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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Trust has expressed its objections to the project to the Port Phillip Council in August 2017.
Re: Planning Permit Application
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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.