Heritage listed homes can be a dream come true.

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For many people an inner city home is a long cherished dream. A magnificent Victorian Terrace, perhaps a single storey workers cottage, maybe a home on an estate like Travancore in Flemington, constructed in the 1920s – or perhaps a unique mansion on St Vincent’s Place Albert Park, facing the St Vincent’s Place Gardens.

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One thing all of these possibilities have in common is generally a Heritage Overlay listing. This can be something that simply protects the building from demolition, ensures the maintenance of the recorded facade and a nomination of the property as being part of the integral character of the area covered by the overlay.

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However in some cases it can be quite strict with recommended colour schemes, protection orders on walls, windows, roofing and just about all facets of the building, especially if the building or property is built pre 1900.

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The key to enjoying your new property may rest with these regulations and how to develop a comfortable living space in a 19th century building for a 21st century family. Essentially the wise move is to engage a qualified architect skilled in working with Heritage properties and older buildings, yet capable of creating genuine spacious living areas where possible and facilitating the luxury and comfort one might expect in a modern living space.

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Andrew Fedorowicz F.R.A.I.A. is the principal Architect of Balance Architecture. He is highly experienced in developing and restoring Heritage properties. Heritage properties present entirely different issues to more modern buildings. High ceilings, solid plaster walls, slate roofing are the more obvious issues. Couple this with bluestone footings, rising damp, ancient wiring and slipshod ‘improvements’ over the life of the building, it’s really all about establishing a base point to start from. Add to this the very special requirements of a Heritage overlay, in terms of colours, materials and building integrity – an expert is required.

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It’s a matter of ensuring the basics yet achieving the sense of space, warmth and liveability that is the hallmark of a well designed, architecturally sound building, a building that first and foremost is your home.

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With many such properties it’s about achieving a full living area that makes the best use of both internal and external space. And most importantly, it’s about delivering a result that is energy neutral where possible and sustainable.

For a free consultation, please call 0418 341 445 and make an appointment. Alternatively please leave your details here or call 03 8696 9700 during business hours and leave a message.

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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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Heritage Listing – Is it always what it seems?

Festival Hall in West Melbourne is a venue familiar to many readers. Music performers from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Doobie Bros and many more such acts have performed there over the last 70 years. World Champion Boxer Lionel Rose fought there and had a funeral there in his honour. But – the building is unsightly externally. The owners wish to demolish it and develop the site. What is the real solution?

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Festival Hall still hosts live concerts and events

Heritage Victoria has announced the building’s inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register. Based on this the current owners plans are unlikely to proceed.

It’s an interesting conundrum, one that architecturally may require some lateral thinking. The ‘House of Stoush’ was designed to stage Boxing and Wrestling matches. Without massive volume, the hall is acoustically a nightmare. Perhaps the old auditorium can be improved internally with better soundproofing and modern equipment and just perhaps it can become part of a bigger complex, dedicated to Melbourne’s popular music history and performing arts.

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The proposed development would see two apartment towers built on the site

The other main objection is that another series of soulless apartment towers will be built, adding nothing to the city or its activities and likely to be something less than desirable in ten years time when what is now modern becomes passé.

If ever there was an opportunity for the State Government and City of Melbourne to create a unique precinct, then this may be it. West Melbourne has always been the rump of industrial Melbourne until now. Extractive industries, rail yards and the edge of Yarra Ports have meant that this side of Melbourne (originally an extensive saltwater swamp fed by the Moonee ponds Creek and the Yarra) has remained dreary and industrial.

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The planning application has been under consideration by the City of Melbourne

This is no longer the case. The rail yards are gone, the extractive industries have moved way out west, and the city hub has moved closer.

With some imagination and foresight (not to mention a realistic budget) this iconic location could house a concert hall, recording studios, art gallery and much more. It could become a performance venue on many different levels, with outdoor plazas, clever bars dedicated to Melbourne’s famous Pub music scene of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

A competitive tender situation as was evolved with Federation Square could ensure a truly magnificent result.

For now here are the latest reports from the Age Newspaper. The first confirms the Heritage Victoria listing, the second presents the rather intransigent response from the Wren family (yes, that Wren family – John Wren – Power without Glory), the current owners.

Festival Hall gets heritage listing, could be spared wrecking ball

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West Melbourne’s Festival Hall has been recommended for inclusion on Victoria’s Heritage Register

The springy timber floor at its centre; the old, tiered wooden bleachers to the east and west; the theatre-like balcony to the south; the low stage to the north.

Like points on a compass, many of us can pinpoint moments in our lives, and the music that accompanied them, by these various parts within the brutalist brick structure that is West Melbourne’s Festival Hall.

And, thanks to a decision by Heritage Victoria, we may be able to do so for many decades more.

The state government body will on Friday announce it has recommended Festival Hall be included on the Victorian Heritage Register, meaning its owners’ plan to demolish the much-loved music venue are unlikely to be approved.

Festival Hall’s significance is more cultural than architectural, as the statement attached to Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery’s recommendation attests.

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 The venue was built in 1956, in time to host events during the Melbourne Olympic, after a 1912-era stadium on the site burnt down

Mr Avery determined that Festival Hall should be included on the heritage register for its historical and social significance as Victoria’s principal purpose-built boxing and wrestling venue and as one of Victoria’s primary live music venues.

The statement of significance cites the hall’s “importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history” and “strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons”.

And it lists the specific features – the floor, bleachers, stage and balcony – among its charms worth preserving. Even the “volume of the internal space” – it can hold up to 4500 people – was a factor in the decision.

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John and Chris Wren, grandsons of bookmaker John Wren who built the current Festival Hall venue, are directors of the company that owns venue

The venue hosted boxing and gymnastics at the 1956 Olympic Games as well as bouts featuring revered Australian boxers including Johnny Famechon and Lionel Rose, whose funeral was held there in 2011.

For many years Melbourne’s only large concert hall, it bore witness to Judy Garland and the Beatles in the 1960s, Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker in the 1970s, and Radiohead, Kanye West and Patti Smith more recently, the latter performing with hometown hero Courtney Barnett last year.

Music identity Molly Meldrum said Festival Hall held a unique place in Victoria’s live music history.

“There’s been so much of Melbourne’s music history in there, back to the days of Johnny O’Keeffe and then Skyhooks, Sherbet, Daddy Cool and of course the Beatles,” he said.

Meldrum – who said he was thrown out of the Beatles concert by bouncers who couldn’t handle the sight of a bloke screaming his love for John and Paul – called on the venue’s owners to turn its interior into a museum and live music venue.

“Let the people enjoy it,” he said.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he welcomed Heritage Victoria’s decision to accept a nomination to heritage-list Festival Hall.

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Interiors such as the timber floors and wooden bleachers, where Chris and John Wren are pictured standing, are deemed to be of cultural significance

“Inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register will mean that any development of the site will have to protect and preserve [it’s] character and the history,” Mr Wynne said.

An anonymous application to heritage-list the venue was made in January, days after The Age revealed the owners had applied to knock down all but its facade.

The Heritage Council of Victoria will make the final decision.

The venue’s owner, Stadiums Limited, has indicated it plans to sell the site, and has lodged a planning application to demolish most of the hall and build two 16-storey buildings on the site.

Chris Wren, a director of the business, could not be contacted for comment before deadline.

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Where’s Molly? Beatles fans scream as the Liverpudlians played Festival Hall in 1964

Festival Hall has risen like a phoenix before. The original structure, built in 1912, was known as the West Melbourne Stadium. It was taken over by John Wren, a well-known bookmaker, in 1915.

The building burnt down in 1955 but by 1956 Wren had built a new Festival Hall on the site in time for the Olympics.

Courtney Barnett’s September 1 gig is the latest listed on the Festival Hall website.

Good thing her show – perhaps capped off with Depreston, her ode to Melbourne’s overheated property market – is unlikely to be its last.

Source: theage.com.au

Festival Hall owners not done with demolition despite heritage listing

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Festival Hall was built in 1955, in time to host events during the Melbourne Olympics, after a 1912-era stadium on the site burnt down

The owners of Melbourne’s Festival Hall are pushing ahead with their plan to demolish the historic music venue and build apartment towers on the site, despite it being recommended for heritage protection.

Melbourne QC Chris Wren, representing venue owners Stadiums Limited, said the heritage referral came as no surprise, and the planning approvals process had a long way to go.

“We expected that this might happen and we will now follow due process while the matter is being considered by the Heritage Council,” Mr Wren said on Friday.

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The development proposal would see all but the facade of the West Melbourne venue demolished

Stadiums Limited plans to sell the site and has lodged an application with the City of Melbourne to demolish all but the facade of the hall and build two 16-storey apartment towers.

The hall was built in 1955 by Mr Wren’s grandfather, well-known bookmaker John Wren, after a 1912-era stadium that he had owned since 1915 burnt down. It has hosted musical acts including the Beatles, Olympic boxing and gymnastics, televised wrestling bouts, trade union rallies and even a state funeral for world boxing champion Lionel Rose.

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery has recommended Festival Hall be included on the Victorian Heritage Register, meaning that any development would need approval from the Heritage Council before it could be considered by the City of Melbourne.

Mr Avery noted the building’s significance was more cultural than architectural and highlighted interior features including its timber floor and tiered wooden bleachers among elements that warrant protection.

The application will be open for public consultation for 60 days before the Heritage Council makes its decision. The Heritage Council is independent of government. Heritage Victoria is a state government body that advises the Heritage Council.

Listing of the building on the heritage register would not necessarily stop the development from going ahead, Mr Wren told ABC Radio.

He said the development proposal already incorporated elements of the building’s heritage and the original plans would be revised on the advice of Victoria’s government architect.

“They’ve had a look at it and have made some suggestions, and we’re about to incorporate those suggestions into a revised plan. They otherwise thought it wasn’t such a bad proposal, subject to some things that needed to be touched up.

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Chris Wren announced the development plans in January

“We’ve gone and spoken to people we regard as having expertise in this area and got their recommendations and sought to incorporate that because we recognise that the building for some people has great memories.

“We can make submissions about whether it’s got heritage significance – the extent of [it], what should or shouldn’t be retained, and what may be capable of being removed – but still maintaining some of the significance so that people’s memories … can be retained, at the same time recognising that you’ve got to move on.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne could intervene on any development.

But Mr Wren said he thought Mr Wynne’s comments in support of Festival Hall’s heritage listing could disqualify him on the grounds of bias.

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A state funeral was held at Festival Hall for world boxing champion Lionel Rose in 2011

Mr Wynne has acknowledged the proposal could still go ahead regardless of heritage protection.

“Heritage Victoria will advertise the application for 60 days and ultimately the Heritage Council which is independent of government will make a final decision,” Mr Wynne told 3AW.

“Clearly I would have the capacity to intervene as Minister for Planning but I think (heritage protection) would be widely supported … it doesn’t mean that all of Festival Hall would be retained, but any application has to respect the cultural and social significance of the site.”

Source: theage.com.au

From the outside this looks to be likely to be an interesting battle. Let’s hope the current State Government steps up to the plate and develops a realistic program to ensure the retention of this most iconic Melbourne location. Without Festival Hall through the mid twentieth century to the early twenty-first century Melbourne would be a very different place. As Bon Scott and AC/DC once belted out from its low level stage ‘Let there be rock, Sound Light and Music’ – and this our very own Festival Hall will always be the place.

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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. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.

Our Heritage – It really does matter. The Corkman Irish Pub, The Queen Victoria Market and new Heritage Victoria powers.

For those who appreciate Heritage listings and the buildings protected by such rulings, the month of May has seen three spectacular results. In the first, the Corkman Developers have broken ranks with one developer Mr Raman Shaquiri (Partner) admitting to illegally demolishing the heritage listed hotel in October 2016. In another major coup, the City of Melbourne have agreed with Heritage Victoria to drastically alter its plans to ‘redevelop’ the Queen Victoria Market. The council now acknowledge the need for a new plan for the ‘project’. Finally those who own Heritage buildings and leave them in disrepair and neglect face the prospect of now being served an order to carry out urgent repairs or face hefty fines. These rulings have all been welcomed by the State Government and its Planning Minister Mr Richard Wynne.

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In the Corkman case it seems there is a rather futile attempt by the development company’s other Director Mr Stefc Kutlesovski to avoid penalties, pleading not guilty to the charges associated with knocking down the hotel. As well their company ‘160 Leicester Property Ltd’ has been charged. It too has pleaded guilty to a number of charges.

Here is the report on the court proceedings from the ABC News.

Developer pleads guilty to illegal demolition of Melbourne’s historic Corkman pub

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The pub, which was popular with students, was destroyed without a permit

One of the developers charged over the illegal demolition of a 160-year-old Irish pub in inner Melbourne has pleaded guilty, but his fellow director is preparing to fight the charges.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, and their company 160 Leicester Proprietary Limited, were charged for knocking down the Corkman Irish Pub at Carlton in October, 2016.

It is alleged they were planning to develop the property occupied by the pub, which was built in 1858.

Mr Shaqiri left the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court briskly to avoid the waiting media after admitting to being a director of a company that permitted the demolition despite not having a building permit, and failing to exercise due diligence to prevent the company from contravening the planning scheme.

The company, 160 Leicester Proprietary Limited, also pleaded guilty to a number of charges.

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The Carlton Inn Hotel, on the corner of Pelham and Leicester streets, Carlton in 1957. It was later known as the Corkman Irish Pub

Co-director prepares to fight charges

Mr Kutlesovski has indicated he will plead not guilty and is set to face a four-day hearing in January. The court heard up to nine witnesses will give evidence.

Mr Shaqiri will have to wait until his co-director’s case has been finalised before he’s sentenced.

Magistrate Sarah Dawes earlier expressed her frustration at the delay in hearing the case, after it was initially scheduled to happen earlier this week.

The court heard the men and their business were initially being represented by the same lawyer but a conflict of interest between the parties had arisen and it was not able to go ahead.

Ms Dawes said it was “unacceptable” that the hearing had to be delayed seven months, effectively for the developers’ “convenience”.

Mr Shaqiri’s barrister agreed it was “regrettable”.

Ms Dawes refused the media’s request for access to the prosecution summary of evidence against Mr Shaqiri despite his guilty plea.

Source: abc.net.au

The Queen Victoria Market re-development has been stalled since Robert Doyle stepped down as Mayor of Melbourne. It appears that council has recognised this is a project that needs a drastic re-think. Apart from the general community disquiet over the presented plans, the ruling by Heritage Victoria has halted the project forthwith.

Read about it here in an article from the Age Newspaper dated 14th of May 2018.

Queen Vic Market plans on ice after council backs down from shed fight

Plans for the Queen Victoria Market will be drastically altered by Melbourne City Council, after it backed down from a battle with the state’s heritage authority over its proposal to refurbish 140-year-old sheds.

The city council had wanted to temporarily remove four of the market’s heritage sheds and, while they were being restored, dig three levels of underground parking and service areas for traders.

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The $250-million redevelopment plan for the Queen Victoria Market has been put on ice

But that plan was halted in March when Heritage Victoria said it could not accept assurances the sheds could be returned to the site in their original condition.

The heritage authority also rejected the council plan because its officers believed the fabric of the 19th-century market would be irreversibly altered if the project went ahead.

On Monday, council officers and acting lord mayor Arron Wood said they would go back to the drawing board with plans for the project.

The council may dump altogether plans for underground services beneath market sheds A to D as it had planned.

It will spend around six months coming up with a new plan for hundreds of car parking spaces the council must provide under an agreement struck with the Victorian government in 2013.

What has been proposed?

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Under that deal, the council will build a new park on the site of the current open-air car park next to the market.

But in return for other state-owned land next to the market being given to it, the council must provide an equal amount of car parking elsewhere.

It had relied on putting car parking underneath the refurbished heritage sheds.

The council wants to redevelop the market to ensure it provides a brighter future for the produce and retail centre – which because of apartment development on its doorsteps will have an extra 22,000 residents living nearby within half a decade.

Acting lord mayor Arron Wood said he was disappointed the council would not proceed with its original plan for the market sheds.

“I can’t fathom the fact that you can’t dismantle some pretty basic construction like those sheds and refurbish them and return them in a much better state,” he said.

He had initially reacted with anger at the Heritage Victoria ruling, pledging to challenge it.

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Acting lord mayor Arron Wood at the market

But Cr Wood said he had “gone through the five stages [of grief] here and spent a fair bit of time and anger”; he was now reconciled to revamping plans for the market.

While he wanted the underground project to go ahead, Cr Wood it was just one of 13 works packages in the redevelopment plan.

And he said a legal challenge by the council against Heritage Victoria’s decision to reject the underground plan would not have been ‘‘a great look, for one government entity to be going after another government entity through the courts. It doesn’t win hearts and minds’’.

He said perhaps the council had failed to sell its redevelopment plans effectively, but that there had been a massive amount of consultation of traders and customers before it had pressed ahead with its ultimate plans for putting services underground.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne is expected to soon release his decision on a separate project tied to the Queen Victoria Market renewal, a 42-storey apartment tower and community centre to be co-developed by the city council and property group PDG.

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The Age asked Mr Wynne his views on the council’s rethink of its current plans for underground services beneath the heritage sheds.

“We’ve been very clear that any development of the market will have to respect and preserve the rich character and heritage that makes it what it is,” Mr Wynne said.

Some traders who would have been directly affected by the underground project were celebrating on Monday, saying they were glad it would be re-thought.

Among them was Paul Ansaldo, who with his wife and children has run a fruit stand at the market for the past 31 years.

Their stalls are in the sheds that were to be dug up, and he said the implications of putting their storage areas underground had never been properly thought through by the council.

This included making traders reliant on lifts to bring fruit and vegetables up to the surface from cold stores below ground.

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Paul Ansaldo, a trader at the market for 31 years, is pleased the council’s underground plans will be revised

“There are a lot of people who don’t get along around here – can you imagine the debacle we would have had if we were all underground in a tight space?

“If you don’t talk to one bloke, you’re going to have a blue over who gets their fruit in the lifts first. There would’ve been a murder committed,” he joked.

He said the council should focus on promoting the market, not redeveloping the sheds.

But another trader, wine seller Marshall Waters who celebrated a decade at the market last week, said there was already enough promotion.

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A supporter of the council’s plans, Mr Waters said it was tragic the project would not go ahead in the format proposed before Heritage Victoria struck it down.

“Why Heritage [Victoria] refused that permit is totally beyond me – I don’t think it’s anything to do with heritage, it’s to do with politics. It’s appalling we are so ruled by stupid populist decisions like this. It was a great project and now it’s basically dismantled.”

Source: theage.com.au

Finally, perhaps the most significant news item. The State Government has introduced new laws to ensure Heritage listed buildings are not left neglected, to be demolished, damaged or excavated. The penalties for doing so now include fines up to $375K or a maximum five years jail.

It has long been the practice of some developers to simply allow a building to become so damaged and beyond repair, the simplest solution seemed to be to demolish the building. With the blatant actions at the Corkman Irish Pub and the former Metro Night Club at the top of Bourke St it became an imperative to step in and protect Victoria’s rich heritage.

Read about the new laws and some examples of how these laws are to be enacted in this article, also from The Age, May 3 2018.

Owners of neglected heritage-listed buildings in Victoria ordered to start repairs

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The new owner of Macedon House has been ordered to clean the property up

Derelict, abandoned and vandalised: at first glance it is hard to believe Macedon House in Gisborne and Valetta House in East Melbourne are prized state-listed heritage assets.

The owners of the two heritage-protected homes, neglected for many years, have just been ordered to carry out urgent repairs or face hefty fines.

It is the first time the state government has issued a repair order since new laws were passed last year aimed at cracking down on property owners or developers who flout heritage rules.

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Photographed in 2015, Macedon House was unused except by vandals

The two buildings have fallen into such a state of disrepair that the state government’s heritage authority has ruled their future preservation is under threat.

After years of concern from conservation lobby groups, planning minister Richard Wynne last week signed off on orders that require the owners to comply with a list of repairs by a given deadline.

The state government last year strengthened its power to enforce repairs and doubled penalties for unauthorised works to heritage-listed places.

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A hotel, Macedon House was built in the pre-Goldrush era

People found to have demolished, damaged or excavated one of Victoria’s 2400 heritage-listed assets face fines of up to $373,000 or a maximum five years’ jail.

“Those lucky enough to own heritage assets have a responsibility to maintain them — and we’ll ensure they do,” Mr Wynne said.

Macedon House, about 50 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, dates back to the 1840s. The single-storey bluestone building is considered a rare surviving example of an early Victorian hotel.

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Local groups fear the house may be demolished by neglect

Once buzzing with travellers in the gold rush era, the building has long been abandoned and left to decay. Windows have been smashed and boarded up, the walls punched with holes and graffiti scrawled on the building’s facade.

Melbourne businessman and developer Brian Forshaw last year sold the property, with plans to develop it into a retirement village, for $1.21 million — but the transaction is yet to settle. Title records show Gary Braude placed a caveat over the title in September.

The local council’s website states the application for the retirement village was withdrawn in March.

The repair orders state the site must be cleaned up, and all doors and windows secured within 21 days. The government has also given a 90-day deadline for drainage works and the underpinning of external bluestone.

In East Melbourne, Valetta House, built in 1856, was the home of Sir Redmond Barry, the Supreme Court judge who presided over the Ned Kelly trial. The grand mansion has been empty for many years but its owner, psychiatrist Despina Mouratides, has previously said she plans to renovate and move into the residence.

Ms Mouratides declined to comment when contacted by Domain on Thursday.

She has been ordered to reinstate all windows, doors and locks, and undertake external conservation works by May 14.

In the past two decades, the state government has only stepped in and issued repair orders for two other buildings: the Criterion Hotel in Sale and Camberwell’s Boyd House.

Property owners served with a repair order can seek a review in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Source: domain.com.au

Heritage isn’t just a word. Our Heritage is in fact who we are and how we came to be who we are. It’s the buildings, the culture, the people, the social interaction. In terms of buildings and structures it’s often something of great beauty, other times it’s just something simple, something unique, ultimately something precious.

There are battles ahead. St Vincent’s Private Hospital is planning to demolish or partly demolish three significant buildings in Old Fitzroy. The Queen Victoria Market is by no means safe. Safer, but not yet safe. Each week new buildings are earmarked for development. In South Melbourne just last week the old AAV Building in Bank St with associated property has been offered for sale – and development – for a cool $40 Million. The owners of the current ANZ bank building on the corner of Bank St and Clarendon St have applied to demolish the rear ‘addition’ completed quite tastefully in the 1970s and throw up a multi-storey office block.

The choice is rather stark. Keep the facades and build canyons of multi-storey apartment blocks or provide real heritage protection. And the truth is the choice is really yours – if you choose to exercise it. Beautiful streetscapes, wonderful old buildings, or concrete canyons. What legacy do you want to leave the next generation?

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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. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here or call 0418 341 443.

Heritage in Essendon – Clydebank, Rosebank and St Columba’s College – The Beginning.

This week we review another 3 grand homes, mansions if you like, in the Essendon district. Again each of these interesting and historic heritage properties were purchased last century with the intent and purpose of providing either educational facilities or accommodation for nuns staffing such schools. Clydebank in Aberfeldie, Rosebank in Strathmore and St Columba’s College in Essendon were all built by very successful businessmen of the early colony of Victoria.

Clydebank

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Statement of Significance – Victorian Heritage Register

The former mansion Clydebank, now Ave Maria College, was built in 1888 for Congregational lay preacher and land agent, John Ramsay. The stuccoed Italianate residence of two storeys was designed with a slate, hipped-roof, and apart from the two-level return cast iron verandah and parapeted tower, the house displays little that would distinguish it from the many other large metropolitan houses built during Melbourne’s boom years. John Ramsay prospered and his large family pursued successful careers in their chosen domains. Two sons, William and James founded the Kiwi Boot Polish firm, both predeceasing their father who then acted as chairman for the company. Another son, John Ramsay Jnr., became Surgeon Superintendent at Launceston General Hospital and was knighted in 1939. The most celebrated of the sons, Hugh (1877-1906) pursued a short but brilliant career as an artist, prior to his death from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine. Many of Hugh Ramsay’s now famous portraits were painted at Clydebank and several of his works continued to grace the building’s walls until
the Catholic Church purchased the property from the Ramsay family in 1943.

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The former mansion Clydebank is of historical importance to the State of Victoria.

The former mansion Clydebank is of historical importance for its association with the life and oeuvre of Hugh Ramsay, one of the nation’s most gifted artists. Ramsay’s response to character and environment and the tonal quality of his paintwork is quite distinct from all other painting of the Edwardian period in Australia.

Clydebank is historically important as the backdrop to most of Hugh Ramsay’s short life; it was here that he established his first studio and painted many of his finest works, and it was here that he died, his career scarcely spanning a decade. Ramsay’s strong attachments to home and family are demonstrated by the many portraits painted at Clydebank of his sisters, with the house and its interior ever-present in the background. That some of these elements can still be identified within the rooms of the former mansion today adds further texture to the interpretation of the artist, the paintings, and the house Hugh Ramsay inhabited.

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Clydebank was initially surrounded by fifteen acres of land. The north and south fence lines were planted with trees, and at some distance from the house, a line of outbuildings separated the house and formal gardens from the cow and horse paddock. The stuccoed, Italianate mansion of two storeys had a slate, hipped-roof, and apart from the two-level return caste-iron verandah and parapeted tower, the house displayed little external ornamentation. In this respect it was not unlike many of the large metropolitan houses built during Melbourne’s property boom.

The ground floor included many reception rooms, John Ramsay’s study with built-in safe, and bedroom the family referred to as the ‘low bedroom’ or visitor’s room. The drawing room, to the left of the front door, contained a marble fireplace that featured in the background to some of Hugh Ramsay’s family portraits. Behind this room was the dining room containing the onyx mantel where for many years hung the portrait of Jessie Ramsay. Other rooms on this level included a parlour, breakfast room, kitchen, as well as a wash house, scullery and other service rooms. Upstairs there were six bedrooms and a billiard room where paintings by Hugh Ramsay hung until the 1940s. The family bedrooms had access to the very spacious verandah which wrapped around the north east corner of the house, and it is here that three of the Ramsay siblings spent time resting during the last years of their lives. The tower, reached by steep stairs, contained John Ramsay’s telescope. From here could be seen the Macedon Ranges, the Dandenongs and Port Phillip Bay.

At the back of the south west (rear) wing of the house was a room which Hugh Ramsay used as a studio. Above the door was written ‘studio’ together with a painting applied directly onto the wall, entitled The Duellists. Both existed until this section of the house was altered in 1946. After Hugh’s death the studio reverted to its former use of staff bedroom. The north west, single storey wing containing the ironing room, a bootroom and generator room, was completely rebuilt in 1946.

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Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 11.22.03 amAlthough considerable additions were made to the house after it was sold to the Roman Catholic Property Trust, many original features remain to help interpret the seemingly gracious late Victorian and Edwardian lifestyle of the Ramsay family, and the paintings of Hugh. The stained glass windows survive on the north and west walls, as does the glass on the front door minus the Ramsay coat of arms. Door handles and panels are still in use. Fireplaces in the bedrooms have been removed. With the exception of the drawing room fireplace, all those on the ground floor remain with their onyx or marble mantels. Many of these formed the backdrop to the famous family portraits painted in the last years of the artist’s life. The hall and verandah tiles, the stairs and ornate newel post show little evidence of their use for over one hundred years. Very little remains of the original garden. The cypresses forming the backdrop to the painting, Jessie with Collie, were removed in the early 1980s because they were diseased. However Clydebank’s rendered front door pillars have been retained, and one of these can be seen in this painting of Jessie.

When Ellen Ramsay died in 1943, the building and its grounds were purchased by the Roman Catholic Trusts Corporation.

The Ave Maria Retreat House (a place for religious contemplation) for women was officially opened in Clydebank on 19 December 1943, by Archbishop Mannix. The first retreat was held over the weekend of 22-24 January 1944 for a group of munition workers. It was run by the Legion of Mary until 1946 and thereafter by the American organisation, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, founded in India in 1877. Extensive additions were made to the house in keeping with the original style. On the south side the drawing room was lengthened for the chapel and the Ramsay breakfast room was extended to make a larger dining room. Upstairs the bedrooms were modified to dormitory accommodation. The north west wing became two storeys, and both it and the south west wing were almost doubled in width. Extra bathrooms were included on both levels. A further extension was made in 1958 to provide an enclosed verandah outside the Ramsay breakfast room.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

In 1957 a kindergarten opened on the property. Planning for a secondary school began in 1961. Ave Maria College opened on the property in 1963, in a separate building, and operates to this day as a Secondary Girls School.

Rosebank House also has an interesting and varied history. It was originally built for Thomas Napier, the earliest European resident of Strathmore. The original house was built on what became known as Napier Hill in 1845. Napier lived there all his life. When he died in 1881, the property passed to his wife Jessie and surviving son Theodore.

Rosebank House

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It was about this time the original house was badly damaged by fire. The current house was built at around this time.

The second Rosebank House was a large two storey brick house with a wide verandah and balcony and a rooftop lookout. Iron lace work adorns the verandah, the balcony and rooftop lookout. Inside the house the main feature is the beautiful wide timber staircase. Many of the rooms have ornate fireplaces of marble or wood, some with inset hand painted tiles with rural scenes. The house also has a number of beautiful stained glass windows.

Eleanor Barber died in 1902 and her husband George died in August 1914. Because of the First World War and the scattering of the family immediate sale of the property was not possible.The furniture was stacked away, the house locked up and a caretaker put in charge. George’s son, Dr Norman Barber visited the house in 1917 he discovered that the house had fallen into some disrepair.

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When the war finished a plan of subdivision was prepared dividing the Rosebank property into 63 housing blocks, and 17 shop sites facing Woodland St and the railway line. The Rosebank house together with 2 acres of land was offered separately. An auction sale was was held in November, 1920. The price of the residential blocks was advertised as around 3 pounds each.

“Rosebank” house was purchased by the Catholic Columban mission in 1923 and is now a convent of the Sisters of Charity. Restoration work was performed on the house in the early 1990’s and the house is in excellent condition internally and externally.

Source: strathmore3041.org

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The Victorian Heritage Database ‘Statement of Significance’ is as follows

Architecturally, an externally original, successfully designed and richly ornamented house which follows the Medieval revival, illustrating its influence on established Italianate forms of that period, and possessed unusually formed and applied details; also it is the subject of distant views which include the related North Park mansion and clearly identifiable as prior to the surrounding residential subdivision; of state importance.

Historically, is connected with perhaps Essendon’s first resident land owner and represents a pastoral property dating from 1845, now part of suburban Melbourne; of local importance and regional interest.

Physical Description

A two-storeyed polychrome brick and stucco house with a two-level return verandah, constructed on masonry piers with iron intermediate supports.

Atypically, the verandah extends under a high hipped and slated roof, whilst the roof, itself supports a lookout with cast iron balustrading. Further unusual details include the two gabled and raised entablatures which are placed over the verandah bressumer, flanked by scrolled brackets, and a coved eaves treatment which extends around the house. The verandah has panelled iron friezework and balustrading, enriched by rosettes, and tapered iron columns of and unusual pattern. Beneath the verandah, bay windows, with cream brick quoining and voussoirs, create a varied elevation at both levels, whilst central to the ground floor verandah, is a gabled pediment resting on brick piers. Exotic planting (of a later date) and gravel paving are sympathetic to the house.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

It’s an interesting situation. These homes all now sit in relative obscurity. Yet they are the foundations of the areas of Essendon, Strathmore and beyond.

St Columba’s College

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The last property for consideration is a mansion built between Buckley St and Leslie Rd Essendon by successful Flour Miller Mr Alexander Gillespie. Mr Gillespie built his extravagant Italian Renaissance style home in 1882. Not much is recorded of his situation other than he was a very wealthy man who like others of the time was severely impacted by the economic crash of the 1890s. In 1896 he was forced to sell his home to cover crushing debts. The Sisters of Charity purchased the estate. St Columba’s Girls School commenced classes in 1897 with 47 students.

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The Sisters of Charity, an Irish order, made many canny purchases in the 1890s and early 1900s. The buildings have stood the test of time and remain largely intact as they stood at the time of their sales, with some clumsy ‘improvements’ detracting form the overall effect.

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The Essendon and Flemington areas are rich in heritage values with a large number of original homes dating back to the early settlement of the area. Our principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz knows the area and its heritage well. As such he has re-developed many properties sympathetically, winning awards along the way. For further information on Balance Architecture’s services or to make an appointment for a free consultation, please click here. Alternatively you can call the number listed on our Facebook page – 0418 341 443.

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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.