Heritage Dispute in Old Fitzroy

Last week one of our readers, Simon Ryan, brought to our attention the planned demolition of a series of building components of Heritage protected sites on Victoria Pde and Brunswick St in Fitzroy. The whole of the suburb of Fitzroy enjoys a significant heritage overlay, but it would appear that again, the St Vincent’s Hospital Board feels it can claim immunity from such heritage registrations. To put it mildly the proposed alterations to facilitate the new 11 storey extension to St Vincent’s Private (Not Public) Hospital show little or no respect for the rich heritage of Fitzroy.

Belvidere-Hotel eastern hotel

Belvidere aka The Eastern Hill Hotel

First there is the very famous Eastern Hill Hotel (VHR H0816)(no longer trading), a three storey Gold Rush era Hotel constructed circa 1854-1856. This was the meeting place for Unionists and the actual Headquarters of the Eight Hour Day movement. The Eight Hour Day was significant in that it is now the accepted norm for all workers, regardless of industry or status, universally in most democratic nations.

dodgshun house fitzroy

Dodgshun House Fitzroy, formerly Edensor

Then there is Dodgshun House (formerly Edensor) at 9 Brunswick St – a two storey Italianate Mansion dating from 1865. The site is also the location of Marino Cottage, the birth place of Saint Mary McKillop, Australia’s first ‘Catholic’ Saint in 1842.

Read the ‘Memorandum of Advice’ from GJM Heritage on the proposed ‘works’ here It is a long read but most informative.

St Vincents Heritage Permit Advice 14 November 2017.

Now have a read of the article initially proposing the new St Vincent’s Private Hospital 11 Storey Extension…



St Vincent’s substantial expansion plans unveiled

With links onsite that span back to the 1890’s, St Vincent’s Private Hospital is now pursuing a new phase of expansion in order to keep pace with Melbourne’s growing population.

St Vincent’s Private is now considered at capacity, with plans afoot to create an 11 storey building across 59-61 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy. With the development’s anticipated construction cost approaching $60 million, the overall value of the expansion weighs in at $94 million.

Included in the proposal before City of Yarra is provision for new consulting suites, 91 new multi-day beds for patients, 12 new same-day beds, additional operating rooms and pre/post operation stations.

Set above a new podium to both Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street, the building’s overall height is pencilled in at 43.36 metres.

A need for expansion

“It is now vital for St Vincent’s Health Australia to undertake a major expansion project at this flagship private hospital, including an additional 91 net beds and eight (8) operating theatres, to ensure that it will have the capacity to meet future demand and compete within key market segments. No major footprint expansion of SVPHF has occurred over the past 44 years.”

“Frequently during the working week SVPHF faces ‘bed block’ and non-elective or urgent private patients are redirected to other hospitals. In addition all private consulting suite space at SVPHF is fully occupied. Additional private consulting rooms and theatres are vital to the future of SVPHF and improved healthcare to the community.”

Planning report, Meinhardt


St Vincent’s Plaza perspective

To facilitate the proposed expansion, demolition is required across a number of sensitive buildings.

The existing hospital at 59-61 Victoria Parade would partially make way for the new development, as would 77 Victoria Parade, a.k.a. the former Eastern Hill Hotel. The latter is on the Victorian Heritage Register, with the development team seeking removal of its western wing to the rear of the building.

Partial demolition of Edensor House is also proposed, and mainly confined to the Victorian Heritage Register-listed building’s rear. Full demolition is sought for 63-71 Victoria Parade (the former Easthill House), with the building considered to be Individually Significant from a heritage perspective.

Building design

Shades of natural and midnight copper cladding would provide the design highlight over the East and north facades, with the balance a clad consisting of compressed fibre cement sheet cladding in a banded finish.

The southern facade is predominantly glazed, with elements of purple, charcoal and white, and its angular nature suggesting that it lends in some small way from the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre which was completed earlier in 2016.


St Vincent’s Plaza perspective

“The proposed new building complements the existing building in terms of height and form but contrasts in colour and material to express it as a contemporary insertion into the existing fabric. Together the existing and the new hospital form a pair of buildings that create a distinct identity to the hospital and an appropriate backdrop to the scale of St. Vincent’s plaza.”

“The proposed podium facade along Victoria Pde complements the fenestration of both the three storey heritage building as well as the existing hospital podium and acts as a transition element in terms of both distribution of openings as well as parapet height”

“The proposed materiality of the podium responds to both the glazed brickwork of existing hospital and the painted and render brick facade of the East Hill Hotel by utilising a porcelain stone clad finish to complement the existing heavy materiality of the streetscape”

Urban context report, Billard Leece Partnership


An expanded 93-99 Victoria Parade

Also in the works is an expansion of the existing multi-storey car park at 93-99 Victoria Parade.

Of more interest from a design perspective than in terms of what benefits it could provide to the larger community, an expansion would see the already colourful structure capped with three new levels of parking. 185 additional car parking spaces would be added if approved.

The new levels would be finished in metal screens, accentuated by rectangular openings featuring small planter boxes.

“The design intention is to mimic balconies of an apartment building making reference to the many examples in Melbourne of residential and commercial spaces sitting on top of multi deck carparks. The screen consists of closely spaced vertical steel angles powder coated in multiple colours. The colours ranges change as the screen presents itself to different solar orientations.”

Urban context report, Billard Leece Partnership

Source: urban.melbourne

Note the rather matter of fact mentioning of the heritage status of the Eastern Hill Hotel, Edensor House and East Hill House, and the assumption that would seem to be this would not provide any real problems. And the very salient point that the new building will compliment the existing Private Hospital building. It will not however compliment the long standing Heritage Status of Fitzroy, its look or its feel.

It’s apparent that a number of people are most unhappy with the planned development and its partial demolitions. Read the comments here…


Bilby wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 14:35

This is a reprehensible plan in terms of Fitzroy’s heritage. Easthill House is under a Heritage Overlay and the idea of full demolition should not even be contemplated. St. Vincents has recently demolished the historic 1920s “Druid’s Wing” and has indicated that their preferred option would also be to demolish the other historic buildings on site, including the internationally significant 19th century “Freethought Hall”. Council needs to move quickly and purposefully on this issue, or we stand to lose some of the most significant heritage buildings in Fitzroy and indeed, in Australia:

George D wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 16:38

“Council needs to move quickly and purposefully on this issue, or we stand to lose some of the most significant heritage buildings in Fitzroy and indeed, in Australia”

What’s special about this particular building? I don’t have an opinion either way, but heritage is something that gets thrown around quite a bit depending on who’s using it.

Bilby wrote on Mon, 12/12/2016 – 22:12

At the most basic level, George, Easthill House is an Individually Significant building under the local South Fitzroy Heritage Overlay. The Eastern Hill Hotel, on the corner of Brunswick St. and Victoria Pde. is one of the rarest, most intact examples of a large Gold Rush era hotel in the country.

“Why is it Significant?

The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is of historical significance as one of only a small number of gold-rush era hotels to survive in Victoria and for its associations with the Victorian Eight Hour Day movement. The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is one of the largest and most intact of the few remaining 1850s gold rush era hotels left in inner Melbourne. As such it provides important evidence of the impact of the gold rushes on Melbourne’s development. In 1856 and subsequent years the building provided the venue for many functions and meetings concerned with, and allied to, the eight hour day movement. The building unionists supporting the eight hour day, who used the hotel as their headquarters, were known as belviderites. The eight hour movement played a very significant role in the early industrial and political history of the colony, and of Australia, and is still celebrated by the union movement.

The Former Eastern Hill Hotel is of architectural significance as one of the most substantial, elegant and externally intact remaining hotels of the early 1850s”

Reference: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

Source: urban.melbourne

As well the hospital plans to use the rear of 11 Brunswick St for a modern development.

View the planning documents here

Consider Old Fitzroy; St Vincent’s Private is a backdrop to this heritage precinct. It simply beggars belief that the Hospital Board can just press ahead with plans to destroy Heritage listed locations and to change irrevocably the character of the Historical Fitzroy Precinct. St Vincent’s Private Hospital is in fact a large and profitable medical business, not a public Hospital.

Would it not make sense to position this facility in a more suitable and less historically sensitive location? Perhaps elsewhere in suburban Melbourne?

This occurred with the expansion of the Mercy Hospital with its Heidelberg relocation and the Freemason’s Hospital’s expansion to the existing Epworth site in Richmond.

The case to hear objections, backed by Yarra Council was scheduled for a VCAT hearing commencing in November, its purpose was to object to the lifting of the existing Heritage Listings to permit new works on the St Vincent’s 11 storey extension to begin. Site visits have now occurred. The matter is proceeding. Let’s hope that some value is given to what is a precious part of Melbourne’s heritage and history and sanity prevails.

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


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