Save No 1 Victoria Ave Albert Park.

Every now and again a building is brought to our attention that is under threat of demolition. Usually it’s just the building itself that is in imminent danger, but recently there have been several cases where the building represents a significant component of a major heritage area and overlay. No 1 Victoria Ave is such a building.

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In a similar situation to the buildings under threat on Victoria St and Brunswick St by St Vincent’s Hospital, Number 1 Victoria Avenue Albert Park represents a pivotal gateway to Victoria Avenue itself. There is no denying the building is somewhat tired and requires a future planning to either restore it to previous grandeur, or to reconfigure it in a sensitive, sympathetic response to its location and its surroundings.

Located on the corner of Merton St, it is adjacent to rows of Victorian Terraces and period shops continuing down Victoria Avenue. Opposite is the red brick Albert Park Primary School. Directly opposite and up the continuation of Merton St going North is the famed St Vincent’s Place Gardens and estate.

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This is a particularly sensitive location. The area was part of a very early Melbourne development modelled on a typical London street plan and estate.

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In April 2017, 1 Victoria Avenue was sold for $5.575 million, about $500K above its reserve. At the time the Agents acknowledged that despite the Heritage overlay, the purchaser was likely to redevelop the site into a 3-4 level mixed use building and occupy part of it.

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Similar plans were indicated by developers who demolished the Greyhound Hotel on St Kilda Rd in St Kilda and the London Hotel on the Esplanade in Port Melbourne. Both remain vacant blocks.

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The Saade group have released plans and artists impressions of what the planned new building will look like. It bears no connection at all with its surrounds, is entirely disconnected from the area’s overlay, and frankly shows little understanding of either heritage values or streetscapes.

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The National Trust has expressed its objections to the project to the Port Phillip Council in August 2017.

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Re: Planning Permit Application
Number 348/2018

1 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

Dear Ms Johnson,

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) objects to the above permit application, which includes complete demolition of the existing building and construction of a contemporary four-storey (plus basement level) mixed use building.

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) is state’s largest community-based heritage advocacy organisation actively working towards conserving and protecting our heritage for future generations to enjoy, representing 28,000 members across Victoria. The National Trust’s vision is that “our diverse heritage is protected and respected, contributing to strong, vibrant and prosperous communities”, and our mission to “inspire the community to appreciate, conserve and celebrate its diverse natural, cultural, social and Indigenous heritage”.

The subject site is included within the Bridport Street/Victoria Avenue Commercial Precinct, identified as HO443 in the Schedule to the Heritage Overlay of the Port Phillip Planning Scheme. The subject site is identifiedas a significant place in the City of Port Philip Heritage Policy Map, and is subject to external paint controls.

We submit that the proposal to demolish 1 Victoria Avenue Albert Park is contrary to the provisions as set out in the Port Phillip Heritage Policy 22.04, specifically the following policy objectives (22.04-3):

  • To encourage the conservation of all significant and contributory heritage places in the Heritage Overlay.
  • To discourage the demolition of significant and contributory heritage places in the Heritage Overlay.

When a permit is required for demolition of a significant or contributory building, as set out under 22.04-4 Demolition, it is policy to:

  • Refuse the demolition of a significant building unless and only to the extent that:
  • the building is structurally unsound;
  • the replacement building and/or works displays design excellence which clearly and positively supports the ongoing heritage significance of the area

The complete demolition of an individually significant place in an identified precinct is rare and should only be permitted if it can be clearly demonstrated that there is no alternative course of action. We submit that the supporting documentation provided with the permit application does not demonstrate that demolition is unavoidable.

In particular, the Assessment of Heritage Impacts views demolition as a fait accompli and fails to assess the impacts of the proposal on either the building or the wider precinct. We note that the Structural Report prepared by David Farrer, while outlining the specific structural issues currently affecting the building, does not undertake any form of cultural heritage assessment of the impact of full demolition.

Accepted best practice for the preparation of Heritage Impact Statements can be found in Heritage Victoria’s “Guidelines for Preparing Heritage Impact Statements” and requires the consideration of the following:

  • What physical and/or visual impacts will result from the proposed works? i.e. what will be the affect on the cultural heritage significance of the place
  • If there are detrimental impacts on the cultural heritage significance of the place or object, provide reasons why the proposal should be permitted
  • If there are detrimental impacts on the cultural heritage significance of the place or object, detail alternative proposals that were considered and reasons why these were dismissed
  • What measures are being proposed to avoid, limit or manage the detrimental impacts?

While these guidelines have been prepared to inform applications under the Heritage Act 2017, we would expect the same principles to be observed in the preparation of an impact statement for any recognised heritage place, including those protected under the Planning and Environment Act. As it stands, the current proposal would clearly have a deleterious impact on the heritage place, and a significant negative impact on the surrounding precinct, yet these impacts have not been assessed, nor have steps to mitigate these impacts been considered.

Further, the Structural Report does not rule out, or even contemplate, the reconstruction of the building according to Burra Charter principles, or its incorporation in any new development. We would expect that for a place identified as being significant within a heritage precinct, that all possible options for restoration or reconstruction should be explored and documented in any application for a development on the site. The application provides no evidence that options for the retention of the building have been meaningfully investigated, or that restoration and reconstruction are not viable options.

We would expect that where full demolition is contemplated on the basis of advice provided in a structural report, that this advice would be subject to peer review. In making a determination on this application, we therefore urge Council to engage a consultant to provide an independent assessment of the structural integrity of the building, and options for remediation or reconstruction.

The National Trust also strongly objects to the assessment provided by Bryce Raworth that the proposed replacement building displays design excellence which “clearly and positively supports the ongoing heritage significance of the area.” We note the Statement of Significance for the Bridport Street/Victoria Avenue Commercial Precinct, as included in the Port Phillip Heritage Review (2018), which states that

“the built fabric is largely characterised by rows of double-storey Victorian residential shops, a smaller number of single-storey Victorian shops, terraced dwellings, and Edwardian and inter-war shops.”

We submit that the proposed development does not respond to these identified values, and does not respect the scale and character of the surrounding precinct.

In conclusion, we do not believe the current application demonstrates that the demolition of the existing building at 1 Victoria Avenue cannot be avoided, and respectfully submit that the permit application should be refused on these grounds. We further submit that the proposed replacement building is not an appropriate response to the heritage precinct. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application. For any enquiries regarding this submission, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 9656 9802 or at felicity.watson@nattrust.com.au.

Yours faithfully,

Felicity Watson
Advocacy Manager

Source: http://www.trustadvocate.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-08-17-national-trust-submission_1-victoria-av-albert-park_final.pdf

The Port Phillip Council have denied both the demolition and building permits. The Saade group have now appealed to VCAT with the hearing set down for March 18th 2019.

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To date the integrity of the area has remained largely intact. But a project such as this undermines the entire heritage overlay for for the Albert Park area, and if permitted would provide a very unwelcome precedent for what is one of Melbourne’s last remaining Victorian era Heritage precincts.

Principal Balance Architect, Andrew Fedorowicz is currently looking to provide both an opinion and possible alternatives to the proposed building for the community organisation objecting to the proposed demolition and development – #dontdestroyalbertpark Their website is: dontdestroyalbertpark.com.au

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This is a prime example of where a building is not properly maintained to facilitate the outcome whereby demolition is considered. However we hope to show this is entirely unnecessary with the use of both a clear understanding of Heritage values, local rental returns and good design.

You can support the Don’t Destroy Albert Park Village case in VCAT by contacting the group through its website and requesting bank details for the legal case appeal.

This area, Albert Park, is a joy for all who love, enjoy and respect Heritage values. Now is the time to respond and protect this wonderful area for future generations. Please give this cause your full support.

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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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The City of Melbourne Acts to Protect Heritage

The City of Melbourne Planning Department has seen two recent results that provide some measure of support for Heritage Values in the CBD and near city environs.

In Carlton, the Corkman Pub demolishers have pleaded guilty to illegally demolishing the 159 year old pub and will likely face fines of $388,000 each as well as their company also being fined some amount.

In another move, the City of Melbourne has successfully applied to deny Singapore Developer Michael Kum’s plans to turn the historic Equity Chambers located at 472-478 Bourke St into another CBD hotel.

First the Corkman Saga.

From the Age 29.01.2019

Corkman cowboys plead guilty to illegally knocking down Carlton pub

The developers who knocked over Carlton’s Corkman Irish Pub in 2016 without planning or building permission have pleaded guilty to its illegal destruction.

Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

They and their company 160 Leicester each face fines of $388,000 for their demolition of the pub that was built in 1857.

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The Corkman pub in 2015

The pair admitted on Tuesday to having knocked down without permission the 159-year-old building, which was not heritage listed but that sat within a protected historic area.

Instead of applying to Melbourne City Council to raze the pub, the pair – led by Shaqiri, a licensed demolisher – instead simply bowled it over one Saturday in October 2016.

The court heard the pair were ordered to stop by Melbourne City Council’s building inspector late that Saturday afternoon, after about 80 per cent of the demolition was complete.

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The demolished remains of the Corkman pub

Despite this, they returned the next day to finish off the illegal works.

Soon after the pub was knocked down, Planning Minister Richard Wynne brought in new laws making jail time possible for people found guilty of illegal building works in Victoria.

Corkman Irish Pub opposite Melbourne University’s law building has been demolished after being sold to a local developer for $1.56 million above its reserve in 2014. (Video courtesy: Francisco Ossa)

Those laws do not affect the Corkman pair, who are only liable for financial penalties.

The penalties, to be handed down next month, follow almost $600,000 in fines they were ordered to pay last year after the Environment Protection Authority prosecuted them for the illegal dumping of asbestos and for failing to secure the site next to the University of Melbourne’s law school.

The pair later indicated they would appeal those fines.

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Raman Shaqiri leaves the Magistrates Court in 2018

Raman Shaqiri leaves the Magistrates Court in 2018.Credit:Joe Armao
While the Carlton site has lain dormant since the late 2016 demolition, another site developed by a company the pair own, at the corner of Brunswick Road and Lygon Street in East Brunswick, has seen a nine-level apartment building completed.

Barrister Nicholas Papas, QC, appearing for Mr Kutlesovski on Tuesday, agreed that his client had failed to get “appropriate permits” before knocking down the pub.

The two developers bought the pub for $4.8 million in 2015.

After the 2016 demolition, Melbourne City Council joined with the planning minister to seek an order compelling the pair to rebuild a version of the pub using whatever materials could be salvaged from its wreckage.

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Developer Stefce Kutlesovski leaves the magistrates court in 2018

Legal wrangling has seen a hearing over that order delayed, but it will now be heard by the state planning tribunal in June.

A fire was deliberately lit in the Carlton pub, once called the Carlton Inn, a week before it was illegally demolished.

After a public outcry over the demolition, both Kutlesovski and Shaqiri initially promised to rebuild the pub immediately.

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Soon after they reversed this position, and ever since have made no commitments to do anything on the site, and have used the courts to delay actions against them.

Sentencing of the men has been adjourned until February 20.

Source: theage.com.au

To date the developers are facing fines in the vicinity of $1.6M. As well they have been ordered to rebuild the hotel using the original materials, incorporating all the original features and details where possible.

In the second issue, the developer seemingly had ‘slipped under the radar’ with his company’s purchase of the Equity Chambers located at 472-478 Bourke St in June 2017. Upon applying to re-model it and incorporate it into plans for a multi-storey hotel, the council decided not to permit the planned development.

Again from the Age, 30.01.2019.

Bourke Street hotel hits planning hurdle

Singapore tycoon Michael Kum’s plans to expand his hotel holdings in Melbourne hit a planning hurdle earlier this year after authorities rejected his bid to amend a permit to build a hotel in the historic Equity Chambers in Bourke Street.

Mr Kum’s M&L Hospitality paid $30 million for the inter-war Equity Chambers office at 472-478 Bourke Street in June 2017, a purchase which at the time slipped under the radar.

The heritage-listed, Romanesque style, six-storey building has an elaborate portico, foyer, coffered ceilings and rooftop terrace.

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An amendment to the original planning permit changed its use into a hotel and office plus 151 apartments.

It was built in 1931 on the site of Melbourne’s first synagogue.

M&L Hospitality purchased the property with an existing planning permit allowing for the partial demolition and development of a residential extension, taking the building to 17 levels with 215 apartments.

An amendment to the original planning permit approved in May 2018 changed its use into a hotel and office plus 151 apartments, but also included – significantly – some stringent setbacks.

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The new setback controls require Mr Kum’s company to alter its plans and remove three hotel rooms from level 5 and an outdoor terrace on level 6.

The Singapore-based real estate billionaire, whose wealth was originally acquired in shipping, objected to the change and made a bid in Victoria’s planning tribunal to delete the new conditions requiring the setbacks.

Melbourne Council maintains the setbacks were needed for the hotel plans to comply with mandatory requirements in its planning scheme.

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Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Philip Martin ruled in favour of the council but said the case involved a “very complicated and challenging area of the CBD planning controls”.

“Hence it is clear to me that there is no ‘black and white’ answer to this dispute,” Mr Martin said.

M&L Hospitality said it would abide by the ruling and not appeal the decision. Further planning was underway and the company would push on with building the hotel, it said.

Industry data from STR shows Melbourne’s hotel room supply rose 2.5 per cent over the year to last August with a corresponding 1.8 per cent rise in demand.

Revenue per available room – the industry metric for judging performance – rose 1.3 per cent to $151.18 over the same period. Since then the city has hosted the Australian Open tennis tournament, which usually fills hotel rooms to bursting.

M&L’s website lists a portfolio of 18 upmarket hotels in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Europe largely managed by Hilton, as well as Australia’s biggest hotel, the recently enlarged Hyatt Regency at Darling Harbour in Sydney.

Its Melbourne property at 270 Flinders Street operates under the DoubleTree by Hilton brand.

Source: theage.com.au

Balance Architecture is also now privately reviewing the building located at 1 Victoria Ave Albert Park. Current plans for the building and site see its imminent demolition and the construction of a four storey glass structure. The ‘Don’t Destroy Albert Park’ group believe the proposed building is significantly out of character in this existing heritage precinct, as does Port Phillip council. The Developer has appealed the matter to VCAT and a hearing is scheduled for March 18th in an attempt to overturn Council’s decision.

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1 Victoria Ave Albert Park

You can find more detail here https://www.dontdestroyalbertpark.com.au/ and if possible you could add your support to their campaign.

Victoria Avenue is an iconic heritage shopping strip with many old and beautiful buildings as is nearby Bridport St with the famous Biltmore hotel.

Developers have gradually crept up the Clarendon St Hill and have now began to purchase on and within the Emerald Hill and Albert Park estates.

St Vincent’s Place remains sacrosanct but on its edges there are some very unsightly developments. Major multi-storey developments have now extended to Dorcas St with spot developments such as the 1 Victoria Ave proposal providing an entree of what is likely to come.

Next week we will provide a detailed report on the project and similar such activity in this heritage overlay area.