High rise developments challenge the character of Heritage suburbs.

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

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

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

Here is the full article…

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

Source: Urban Melbourne

The website is unabashedly pro-development.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This approach had not been accepted, she said.

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

Source: The Age, October 18th, 2017

In Brunswick, opposite Princess Park

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Source: The Domain, March 18th, 2017

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

(From 2015)

Sixty square kilometres of inner Melbourne locked away from major development


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Architecture AU

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


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

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

As Joni Mitchell sang many years ago…

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

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

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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.

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