This week the Corkman Saga has gone decidedly quiet. When the Victorian Government announced its compromise deal with the property developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, there was unquestionably massive outrage. For most people, the very idea that someone can knock down a heritage listed building with total impunity is just outrageous.
There is a groundswell of opinion crystallising right now that the developers should be forced to forfeit the land to the statutory authorities – the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne. The simple fact is they “broke the law” as opposition Spokesman on Planning Tim Smith has stated.
Any proposed forcible acquisition of the land will no doubt be costly given the punitive actions already taken by the current Government and the City of Melbourne. But in terms of establishing precedent, the Government simply cannot acquiesce to these developers. By not upholding heritage values here it opens the door to further rogue actions.
For your interest, here is the most recent article from the Age Newspaper, dated June 1st.
Push for state to forcibly acquire Corkman site from cowboy developers
Planning experts and the state opposition have demanded Planning Minister Richard Wynne compulsorily acquire Carlton’s Corkman pub site from the developers that illegally demolished the hotel.
They say the land could be taken by the state for its value as an undeveloped site, at millions less than the cost of its commercial value as a development prospect.
But Mr Wynne says compulsory acquisition would require the land to be purchased at its highest possible value – meaning it would cost Victorian taxpayers millions.
Mr Wynne and Melbourne City Council this week struck a deal with Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski, developers who knocked down the Corkman Irish Pub.
Under Mr Wynne’s deal, they must build a park on the site by November and can then redevelop part of the site up to 12 storeys.
The razed pub was built in 1858 and covered by heritage rules that restricted its redevelopment.
Rather than work through the planning system to pull down the building, Kutlesovski and Shaqiri – who bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million – instead turned up one weekend in 2016 and simply bowled it over. The site has since sat fenced off and covered in rubble ever since.
Despite being fined almost $2 million dollars for their illegal actions (they are appealing the severity of these fines), the pair could still turn a profit by re-developing or selling the site.
As a development opportunity, the site was valued at $8-10 million in 2016.
Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith demanded Mr Wynne take the land off the pair immediately: “They broke the law, they must not profit from doing so.”
Soon after the Corkman was demolished, Mr Wynne told Parliament the government would act to send a message “that you cannot snub your nose at heritage in this state”.
But Mr Smith said the planning minister had failed to keep his word, and must now send “a clear message that destroying heritage buildings will not be a profitable business in Victoria”.
He said while he would not normally advocate for forced acquisition, the flagrant disregard for heritage made it a special case.
Melbourne University geographer and planner Kate Shaw said under section 172 of the Planning and Environment Act the government could compulsorily acquire the land at its current, undeveloped value.
“It would send a very clear message that developers cannot get away with this nonsense, and the minister can legally acquire the site at its current, undeveloped value.”
Dr Shaw, an expert on international planning schemes, said “this kind of behaviour, particularly in northern Europe, simply would not be tolerated”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Wynne said the government’s deal with the developers meant they would rehabilitate the site so it can be used as a park. They could then “only build on with ministerial approval, following consultation,” she said.
Melbourne Law School lecturer Brad Jessup said the government could forcibly acquire the land but because of past threats to punish the developers would likely be forced to pay more.
Rod Duncan is an experienced planner who has advised previous planning ministers. He said the deal Mr Wynne had cut with the Corkman’s owners appeared to be “waving the white flag to rogue developers”.
He said the planning act gave the minister “formidable power” to unilaterally change controls, and could be used to send “clear messages to offenders and reassure the public”.
“Any outcome that rewards, rather than rebukes, the offenders sets a dangerous precedent.”
On another note, several weeks ago we were considering the preservation and restoration of the former ES&A Bank building on Clarendon St South Melbourne (Cnr of Bank Street.)
Principal Architect for Balance Architecture and Interior Design, Andrew Fedorowicz, previously supervised the refurbishment of the Moonee Ponds branch of the same bank we featured in the images supporting the story. It provides a great illustration of just how such a building can be restored to its former glory. In this case, the former bank was converted to an upmarket business premises.
It is worth noting that the heritage decor it timeless and the property has continued to appreciate in value remarkably compared to other real estate available in the same market sector.
Here for your viewing pleasure are images of the project.
Heritage isn’t a peculiar hobby for bored historically inclined people. It’s the genesis of our society, the look, the feel, the fabric of our great city and states – the vistas we look out upon day by day. It’s a reminder of our past yet much of it was designed to last for millennia.
Heritage values and protection – the buildings, the locations, the lavish and not so lavish interiors we need to protect for posterity, for future generations. It is simply non-negotiable.
We commend the National Trust and the Heritage Council of Victoria for their ongoing work in both protecting our valuable heritage and in making much of it available to the public.