca Leslie, spokeswoman for the Save the Palace campaign that has fought the development since 2013, said the demolition’s timing had taken the group by surprise.

“The experience of attending a live band there was incredible. No matter where you stood, you got the most incredible view, with this beautiful 100-year-old building, with all the pictures and fittings around it still intact.”

Source: theage.com.au

It is accepted that many of these buildings (the theatres) would not have lasted until today in terms of Construction, however The Metro had done so until 2012 and put simply the venue was unique.

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As we said before, now we have a 7 storey hotel with 143 rooms, a gym, a swimming pool and a restaurant.

C’est la vie.

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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 Repurposing of Heritage Buildings – Skill or Stealth?

In Tasmania, arguably some of Australia’s oldest historic and heritage protected buildings have long enjoyed quite rightful protection from ‘Developers’ and repurposing.

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This would appear to be not the case anymore. The Tasmanian Government is currently undertaking an ‘Expressions of Interest’ on the historic Treasury Buildings complex. The complex was earmarked ‘for sale’ in the 2018 State Budget.

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The Treasury Buildings were constructed over a period of 130 years, with the original buildings being erected in 1824. Every component building of the complex has since been clad in local Sandstone.

For a better understanding of what the Treasury Buildings complex consists of, please consider this decision by Heritage Tasmania. Currently the buildings are publicly owned.

Treasury Complex’s Heritage Values Recognised

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The Tasmanian Heritage Council has initiated a process to better define the historic cultural heritage values of Hobart’s iconic Treasury complex.

‘The Heritage Council is pleased to announce the provisional replacement entry of the Treasury Complex and Public Buildings in the Tasmanian Heritage Register and seek input on this entry after an extensive assessment process’ said Ms Brett Torossi, Chair of the Tasmanian Heritage Council.

‘In making the decision to provisionally enter the Treasury Complex in the Heritage Register, the Heritage Council was conscious of recognising the critical role it has played in shaping the Tasmania over the 19th and 20th Centuries. It was also keen to respond to the Tasmanian Government’s announcement of its plans to release the complex for an alternate use and give interested members of the Tasmanian community the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed entry’.

The Treasury Complex and Public Buildings occupies a prominent block within the city centre of Hobart. It includes a group of eight adjoining and interconnected buildings, principally constructed across the approximately 130 years from 1824 to 1957, as well as the former HEC Substation on the corner of Murray and Davey Streets. The complementary styles and scales of the complex’s buildings, most of which are clad in locally quarried sandstone, give them a strong degree of unity.

Across the 19th and 20th centuries, the complex conveyed an impression of state power and authority. During the early colonial period housed the centralised administration of core government functions within the convict society of Van Diemen’s Land. The Treasury Complex and Public Buildings has been at the centre of Tasmania’s judicial, political and administrative life from the 1820s until the present day, and is of exceptional historic cultural heritage significance.

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At the time the Tasmanian Government announced The Treasury Divestment Project in 2018, the Treasury Complex was recognised as being of historic cultural heritage significance to Tasmania by two entries in the Tasmanian Heritage Register. These entries were for the Public Buildings adjacent to Franklin Square (THR #2468) and the Franklin Square Office Complex (THR# 2516).

In order to better define the heritage values of the Treasury Complex and ensure they are recognised and effectively managed into the future, the Heritage Council decided to create a single, comprehensive, consolidated replacement entry for the Treasury Complex, inclusive of its buildings, sub-surface values and curtilage. As a result of this effort, a new entry for the Treasury Complex and Public Buildings (THR#11734) was provisionally entered in the Heritage Register on 10 December 2019, under provisions contained in Part 4 of the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995.

This provisional replacement entry is now open for public consultation. Members of the public have 60-days in which to lodge submissions or objections to the entry of this place on the Heritage Register. This is part of the statutory process required under Part 4 of the Heritage Act.

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This process is a two-stage process that entails: the provisional entry of a place in the Heritage Register, written advice to the property owner/s and the local planning authority, a 60-day public consultation period at least 21 days later; and a final decision on the permanent entry of the place by the Heritage Council, with an appeal process available to anyone that lodges a submission.

This public consultation process commences on 8 January 2020 and closes on 8 March 2020. A decision on the permanent entry is expected to be made before the end of April 2020. The Heritage Council’s decision will take into consideration any submissions or objections received.

‘I encourage anyone with an interest in the Treasury Complex and Public Buildings to review the new provisional replacement entry on our website and provide us with their feedback.’ For a copy of the provisional replacement entry click here.

Source: heritage.tas.gov.au

It can be deduced that sections of the Tasmanian Government simply view the historical buildings as an excellent piece of CBD real estate that a profit can be turned on. Equally there are many people Australia-wide who believe these buildings should remain a public asset and be carefully protected.

Heritage Tasmania is calling for submissions and/or objections to its new provisional Heritage Entry on the buildings in question.

Here is the link to that provisional entry for your due consideration and comment.

This type of approach as being adopted by the Tasmanian Government will become far more commonplace as elected representatives look to sell off Government Assets to provide significant financial windfalls.

From the Advocate Newspaper…

Investors sought for historic Tasmanian Treasury building

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Investors are being sought to outline their vision for Hobart’s historic Treasury building.

Finance Minister Michael Ferguson said it was important prospective investors were able to undertake due diligence on the site before presenting a concept plan that aligned with the project objectives agreed with the community.

He said investors had until April 2 to outline the social economic and environmental contribution their proposals would make.

“Proponents will be expected to highlight their experience and capacity to deliver a project of this scale and heritage significance, consistent with the new Treasury Complex and Public Buildings Conservation Management Plan,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The CMP, which has been finalised in close consultation with Heritage Tasmania and the City of Hobart, and a survey, are available on the website.

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“The survey seeks feedback on whether this comprehensive CMP addresses the issues the community would want the document to cover, and future uses that may be proposed.”

Heritage Tasmania is also undertaking separate public consultations until March 8, 2020, on a single consolidated heritage entry that covers the Treasury buildings, sub-surface values and curtilage, to better define their heritage value.

The historic Treasury building was earmarked for sale by the Tasmanian Government in the 2018 budget.

Source: theadvocate.com.au

A similar article appeared in the Launceston Examiner.

The Tasmanian Treasury building complex is not just a Tasmanian treasure, it is a National Heritage treasure.

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“Re-imagining” seems like a metaphor for “redevelop” to us. It has already been determined the buildings are not suitable for a Hotel.

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Perhaps the Tasmanian Government could look to Victoria for inspiration. The old Customs House in Flinders St has been converted into the Immigration Museum, providing an excellent educational resource for thousands of visitors, schoolchildren and the many, many migrants who have made Australia home. It remains a public building.

And so should the old Hobart Treasury Buildings, an integral part of Australia’s colonial history, a genuine component of this Nation’s heritage and beginnings. Re-imagine that.

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

The Battle to protect Heritage is hotting up. Two Key Issues.

The ongoing battle to protect heritage architecture and our historic buildings from unscrupulous developers has seen two major issues come to a head this January. One is the removal of the planning loophole (Amendment 299) that enabled Heritage destruction in Booroondara. This amendment by the Victorian Government Planning Ministry permitted the destruction of buildings subject to interim Heritage Overlays in Booroondara, and was rescinded by the planning Minister on or about January 2nd 2020.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road

The second major issue is of course the Corkman Demolition and the ongoing refusal of the developers involved to co-operate or to fulfil the terms of agreement made with Government’s Planning Minister, Mr Richard Wynne, last year.

The Corkman Saga is becoming a major thorn in the side of the Minister and his department. Land value at the time of purchase in 2015 was assessed to be in line with the purchase price of $4.76 million. However as a Heritage listed building this essentially meant nothing until the developers ‘knocked the pub over’. Land value is now estimated to be $8 to $10 million. Its plain to see that with fines reduced to $1.1 million last year in the County Court, compulsory acquisition as being touted by the Victorian Government opposition is hardly punitive.

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The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.

We suspect that current legislation in ineffective in dealing with such matters. As can be seen, fines are limited. It’s probably the right time to introduce stronger punitive measures, but no Government wants to be viewed as ‘anti-development’. In this case the Corkman ‘Developers ‘could reap up to 3 times the land value if they were permitted to build. Quite frankly they should never be permitted to under any circumstances. Again – this will require new legislation.

Here are two recent articles from the Fairfax press on the situation

Seize Corkman land, opposition says, after another broken promise

The developers who own the Carlton site where the historic Corkman Irish Pub once stood have failed to carry out their latest promise, which was to build a temporary public park on the land.

The failure has led the opposition to renew its call for the Andrews government to forcibly acquire the land.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski in October 2016 knocked down the 159-year-old pub without planning or building permission.

They were initially fined almost $2 million for brazenly destroying the building over the course of a weekend. Last year, their County Court appeal saw the fines cut to $1.1 million.

Rubble covered the site for three years after the demolition, but in 2019 Planning Minister Richard Wynne reached an agreement with the pair to turn the site into a temporary public park.

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The pub in 2016 before it was knocked down

Under the terms of their agreement with Mr Wynne and Melbourne City Council, the pair cleared the site and were then supposed to deliver a plan for a temporary park, which was meant to be open by February. But the pair have not yet even submitted plans to the city council for approval.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the council was considering its legal options to make sure the site was turned into public space.

“We’re extremely disappointed the owners of the Corkman site have not complied with the VCAT order,” she said.

Contacted on Tuesday, Mr Kutlesovski refused to say why no action had been taken on the promised park. Mr Shaqiri did not return a message left with him.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith said that Mr Wynne now needed to step in and compulsorily acquire the land, because of his repeated failure to compel the owners to do anything that they had agreed to do.

In 2016 in response to intense public outrage, Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski issued a promise – via their public relations consultant, and now Labor MP Will Fowles – to Mr Wynne that they would rebuild the pub. They later reneged on this promise.

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A graffiti piece depicting demolition of the Corkman pub, directly across the road from the site

“Richard Wynne first said the pub would be rebuilt and it hasn’t been,” Mr Smith said. “He then said the rogues that knocked down the Corkman would have the highest fines ever, and that’s not true,” he said.

Mr Smith said the latest failure meant the government “must surely now intervene and compulsorily acquire the site and put it to good use, which is student housing, social housing or a park”.

He questioned why the government was so easily able to compulsorily acquire land needed for major transport projects and yet was unwilling to take the Carlton site off its owners. “We’re not talking tens of millions here,” he said.

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The pub immediately after Kutlesovski and Shaqiri demolished it

Mr Kutlesovski and Mr Shaqiri bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million and it was last year valued at between $8 million and $10 million.

Mr Wynne said the planning department was working with the city council to force Shaqiri and Kutlesovski to comply with the VCAT order to build a park on the site. “These cowboy developers have shown, yet again, that they are recklessly disinterested in obeying the law,” he said.

Mr Wynne did not respond to questioning about whether the government would compulsorily acquire the site.

He has previously said the price the government would have to pay to acquire the site would deliver huge profits to the developers, and for this reason he would not proceed down that path.

Source: brisbanetimes.com.au

‘You’re not above the law’: State takes Corkman Pub ‘rogue developers’ back to court

The state government will take developers who razed the historic Corkman Irish Pub to court again, seeking an order forcing them to build a temporary public park at the Carlton site.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski have failed to deliver on their promise to build the park by February under an agreement they reached with Planning Minister Richard Wynne last year.

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The Carlton site on Tuesday

The site remains closed off by a barbed-wire fence and the pair have not submitted plans to the City of Melbourne for approval.

Mr Wynne on Wednesday said the state government and Melbourne council would seek an enforcement order at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to ensure Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski delivered on their promise.

The minister said he would speak with Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to expedite the court process and have the matter heard in VCAT soon.

“We don’t want this matter hanging around – we want this matter resolved, we want this park to be built,” Mr Wynne said.

“You can be absolutely confident of my determination and the government’s determination to ensure the enforcement order, if we are successful at VCAT, is in fact abided by these developers. You are not above the law.”

If an enforcement order is issued and the developers again fail to build the park, Mr Wynne said Melbourne council would step in to build the park and seek costs from Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski.

The opposition renewed its calls for Mr Wynne to step in and compulsorily acquire the land following his repeated failure to compel the owners to act.

But Mr Wynne rejected those calls, accusing the Coalition of “not understanding planning laws”.

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The Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton, built in 1857, was demolished in 2016

“One of our eminent planning [lawyers] advised me absolutely that the state would be required to pay the enhanced value of the site, plus compensation, and we’re not prepared to do that,” he said.

“We’re not prepared to reward these developers who have flouted the law.

“We will never allow this site to be acquired with a massive windfall gain for these rogue developers at the expense of taxpayers.”

The opposition’s planning spokesman Tim Smith hit back, calling the state government’s decision to take the pair to VCAT a “joke”.

“Dick Wynne has now been dragged back to VCAT, where he says he’s going to get another wet lettuce to slap these two cowboys with over the wrists again,” Mr Smith said.

“Wow, what a joke. These two cowboys are just laughing at Dick.”

Mr Kutlesovski and Mr Shaqiri bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million and the site was last year valued at between $8 million and $10 million.

In October 2016 they knocked down the 159-year-old pub without planning or building permission.

They were initially fined almost $2 million for destroying the building over the course of a weekend. Last year a County Court appeal led to the fines being cut to $1.1 million.

Source: theage.com.au

Unfortunately, this saga is now playing into a political situation. To date there is very little substance as to suggestions to compulsorily acquire the property.

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

In the UK, the developers would be forced to reconstruct the hotel, be fined heavily or face confiscation of the property.

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

To the second issue – Booroondara. This is another political gamesmanship issue – the loser has been Heritage. The State Government has rescinded Amendment C299 which applied specifically to buildings subject to Heritage Overlays in the Booroondara Council area.

Here is a statement from the Mayor or Booroondara…

Removal of unjust Amendment C299 loophole boosts heritage protection in Boroondara

Council takes back control of protecting the City’s history.

The City of Boroondara is aware of media reports about the Victorian Minister for Planning’s intention to remove the unjust, discriminatory and exclusively prejudicial ‘Boroondara Planning Scheme Amendment C299’, which uniquely allowed the demolition of buildings subject to Interim Heritage Overlays in Boroondara.

Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Cynthia Watson, said Council had been advocating since June 2018 when C299 was imposed by the Minister on Boroondara, for the removal of Amendment C299.

“We are relieved to see common sense finally prevail with the proposed removal of the Amendment C299 loophole,” said Cr Watson. “No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria is subject to an exemption like this one, which allows heritage properties to be demolished”.

During 2019, Council wrote to the Minister requesting the removal of the Amendment on seven occasions (8 and 13 May, 24 June, 30 August, 9 and 13 September and 21 October) and also wrote to all local members of state parliament and Premier Daniel Andrews, seeking assistance to have Amendment C299 removed.

During this time, Council also repeatedly sought authorisations and decisions from the Minister which would have protected properties at risk of demolition. On average, the Minister took over five months to respond to these requests for heritage controls, with several sitting on his desk for well over a year.

In one such instance, the Minister was given three months’ notice by Council that a property at 360 Auburn Road Hawthorn was at risk, and he chose to do nothing. That property was subsequently demolished on Christmas Eve.

Usually, a building’s inclusion in an interim Heritage Overlay would overrule any building permit issued prior to the introduction of heritage controls.

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Under what has become known as the C299 loophole, which exclusively targeted the City of Boroondara, property owners with a building permit were able to override interim Heritage Overlays and demolish historic buildings.“While we are pleased to finally see the end of Amendment C299, we are saddened that this loophole was responsible for the loss of nine irreplaceable heritage properties. Council can now take back control of protecting our City’s history on behalf of our community,” said Cr Watson.

“The Minister chose to exclusively and unjustly target the community of Boroondara and has clearly realised the error of his ways.”

During community consultation for the Boroondara Community Plan, our residents clearly told us that they place great value on Boroondara’s heritage buildings and precincts. We currently have well over 10,000 properties in Boroondara currently protected by heritage controls and have allocated over $1 million dollars to our five-year Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study to identify further historical properties and precincts. Boroondara is a Council that has a long history of investing in the protection of our heritage and will continue to have a strong partnership with our community in its ongoing preservation.

Information about the Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study is available on the City of Boroondara website at http://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/heritage.

Comments Attributable to Mayor of Boroondara, Councillor Cynthia Watson

After months of petitioning for the removal of the Minister’s ill-conceived loophole, it is disappointing but not surprising that Council has had to learn via the media of the Minister’s plans to revoke Amendment C299.

As at 3 January, Council has not received any notification from the Minister’s office indicating a decision on removing the Amendment has been made.

We are pleased to see common sense finally prevail but frustrated it has taken this long and at such great cost to the heritage of our City. No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria was subject to an exemption allowing heritage properties to be demolished in this way.

Amendment C299 was responsible for the loss of nine heritage properties across the City. With its removal, Council can take back control of protecting our historic properties.

We now encourage the Minister to expedite the removal of Amendment C299 from the Boroondara Planning Scheme by ensuring its gazettal at the first opportunity. Until this is done, as the Minister knows, at least five more historic properties are at risk of demolition.

Source: boroondara.vic.gov.au

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This historic house at 55 Seymour Road Elsternwick was demolished in August, despite outrage from locals

Mr Tim Smith is the member for Kew, he is also the Shadow Minister for Planning and Heritage. Booroondara is a Liberal party controlled council. Demolition permits are issued via Council. Heritage Overlay submissions are made by Council. A number of vulnerable buildings in both Kew and Hawthorn have been demolished. The State Government Planning Department stepped in to halt the demolition last year of the historic Currajong House.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished

What is required now is an expansions of Heritage Overlays and protections to cover areas not considered important in the 1980s and ‘90s and until recently were not at risk. Armadale, Elsternwick, Hawthorn, Kew and other near city suburbs are in dire need of real action to protect our valuable Heritage buildings from unscrupulous developers.

This will require a genuine non-partisan co-operative action on the part of both State Politicians, Municipal Councils and bodies such as Heritage Victoria, the National Trust and all interested and involved parties; re-vamped Heritage laws with significant powers, increased funding and staffing of Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council and the co-operation of organisations like the Master Builders Association and the Housing Industry of Australia.

It’s time for a positive change.

Heritage most definitely does matter.

 

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

The Crunch Time – When neglect is rejected as a legitimate pathway to Demolition.

In the last few years, the Victorian State Government blocked a favourite pathway to demolition by unscrupulous property owners. The method was to leave a property unoccupied, with no security. ‘Vandals’ would arrive and pretty well wreck the place. The owners would then be at a loss ‘What to do?’ – too expensive to repair. The only solution was to apply for a demolition permit which, up until early 2019, was often granted.

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368 Auburn Rd which was 130 years old has now been demolished.

But then the State Government legislated to prevent such practices.

Heritage Victoria was given the power to issue orders of protection and restoration. If after the order had been issued and no action was taken, Heritage Victoria had the right to issue work orders to secure and repair the heritage listed property to a manageable state – at the owner’s expense.

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Urgent repair orders have been issued by Heritage Victoria for Macedon House which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Of course there are always situations where such actions can spark intense disagreement. Let’s not kid ourselves – a fire has always been seen to be the ultimate ‘stocktake’. It is remarkable how many unoccupied buildings sitting upon valuable real estate manage to be burnt down.

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Valetta House has been neglected and vandalised

But there comes a time when there must be a precedent set, and it would appear that the property located at 38 Black St, Brighton may well set that precedent.

Spurling House was constructed in 1889 by an American Architect – John Harbury Hunt. Mr Hunt was one of the first North American Architects to practice here in Australia.

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The house was very different to other properties of the time which were Italianate Mansions, Gothic, Georgian renditions or other grandiose renditions. This was in Shingle style using natural organic materials. It was truly unique and even today stands as an extraordinary construction.

Here is a recent article reprinted from The Age newspaper dated Jan 15th.

‘Uninhabitable’, but owner loses demolition battle for heritage house

The owner of a historic 131-year-old house in Brighton, which was damaged by fire and is currently uninhabitable because it is infested with mould, has lost her battle to demolish the property.

In a majority determination, the Heritage Council last month refused a permit to knock down Spurling House. The body noted that once demolished, the cultural heritage significance of a place on the Victorian Heritage Register is “ineradicably lost”.

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Spurling House in Brighton is currently uninhabitable

The case raises interesting questions about when the heritage significance of a property should outweigh the cost of maintaining it.

Dissenting Heritage Council member Patrick Doyle argued the refusal of the demolition permit was a “disproportionate price for the (owner) to pay, for the sake of the broader public interest in maintaining the heritage values of the place”.

Spurling House at 38 Black Street in Brighton was built in 1889 by architect John Horbury Hunt, one of the first important North American architects to practise in Australia.

It was the first house in Victoria to be built in the Shingle style, a North American architectural technique that used organic materials in a way that heightened their natural qualities.

“At the height of the boom in Melbourne, when the majority of houses were designed in a highly decorative Italianate style, the surprising design of Spurling House was exceptional,” according to the Victorian Heritage Register.

However, the two-storey home was damaged by a fire in the roof in October 2015 and has deteriorated further over the last few years.

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Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015

Water from fire-fighting efforts, ash and exposure to the elements has also led to it being contaminated with fungus or mould.

More than $1.5 million in insurance was paid in 2016.

Heritage Victoria has issued two repair orders to the house’s owner, which require works to be carried out to prevent the further deterioration of the building.

Failure to comply with a repair order can result in fines of up to $396,528 or five years’ imprisonment, or both.

Spurling House owner Dr Damien Louis applied for a demolition permit in February last year.

She argued the house posed a serious health risk and demolition was the only method to make the site safe and remove the cross-contamination infection and allergen risks.

But this was refused by Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery, who said demolition would result in the complete loss of the cultural heritage significance of the place.

Mr Avery said Heritage Victoria was not satisfied that the contamination issues were unable to be remediated.

The decision was reviewed by the Heritage Council.

Committee members Professor Stuart Macintyre and Jeffrey Robinson upheld the decision to refuse permission to knock the house down in a majority determination on December 20.

“The committee accepts that the place is currently uninhabitable and finds that in order for the place to be occupied as a residence again, extensive and costly remediation works would have to be undertaken,” they said in their finding.

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The Heritage Council has upheld a decision to refuse a demolition permit

However, they disagreed with Dr Louis that it was impossible to remediate the house and said it could be made habitable within the amount provided by the insurance payout.

“It is the committee’s view that … the complete and irretrievable demolition of a registered heritage place … should be a last resort, even in exceptional circumstances, including in cases where there has been clear damage, contamination and deterioration at a place.”

However, Mr Doyle, the dissenting member, said he would have allowed the demolition provided there was an archival recording.

“If a place is added to the register, the private owners of that land should not be compelled to leave no stone unturned for the sake of the public interest in favour of heritage protection, all at the expense of their own private interest.”

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery welcomed the majority determination to refuse demolition.

“It is outrageous that four years after a fire destroyed the roof of a significant heritage place appropriate repairs are yet to be carried out,” Mr Avery said.

“This building has continued to deteriorate while the owner has done as little as possible to maintain the building.”

Dr Louis is appealing the repair orders in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Source: theage.com.au

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Spurling House engulfed in flames.

With the matter now heading to VCAT on appeal, it is likely to ultimately be heard in the Victorian Supreme Court if the appeal is upheld. It is a test case that will determine the strength of Heritage Victoria’s powers and its ability to enforce repair orders.

It is a most significant case. We will continue to follow it with interest. Again, dare we suggest it, Heritage regulations – overlays, protection orders and listings all need further updating and strengthened legislation.

Heritage is precious. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Til next time.

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

Melbourne’s Architectural Integrity and Heritage Buildings – the vision of the City of Melbourne

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.35.01 pmThe City of Melbourne for the main has a vision that looks to protect heritage architecture and buildings. In December, the City approved the new Central Melbourne Design Guide.

Specifically it looks to prevent some of the largesse and profiteering of developers only looking to create rentable space in the sky – at any cost. Investors from Asia and the Middle East combining with local developers built tower after tower in the 1990s, much to the chagrin of opponents. Many stand today with low occupancy.

Melbourne City Councillor Nicholas Reece presented this piece in The Age Newspaper on Dec 5 2019.

Spreadsheets in the sky are putting Melbourne’s liveability at risk

It has been said that the history of a city is written by its architects and urban planners.

Melbourne’s earliest days are still evident in the genius of the Hoddle Grid with its big streets, little streets and laneways. The legacy of the 1850s gold rush that transformed a remote outpost into a city of worldwide fame can still be found in the grand public buildings, beautiful boulevards and picturesque brick terraces with their iron lacework.

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Standards of development in Melbourne’s CBD need to be improved if the city wants to build on its healthy legacy.

Over the past two decades modern Melbourne has gone through another gold rush of sorts, fuelled by record immigration and population growth, a thriving financial and business sector, and an international student boom.

So how is the history of modern Melbourne being written by architects, planners and developers? The good news is that despite the demolition crimes of the 1970s, Melbourne has preserved more of its heritage buildings than other Australian capital cities. An emphasis on good street design, bluestone pavements, quality street furniture, beautiful trees, and some stunning examples of modern architecture have given Melbourne a distinctive contemporary character.

But unfortunately, too much cheap and nasty development has crept in. Too many new towers are nothing more than spreadsheets in the sky, delivering a big profit for developers but leaving the city poorer because of bad design and low-quality materials, particularly at street level. The biggest building boom the central city has ever known has put our world famous liveability and appeal at risk.

The point was driven home to me during a recent visit to Sydney. Our northern neighbour is blessed with a spectacular harbour but it is cursed by poor street layout, a century of bad planning decisions and a hotchpotch of urban street designs. But now after two decades of determined focus by local and state government on lifting architectural and design quality, the dividends are increasingly apparent.

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A legacy of heritage and good structure has served Melbourne well up to now.

More than a hundred buildings have been through the City of Sydney’s design competition process, while many other buildings have benefited from architectural design reviews. Last year the University of NSW surveyed 26 projects that were the result of design competitions. The researchers found 62 per cent went on to win industry awards.

With the wrappers finally coming off the long-delayed George Street tram, central Sydney stands proudly as a showcase of world-leading modern architecture. Meanwhile, Melbourne has produced some brilliant new buildings and has been buoyed by home-grown local architects and a distinctive design culture, without resorting to a line-up of global “starchitects” like Sydney. The new Parliament House Annexe, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Federation Square and Eureka Tower are all examples of local designers creating amazing buildings that we should acknowledge and celebrate.

But the painful truth is that Melbourne has suffered from far too many poor developments. Featureless glass boxes that could be in any city in the world. Buildings that are low grade and bland when newly complete, and destined to deteriorate into eyesores over time. Tall towers that set out to be seen from afar, but offer nothing to the pedestrians walking the streets of the city. Our planning processes are quicker and involve far less red tape compared to other big cities. This is an advantage we need to preserve. But we also need to acknowledge that we need to lift the general standard.

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The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Parkville stands out as one recent success.

So the City of Melbourne is drawing a line. We are saying that we must do better. The city last week gave the green light to the new Central Melbourne Design Guide and associated planning scheme amendments to encourage design excellence in future developments. The guide is the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design policies since the 1990s and even includes a pictorial guide to make it easy for everyone to follow.

Some examples of the new mandatory provisions include the requirement that parking in buildings within the Hoddle Grid be underground, while parking in buildings within Southbank must be concealed by offices or apartments. Ugly building services will not be able to occupy more than 40 per cent of the ground floor, and we will require 80 per cent active frontages to streets and laneways in some areas.

We want to create more public spaces for people. This means at least 50 per cent of private plazas should be retained and refurbished to preserve access to these valuable open spaces in the city. We want to see more buildings that give back to the public realm, with well-designed ground floors that have character and contribute to rich street experiences with more fine-grain detail and quality materials.

The city is also establishing a Design Excellence Committee to engage members of professional design institutes, public advocacy organisations, the development industry and community members in championing good design in our city.

We’re also investigating the establishment of a Melbourne Design Review Panel to review development projects of local significance and provide design advice as part of the planning process. The new panel will be made up of independent design industry leaders and experts and will bring a new level of focus on the design of new buildings. This Melbourne Design Review Panel will complement the work of the design review processes run by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect but will significantly expand the number and type of buildings that will be subject to design review.

The City of Melbourne will continue to develop policy to encourage the use of design competitions in the right circumstances. This parallels an increased interest from private developers in the value of competitions to explore a range of design options.

Melbourne remains Australia’s most architecturally interesting and attractive city. But if we want to keep our world-beating liveability and appeal then we must do better. “Average” is no longer good enough when it comes to new design, development and urban amenity in our city.

Councillor Nicholas Reece is the chair of the City of Melbourne’s planning portfolio.

Source: theage.com.au

The Central Melbourne Design Guide offers some genuine hope that at least inner Melbourne is actually preserved and enhanced. Perhaps the Victoria Market could be reviewed in this light?

Til next week.

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

Heritage – how precedents are set. Martindale Hall, Mintaro SA.

Edmund_Bowman_Jr

Edmund Bowman Jr

Martindale Hall is a unique Georgian style mansion located near Mintaro in South Australia. Comprising of some 32 rooms, it was built for a wealthy pastoralist, Mr Edmund Bowman Jnr and was completed in 1880. Edmund Bowman Jnr was a bachelor. The building was designed by London Architect Ebenezer Gregg. Supervising Architect was Mr John Woods of Adelaide and the builder was a Mr R Huckson.

Due to the specialist nature of the work involved, 50 of the 60 tradesmen engaged were brought out from England for the project and returned upon its completion, no mean feat in those days, and imagine the expense! The Hall had 32 rooms, a cellar of 7 rooms and its grounds included a polo field, a cricket pitch, a racecourse and a boating lake. (The property was cameoed in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock)

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William_Tennant_Mortlock

William Tennant Mortlock

Bowman was forced to sell a decade after its construction due to debt and drought. The Mortlock family, through its patriarch William Tennant Mortlock, purchased the property in 1891. His son John Andrew Mortlock developed an impressive collection of fine art. His wife, dying without heirs, bequeathed the property to the University of Adelaide in 1979 upon her death.

 

It had been registered on the now defunct ‘Register of the National Estate’ on the 21st of March, 1978. In 1980, it was listed on the 24th f July as a State Heritage place on the South Australian Heritage Register.

The University passed ownership of the property to the State Government in 1986. In retrospect probably an unfortunate decision.

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On 5 December 1991, the land on which the building is located was proclaimed as the Martindale Hall Conservation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 for “the purpose of conserving the historic features of the land”.[9] From 1991 to late 2014, the property was managed under lease as a tourism enterprise, offering heritage accommodation, weddings and other functions, and access to the grounds and Hall to day visitors. The property is currently managed by the Department for Environment and Water, which in August 2015 received an unsolicited bid for the purchase or long-term lease of Martindale Hall.[10][11] by the National Trust of South Australia.

Source: wikipedia.org

In recent years, the South Australian Government has been the Marshall Government. It has positioned itself as ‘pro development’ resulting in a number of skirmishes with the Heritage movement and Adelaide City Council.

Martindale Hall represents a simply outrageous, audacious plan to open up the property to development, somewhat puzzling as Mintaro is located in the Clare Valley, 136.1 km from Adelaide. Development would be entirely dependent on the wineries of the district.

It’s how this development has been proposed that beggars belief. From South Australia’s Heritage Watch website…

Revealed: Post-election plan to prep Martindale Hall for privatisation

In February, the State Government’s secret plan to repeal Martindale Hall’s conservation park status and extinguish the charitable trust protecting the historic mansion and grounds was made public.

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Such a move opens the door to privatising this priceless public asset, gifted in trust for the people of South Australia by the University of Adelaide in 1986, continuing the spirit of the Mortlock family’s original bequest.

If successful, the Government plan would:

  • Remove obstacles to the privatisation of the property, and abolish the conditions imposed by the charitable trust – including maintaining the historic integrity of the house and grounds
  • Shift authority for decisions on change of use and other development matters to the State Planning Commission
  • Set an alarming precedent – it is our understanding that none of South Australia’s 300+ conservation parks have had their status altered or removed (except when upgraded to become a national park or two or more parks have been amalgamated)
  • Rob South Australians of a voice in the future of Martindale Hall; a move to legislate was slated for late 2017 but abandoned, with a possible second attempt after the election avoiding scrutiny at the ballot box

The issue was a heated point of debate at our Valuing Our Heritage Forum on Thursday 15 February, with the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Ian Hunter claiming the current trust is an obstacle to any sustainable development of Martindale Hall. “There is no ability to do anything to the site,” Environment Minister Ian Hunter MLC said at the forum. “If we had any plans to open it up for private investment we can’t do that without changing legislation.”

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However such an extreme move cannot be undertaken lightly, especially when other advice apparently contradicts the Government’s view that legislating away the site’s protections is only way to secure its sustainable future.

“Martindale Hall is a special building worth protecting – the Minister’s advice was the park and charitable trust prohibits revitalisation,” Opposition Spokesperson David Speirs also said at the forum. “Other advice may say otherwise… the property has huge potential, needs to be unleashed”

Extinguishing the trust and Conservation Park would be an unprecedented move that could cast a shadow over similarly bequeathed treasures like Carrick Hill, undermine the confidence of future donors and philanthropists and betray the very premise of Martindale Hall’s original donation: that it should be “preserved as a place of heritage significance for the people of the state”.

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It’s clear that the public overwhelmingly opposes any privatisation of this important piece of our history. Now more than ever, we need your voice this election season to help make sure all parties and candidates commit to keeping Martindale Hall in the hands of the South Australian people.

Read the full article in The Advertiser here, contact your local member or candidates and join our campaign here. The results of a recent public survey on privatising Martindale Hall can be seen here:

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Source: heritagewatch.net.au

Martindale Hall remains an asset of the South Australian Government. It is currently under contract and is maintained with care and appreciation by a local couple who also operate the Mintaro Maze.

The key aspect of this story for us was the willingness of a State Government to actually change legislation and to abolish conditions set by a charitable trust. It points to the fact that Australia-wide there are Government inactions – and actions that not only undermine immediate Heritage values and rulings, but also set unpalatable precedents for future winding back of heritage values on simply irreplaceable properties and heritage sites.

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What we should be expecting from responsible Government bodies and authorities is exactly the opposite to what very nearly happened at Martindale Hall but for the vigilance and passion of South Australian and local Clare Valley heritage groups.

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

From England, to Toorak, and Finally Melbourne Gardens – The Well-Travelled Nareeb Gates

The intricate Nareeb Gates might have caught your eye while strolling through Melbourne Gardens D Gate entrance – highly decorated, they stand out amongst the more modest entrances to the gardens, and this speaks to their colourful history spanning decades – and oceans!

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Originally built in England, the gates arrived in Australia, where they stood for over 60 years at Toorak’s grand Nareeb estate. Constructed in 1888, Nareeb estate was designed in an Italianesque style by architect William Salway, and built for Piano Manufacturer Charles Beale, who hosted many extravagant parties within it.

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The estate was truly grand, boasting 34 luxurious rooms including an ornate entrance hall, smoking room, music room, sewing room, and considering Beale had 13 children, not an insignificant amount of bedrooms!

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When Nareeb estate was auctioned off in 1965, it still operated using a gas-powered lighting system and so did its gates, the most eye-catching feature of which are the vibrant gas lamps adorning each post. When the property was demolished in the late 60s, the owners bequeathed the Gates to the National Trust of Australia, following which they were erected at the D Gate entrance, and officially declared open in November of 1967.

In 2019, the lamps adorning Nareeb Gate’s glorious posts are no longer functional, and the Gardens are hoping to light them once more, albeit with a more modern ‘flame’! With your help, we can restore Nareeb Gates and other heritage gems in Melbourne Gardens to their former glory so they can be enjoyed by future generations for years to come. Your donation can see to a Gardens rich in character and charm we head in to the future.

Source: https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/news/nareeb-gates


Balance Architecture were pleased to assist the Royal Botanical Gardens in providing material for the article featured here.

You can read about Nareeb, Armadale and Heathfield, Grand Mansions of Melbourne now demolished here.

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Heritage is of vital importance to our community, our city and the destruction of these grand masterpieces in less than 150 years probably indicates that at the time, our appreciation of such Architecture and its historical importance was of lesser importance than it should have been.

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So as you pass through those beautiful elaborate gates at the Botanical Gardens D Entrance, take a moment to be wistful and transport yourself back to 1888 as Charles Beale, Piano manufacturer first strolled through them on his evening walk. But now you may ‘take the airs’ yourself as you enjoy one of Melbourne’s most renowned Heritage treasures – the Royal Botanical Gardens.

(Don’t forget your plimsolls and boater hats!)

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

Developers vs Heritage. The Continental Hotel, Sorrento and the Steller Group.

Nothing illustrates the risky nature of property development more than the recent failure of the Steller Group.

The Steller Group was founded and operated by Simon Pitard and Nicholas Smedley, both second generation property developers and members of two of Melbourne’s wealthiest families. This was a group that played ‘large’. It often paid way ‘overs’ (up to 50% more than the valuation) on targeted properties. Its funding came from dubious ‘hedge funds’ and mezzanine lenders. Our interest is in some of the heritage properties Steller controlled or ended up controlling.

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Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda

 

 

The Greyhound Hotel site in St Kilda and the Continental Hotel in Sorrento are the two most notable. The Group’s failure has defined the schedule and direction of the restoration of the Continental to date.

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London Hotel, Port Melbourne

The issue with the Greyhound Hotel and the London Hotel in Port Melbourne was the narrow parameters used to interpret the Heritage value of both buildings. Renovations on both buildings in the 1920s and ‘30s saw the original buildings originally constructed in the 1850s drastically altered to reflect the Moderne/Art Deco style favoured at the time. In doing so the Heritage value – based on architectural merit – was minimal, according to the Port Phillip Council’s initial heritage report. Nevertheless the planned apartment complex was never built on the Greyhound site which was recently sold to recover debt by the Steller Group’s receivers. The London is still ‘under planning’ – another empty building site with big plans – so long as the ‘off the plan’ apartments can be sold.

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Continental Hotel, Sorrento

But the major ‘faux par’ of the Steller Group was its inability to contribute to the completion of the Continental Hotel, Sorrento’s refurbishment and re-development. The Continental has the highest ranking Heritage listing available. With Steller failing the whole Hotel stood to remain permanently incomplete unless alternative funding could be confirmed.

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Here is its Victorian Heritage Database Statement of Significance.

Statement of Significance:

The Continental Hotel in Sorrento was established in 1875, for the Sorrento Hotel Company under the directorship of comedian, politician, philanthropist and businessman George Coppin (1819-1906). The Continental Hotel is constructed in a simple Victorian Italianate style using locally quarried limestone. The Continental Hotel is a four storey building which includes the mansard roofed tower, return balcony on the upper levels and two storey section to the rear of the building. The building has undergone some major changes, with a Moderne style renovation to the street front of the ground and first floors which includes a roof top deck.

The Continental Hotel is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.

The Continental Hotel is of historical significance to the State of Victoria for its associations with George Coppin businessman, politician and entrepreneur whose enterprise was largely responsible for the development of Sorrento from the 1870s to the 1890s as a seaside resort. Coppin established a number of business ventures associated with the Continental Hotel such as the steamer service from Melbourne and the Sorrento tramway to encourage tourism to Sorrento.

The Continental Hotel is of architectural significance to the State of Victoria as a relatively intact example of the type of hotel development popular in the later years of the nineteenth century providing accommodation, entertainment and associated hotel services for wealthy city tourists. The Continental Hotel, constructed of local limestone, is important as a landmark building for the seaside town of Sorrento as it is situated on a prominent site at the entry to the town.

Source: vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au

But Restauranteur Julian Gerner, the nominal owner and promoter of the Continental project, has seemingly managed a financial coup and expects now to complete the renovation and refurbishment program commencing early next year with new financial partners.

From The Age Oct 17th (Simon Johanson)

Hotelier in bid to restart work on Sorrento’s Continental Hotel

Redevelopment work on Sorrento’s historic Continental Hotel may resume early next year if hotelier Julian Gerner is successful in a bid to keep ownership of the $100 million project.

The Continental’s future has looked shaky since restoration work on the 144-year-old seaside hotel ground to an abrupt halt in May when joint-developer Steller ran into financial difficulties.

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Restaurateur Julian Gerner (left) with Steller’s Nicholas Smedley in front of the Continental Hotel before the developer collapsed.

A recent attempt to sell the project to another developer LBA Capital for $21 million came unstuck when The Age revealed LBA’s director Demetrios “James” Charisiou had been accused in the Supreme Court of involvement in a sophisticated $400 million fraud against a Korean investment house.

In the Continental’s latest twist, Mr Gerner said on Thursday he intended to retain ownership of heritage-listed project following both the collapse of Steller and the failure of LBA Capital to settle on its purchase.

“I have negotiated an agreement to deliver on the vision to restore, renovate, protect and preserve the 1875 ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ hotel,” Mr Gerner said.

He hopes to restart construction on the four-storey limestone pub after Australia Day next year.

The hotel is now effectively a building site with a large concrete slab and has been sitting empty since Steller’s collapse amid an outpouring of concern from hundreds of frustrated locals seeking answers about its future.

It was built in 1875 and has the highest level of heritage protection due to its historical significance.

Mr Gerner said he had briefed Heritage Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire after forming a new company, The Ocean Amphitheatre Company, to take control of the development.

Ocean Amphitheatre had negotiated an agreement with LBA Capital to be nominated to take over its contract of sale. LBA would take no further role in the Continental’s development, he said.

Mr Gerner said he would be approaching potential investors to fund the final $100 million in construction and acquisition costs.

“It’s a massive relief. I’ve got a couple of key high net worth individuals I will be targeting in coming weeks,” he said.

Title documents show the Continental Hotel site is mortgaged to three different lenders, a factor which could complicate Mr Gerner’s efforts to take control of the redevelopment.

Mr Gerner originally agreed to purchase the Continental Hotel from the Di Pietro family in 2015 for $12 million.

Around the same time, the local council sold him a neighbouring site at 23 Constitution Hill Road for $1.98 million.

He lost control of both sites when Steller unravelled earlier this year.

Source: theage.com.au

The Steller collapse has illustrated the risky nature of depending upon traditional property developers to refresh and renew such heritage properties.

This difficulty and the potential conflict of interests was noted in Britain decades ago. A Heritage Fund (based on funding from the Heritage Lottery) has been Government backed and in operation for decades. You can read about this innovative fund here heritagefund.org.uk/about

With the current state of heritage protection in Victoria, it is time to consider some form of funding for Heritage protection of vulnerable heritage assets.

The wild world of laisse faire property development is most unlikely to satisfactorily protect our heritage adequately , if at all. The Victorian Heritage Council requires further and adequate funding to ensure timely inspections, local Government have a responsibility to provide up to date heritage database information for their areas to the Victorian Heritage Council and ultimately Heritage Victoria and the Minister for Planning Mr Richard Wynne.

It is obvious the system needs to be overhauled to provide failsafe protection for our valuable Heritage treasures. Heritage develops as our nation ages. It’s time to start genuinely valuing it and to do so we must ensure it is adequately funded.

These beautiful edifices and socially important properties need not be museums. With clever planning, architectural know-how and adequate capital, such iconic buildings can be preserved and protected for posterity, as useful ‘living’ entities. It really is time for a Heritage summit that addresses our approach to Heritage buildings, how we decide the merit of a building and then resolve what use is can be put to.

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Corkman Hotel, Carlton

Or we can watch as more Corkman Hotels, more Greyhound and London Hotels, more modernist architecture, more Art Noveau/Modern buildings are simply demolished. Not to mention the early colonial mansions, Victorian Villas and other treasures currently under threat in inner Melbourne.

It’s time for decisive, inclusive action at State Government and Local Government level with key players and stakeholders such as the National Trust, the Heritage Council, Heritage Architects and property owners and developers included in the deliberations. It’s time to define what we now wish to call Heritage and how we can protect it over the next 20-50 years.

Or we can continue on the same path. And frankly that just doesn’t feel like a sensible option.

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