Renaissance or Removal? What lies ahead for Old South Melbourne?

South Melbourne has long been recognised as one of the last vestiges of true 19th Century Architecture and heritage in Greater Melbourne. Many parts of the area carry Heritage Listings or Heritage Overlays. When land values begin to overtake the building’s value occupying the space some rather predictable things begin to happen.

The lower end of Clarendon St, Moray St and Kings Way was always a semi-industrial area. That industry in general has long since departed. Many older warehouses and office buildings, constructed in the 1960s and ‘70s provide great opportunity for developers. At what cost to the integrity of the Heritage listed buildings and area overlays in the vicinity?

Over the next 5 years, the character of the area will change dramatically – it already has. Market St between Clarendon St and Cecil St is almost unrecognisable with new multi-storey accommodation towers fronted by remnant warehouse façades – what might that be about? The street was unchanged for decades until the Australia Post garage was sold off about 5 years ago. To be blunt it was never attractive. The real concern is that having successfully created very profitable developments, others now wish to mimic that success in more sensitive locations.

Look at Moray St. The Metro Rail Tunnel consortium has just turned Moray St into a replacement bikeway for the period whilst St Kilda Rd is out of action for several years. Moray St at the moment is still blocked off at Coventry St for this project. But wait! There’s more. The Deague Group have purchased a site at 81-109 Moray St and have now gained the approval to construct a seven level commercial project. The company, a family business, trades as the Asian Pacific Group. With a Rothe-Lowman office design permit the plan is to develop a $150 million office project next to its existing business park. It will include ‘reflection gardens’ and a gymnasium with a limited number of ‘hotel rooms’ for clients or visitors.

Moving up Moray St a little further we arrive at a site on the corner of Dorcas St and Moray St currently occupied by a well known Real Estate firm. It has been purchased by Private Australian Developer Perri Projects with the intention of building a boutique luxury hotel. (Nice juxtaposition with the Ministry of Housing old Commission Flats across the road) Port Phillip Council has granted a planning permit. Perri Projects have purchased the adjoining properties.

“More than a hotel, we envisage this mixed use development to be a lifestyle destination in South Melbourne including retail, food and beverage and a rooftop function and events centre.” Interestingly a less salubrious but very popular traditional hotel sits on the next corner down – Bells Hotel – with a rooftop garden, functions, events and food and beverage.


David Scalzo, Managing Director of Perri Projects was quoted as saying:

“South Melbourne is an emerging precinct, and ideally located at the doorstep of the CBD and nearby to all the tourism and business markers that drive demand for a luxury hotel such as the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, AAMI Park, and all the major sporting precincts and freeway networks,” he said.

“There is a distinct lack of new, luxury hotel offerings in this area. The majority of existing hotel stock around St Kilda Road and South Melbourne is now ageing considerably so we’ve identified a real gap in the market for quality, bespoke hotels for business and high-end leisure travellers,” Scalzo said.

The hotel, designed by national award-winning practice, Plus Architecture, will boast three street frontages that incorporate extensive ground-floor amenity in the form of a café/restaurant and bar.


“Anchored to the corner of Moray and Dorcas Street, the façade was imagined as a collection of crystalline blocks in which gritty concrete frames are juxtaposed with vapour-like glazing to create a dream-like presence,” said Plus Architecture Director, Ian Briggs.

Inside, the hotel will cater to a largely business premium market with larger-than-average premium suites along with a pool, gym and business centre and a focus on high-end interiors and local designer and supplier collaborations.

Source: Oct 26 2016

Cross over Tope St and the current L+H Electrical showroom and warehouse has just been purchased by the Victorian Police. It is zoned ‘Commercial 2’ and is a relatively large site with three street frontages. No word yet on what is to be developed here, but one would expect it will be an office tower of some description.

Move across to Clarendon St – just up the road from the Tea House, north of Haig St on the western side of Clarendon St. Chinese Developer Holder East is looking to build a 48 storey high skyscraper on the site. Long term tenants have moved on from the purchased site.


The first attempt at approval for Holder East’s development at 56-62 Clarendon Street had failed until the plans were better compliant with Victoria’s Better Apartments Design Standards, which were implemented to ensure developers and architects delivered apartment projects with more access to natural light, airflow and storage, among other things, to improve apartment liveability.

Holder East and their project designer, Fender Katsalidis, made significant amendments to the original proposal – increasing room sizes and improving natural light.

Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne said the government struck a fair deal that ensured Holder East could “get on with their project”, as long as the needs of future residents were met.

“Melbourne’s population is growing and we’re making the most of it. Our Better Apartment Design Standards are about ensuring new apartments are the high-quality, liveable spaces Victorians deserve.”


With a reported construction budget of $60 million, the Clarendon Street building will be a 48-level glass structure with 208 dwellings, built on a 1,212 square metre site

The Clarendon Street development will be Holder East’s second Melbourne high-rise residential project go through the approval process in less than a week. Holder East also received approval for a 231-apartment tower located in South Melbourne.

The planning minister said that apart from increasing the size of apartments and improving access to natural light, Holder East also made amendments that addressed laneway and traffic congestion and overdevelopment.


Holder East are also building a substantial Apartment Block of 231 dwellings at 1-13 Cobden St South Melbourne (east of Kings Way). this will be a 19 storey Apartment Tower.

Finally we move to Bank St between Clarendon and Moray St. Currently the old AAV Studios building known as the Butter Factory, an adjoining office and warehouse to the rear between Bank and Dorcas St with car parks on Dorcas St and on Bank St is up for sale and rumoured to be valued above $45 million.

In addition, the former ANZ building on the corner of Bank and Clarendon is now vacant and looking for a long term lessee. it also has a development permit at the reaar where an addition to the main building was added, quite tastefully, in the 1970s. The development has a height limit, believed to be 5 storeys.


The big question is what are we going to end up with? Consider the development occurring right across South Bank. Add to this the number of apartment and office towers marching up to Emerald Hill. Where is the master plan?

Without too much imagination, its very likely that the current Dorcas St Public Housing Estate, one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in South Melbourne will be subject to some type of Public Private Partnership deal. Bank St is subject to a National Trust Heritage Overlay. It would appear there are some very powerful forces currently at work in this area. Let’s hope that there is some level of both Town Planning, Architectural and Design guidelines. South Melbourne is a jewel – it must be protected and respected. Time will tell.

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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 “Renaissance or Removal? What lies ahead for Old South Melbourne?

  1. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as a “National Trust Heritage Overlay” – the overlay is a land use control managed at local council level and established by the state government. The National Trust is an independent body and advocate for heritage in Victoria. In addition, Heritage Victoria separately oversees heritage controls on some sites (often within HOs) that are of state level heritage significance.


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