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.

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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.

One thought on “The Developers ruse – “Knock ‘em down”

  1. Pingback: High rise developments challenge the character of Heritage suburbs. | Balance Architecture

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