When it’s time to call a Heritage Architect – Call Balance Architecture.

When it’s time to call a Heritage Architect – Call Balance Architecture. 

The reasons for requiring assistance from a highly skilled and experienced Heritage Architect may differ but when it’s accuracy, vision and creativity you require don’t hesitate – call Balance Architecture on 0418 534 792 (Andrew Fedorowicz) or leave your details here.  

It may be that you’re a property owner – the area you live in has a Heritage Overlay. What can or can’t you do? How can you legitimately improve your property yet stay within the confines of the Heritage Overlay?  

Alternatively, the property you own may be individually Heritage listed on the Victorian Heritage Data base. In that case you would need to apply to Heritage Victoria prior to planning any alterations or additions.

In some instances, the alterations need to track the original design of the property. In the early 20th century, many larger properties were purchased by Government Departments or Church bodies such as the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church, the Anglican Church and the Salvation Army to name but a few. 

Often these entities would then double down and create smaller rooms – such removals were commonplace from 1920 onward with many graceful old mansions, shopping strip precincts, arcades and public buildings being modernised with flat un-interesting concrete, particle board or even bricking up older features – windows, fireplaces and doorways.  

In restoring such properties to their original grandeur, immeasurable value is added to them with the restoration of these features all likely to find strong approval with both the Natural Trust and Heritage Victoria.

The first step is always to engage a suitable Heritage Architect to provide a full report that will satisfy the requirements of Heritage Victoria. Principal Architect for Balance Architecture Andrew Fedorowicz is highly experienced in preparing such reports. As a Heritage Architect Andrew has done so for his many clients over the years.  

Doing a Google search will likely reveal a number of qualified architects – however generally the positioning on Google is allocated not on experience, nor on competence nor on creativity and knowledge of Heritage buildings and early construction, rather it’s based on who spends the most money with Google. It’s simply a paid directory these days – the more money you pay, the higher your ranking (Ultimately you as the client support this promotional activity financially in the level of fees you pay.). 

Older Heritage buildings are often just not a simple matter of gutting the interiors and leaving a shell, a façade. Solid plaster walls, antiquated plumbing and electricals as well as some hideous ‘renovations’ during the twentieth century call for a clever rejuvenation of the many features of the original design. As well there are today’s standards in electrics, plumbing and construction to be observed – a difficult balancing act so to speak. Yes, it is a balance, a balance not many get right. Yet if achieved, it puts immeasurable value on your property – such a rewarding process, the featured historical artisanship and the comfort and luxury of modern living.  

When you actually live in a Heritage listed home or within an area of a Heritage Overlay, it’s not unusual for the local community to band together and attempt to maintain and if possible, improve the Heritage aspects of the area.  

Where developers and other residents try to transgress these values, a proper Heritage Report will often stop such inappropriate developments when presented to council, or to VCAT. Objections have a far stronger chance of being upheld if supplied with a proper Heritage Report, prepared by a qualified and experienced Heritage Architect.  
For assistance in all Heritage matters – renovations and refurbishments, support for Heritage Overlays and full Heritage Architectural reports please feel comfortable to contact Andrew Fedorowicz (F.A.I.A) for a free no obligation consultation. Leave your details here

Andrew and his practice Balance Architecture are passionate about Heritage Architecture. When Heritage is celebrated, the result is simply stunning, spectacular and a reflection of our rich history and the evolution of our spectacular city- Melbourne.  

Heritage – it’s worth protecting the pathway from our past to ensure a rich, fulfilling and rewarding future.  

Inner City and Near City Developments Challenging Heritage Overlays and Height Restrictions.

Brunswick in the Inner-North of Melbourne is now ground zero in the battle to retain heritage overlays, maintain height restrictions and protect the character of one of Melbourne’s iconic early suburbs.

Some of it is simply bold, brash and impracticable. The project slated to be constructed on the corner of Sydney Rd and Park St was a good example. The promoters originally aimed to construct a 13-storey tower on the corner, then cut back to 10 storeys, after local residents objected. Ultimately after several attempts to achieve the required permits at VCAT, the project was rejected.

Jim Malo, reporting from domain.com weighs in on the issue below.

A proposed Brunswick apartment development that ran afoul of the local council, the state planning tribunal and its potential neighbours has been knocked back again

The planned unit tower on the corner of Sydney Road and Park Street was originally set to be 13 storeys high, later cut to 10 during the approval process, prompting a resident backlash.

After being given a chance to rejig the project, developer JW Land has now failed to win a permit from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

VCAT knocked back the multi-tower project because it deemed some apartments were not of the required standard, with a “substantial” number of balconies that were too small, failure to achieve 40 per cent of apartments with effective cross-ventilation, and loss of natural daylight to the ends of some communal corridors.

The tribunal also baulked at plans to conserve a heritage substation building on the site, saying it would be overwhelmed by the proposed new apartment tower.

But the tribunal did not consider the overshadowing of popular Princes Park and neighbouring properties, which originally galvanised neighbours to oppose the development at 699 Park Street, Brunswick.

Mary Lane’s panels, and the empty site where the towers would have gone. Photo: Stephen McKenzie

One of the homes that would have been overshadowed belonged to an elderly lady, Mary Lane, whose late husband installed solar panels on the roof so she would have reduced power bills and would be able to support herself more easily after he died.

But this was not why the application was rejected over and over again. The issues of dwellings not meeting minimum requirements and insufficient heritage protection of the substation were not adequately addressed when the developer had a chance to amend its application, VCAT found.

In its first iteration the development would have had 13 storeys at its highest and 333 homes, but this was cut down through the application process.

Speaking to Domain last year, Ms Lane had said the experience had been traumatic, as she didn’t speak English well and had struggled with the objection process.

A supporter told Domain she was overjoyed by the project’s latest rejection.

The running track in Princes Park would have been overshadowed for part of the day. Photo: Jesse Marlow

She had been supported by the Protect Park Street Precinct community group, and their spokeswoman Christine Christian said the win against the development was a great moment for their group.

“It’s been a near-five-year battle for the communities of Princes Hill, Parkville and Brunswick that has seen us work through two VCAT hearings, endless meetings with councillors and close to $100,000 in legal fees but our efforts have been rewarded,” she said.

The group’s biggest concern, the overshadowing, was not considered by VCAT or the council in the second application because VCAT had already ruled the impact was acceptable.

Ms Christian and the group are now set to go on to fight for overshadowing of parks to be banned in the Melbourne city council area, outside of the CBD, Docklands and South Melbourne.

An amendment to the planning scheme, number C278, is planned to be discussed by the City of Melbourne.

“That was due to be heard on April 14 however, with recent effects from COVID19, that has been deferred for the time being,” Ms Christian said.

JW Land did not respond to requests for comment.

Brunswick house blocks generally were utilised for workers cottages and date back to the late 19th century in some areas. Small blocks were also reciprocated in retail with some exceptions. This has led to a propensity to go ‘up’ to capitalise on what are now significantly higher land values.

But based on the Suburb’s demographics, the apartments planned are often small and lacking in the overall requirements of better planned inner urban developments.

In The Herald Sun, an article appeared several days ago concerning the conversion of an old timber yard into an up-market Apartment complex of a full 8 storeys in height. To be frank there will be many such developments pitched in Brunswick with its compliment of Light Industrial locations now scheduled for demolition and re-development. But if you own a neighbouring property and are covered by a Heritage Overlay, you may well feel justified in objecting to this style of development. We will provide a thorough update on this particular project in the near future.

There are literally up to 20 such projects planned or nearing completion in Brunswick. The developments are pitched at young savvy professionals and are real money spinners for their promoters. Take a look at the Brunswick Yard development to gauge an understanding on the scale of these projects.

Marc Pallisco looks into the subject, reporting for realestatesource.com.au below.

Stockland is paying $15 million for a 4010 square metre former industrial site in Melbourne’s inner north Brunswick.

The 429-435 Albert Street parcel was only recently rezoned to allow for high density residential.

It is less than 100 metres from a 7500 sqm block, 397-403 Albert St, which rival Mirvac acquired last month for a multi-tower apartment project set to contain build-to-rent components.

That builder intends to develop its Brunswick site with local outfit Milieu Property – which last year bought the neighbouring 2323 sqm block, 395 Albert St.

Stockland has mooted its Brunswick property for townhouses and c150 apartments; it will also deliver retail to the pocket for the first time.

Currently a timber yard – the land was for sale most of last year before being relisted with a new agency, Savills, two months ago (story continues below).

Industrial pocket rezoned for high density housing

The Amendment C161 rezoning allows for the construction of eight level buildings over 1.7 hectares between 395-429 Albert Street.

The addresses are currently configured with low rise warehouses and terrace homes. The area is unique for the inner-city suburb being surrounded by parkland (Clifton Park to its north and east and Gilpin Park to the south).

Marketing agents Nick Peden, Jesse Radisich and Benson Zhou declined to comment about any part of the deal.

Stockland’s site is about a kilometre west of Brunswick train station and the Sydney Road retail strip. The suburb is about six kilometres from the CBD.

The 429-435 Albert Street site (shaded) is about a kilometre from the Brunswick train station and Sydney Road retail strip.

The warehouse site (left) has 99 metres of frontage to Clifton Park. It backs onto recently completed five level apartment buildings (right) at the corner of Pearson and Victoria streets

Nathan Mawby sheds some more light on the Brunswick Yard development in the following article from The Herald Sun.

Brunswick Yard development to have life of its own with unique design

The Brunswick Yard redevelopment is aiming to become a ‘living’ building.

A new project in Melbourne’s inner north has been designed to have a life of its own, evolving and growing long after construction ends.

The Brunswick Yard project will have a central courtyard garden as its green heart, while Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and chocolate vines slowly take over segments of its seven-storey brutalist architectural design.

The Gersh development at 8 Ballarat Road replaces an industrial building once part of the rag trade, but historically a lumber yard.

While Carr Architectural’s design will ensure the 121 units are spacious and receive extensive natural light, landscape architects at 360 Degrees have aimed to give it a life of its own.

Greenery has been chosen to filter air pollution, provide a calming backdrop and give the project its own scent: spring flowers and vanilla

Extensive gardens will give the project its own scent, a mix of spring flowers and vanilla.

Ground level apartments will embrace the gardens directly.

“It’s replacing the four walls with a park,” said Capital Property Marketing sales director Bryce Patterson.

Apartment sizes range from 54sq m up to 63sq m for a one-bedroom offering and between 117sq m and 150sq m for a three-bedroom floorplan.

The developer is also “very open” to combining apartments.

Creepers and vines will grow up along mesh elements of the building.

The landscaped garden at the development’s core has plenty of space for residents to enjoy.

“The interiors have good fit-outs, but are not overpowering … the interior style won’t overshadow your personal style,” Mr Patterson said.

Locals aged about 35 years old who have taken on-and-off lockdowns as a chance to save and get out of the rental trap are showing early interest, with a location near bustling Sydney Road’s trams, cafes and boutiques adding appeal.

A display suite is expected to open in December.

Even the developments upper floors will have a living component growing over them.

One-bedroom apartments start from $445,000-$550,000, two bedrooms from $685,000-$785,000 and three from $995,000-$1.35m.

Then there is this one quietly being promoted in the heart of Brunswick, originally reported on by urbandevelop.com.au.

8 Ballarat St Brunswick

8 Ballarat Street, Brunswick, VIC 3056

Located on the corner of Oven and Ballarat Streets in Brunswick, 8 Ballarat Street sits within a pocket of Brunswick South of Hope Street set to see significant change over the coming years as the surrounding low scale industrial uses are consolidated in line with the desired outcomes of the strategic planning policy.
8 Ballarat Street is a collection of 141 Residential Apartments, offering a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms over 8 levels. The development is serviced by two basement levels accommodating 158 car parking spaces, 147 bicycle parking spaces, 8 motorbike parking spaces, and 147 storage lockers. Back of house services and bin/waste facilities are provided on Basement 01 with a central landscaped courtyard and a café on Ground level.

Designed by Plus Architecture the development seeks a balance between the developing context of the suburb and its industrial past.

It’s easy to see that there are serious competing interests at work here. Old Brunswick with its Federation and Victorian housing stock is quickly being overwhelmed by multi-storey developments.

The question is, what is the Heritage value of the areas with current overlays if huge apartment complexes continue to be built? The natural light is now blocked, traffic increases dramatically, and a new bland overwhelms the artisanship of the terraces and retail stores of Sydney Rd, Lygon St and Nicholson St.

Where is the planning here? What is the direction? To be honest, it’s really hard to ascertain other than to note that Brunswick will soon become another inner-city High-rise jungle.

What do you think?

An End To Façadism When? Not Any Time Soon!

In July 2020, the Minister for planning approved of a major change to the Heritage policies of the City of Melbourne. An updated policy package and a new contemporary heritage category system was adopted by Council in February 2020 and approved by the Planning Minister – Mr. Richard Wynne in July 2020. This was done under planning amendment C258.

From CBD News, an article by Sean Car provides insight into the Council’s intention.

A move to modernise Melbourne’s heritage system has been approved by the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, which ends the city’s controversial love affair with façadism.

Heritage policies in the City of Melbourne will be updated and a contemporary heritage category system introduced under Planning Scheme Amendment C258, which was adopted by the council in February and approved by the Minister for Planning in July.  

Chair of the City of Melbourne heritage portfolio Councillor Rohan Leppert said the new policies would better protect heritage buildings and discourage facadism, where only the façade of a heritage building was preserved, while the rest of the building was replaced. 

“We’ve modernised and updated the existing heritage protection system so it’s consistent with contemporary best practice and the system used by the majority of other councils in Victoria,” Cr Leppert said. 

“This will provide more guidance, clarity and certainty for community, landowners and developers.” 

Local heritage planning policies will be revised, and the A to D grading system will be replaced with the “significant/contributory/non-contributory” category system. 

Cr Leppert said the new policies required any additions to a building to be setback to maintain the prominence of the building’s heritage.  

“We’ve seen so many examples of facadism where heritage buildings are gutted and only the shell remains. We don’t want to see facadism become a style of this city,” Cr Leppert said.  

“Under the previous system the mantra had set in that D means demolish. Those days are gone.” 

“The buildings within the heritage overlay include everything from early Victorian houses and shops to grand commercial art deco buildings in the central city.”  

“The amendment also completely reviewed heritage places within the suburb of West Melbourne. 

“Seventeen new significant places have been included in individual overlays in West Melbourne, and hundreds of other places have had their statements of significance and grading updated.” 

“And at long last we are making it easier to install solar panels on the roofs of heritage buildings, so long as efforts are made to preserve the character of heritage places.” 

Amendment C258 was placed on public exhibition from March 30 to May 12 in 2017. An independent panel then considered more than 100 submissions. 

To assist landowners and the community understand the new policies, City of Melbourne also developed a Heritage Design Guide and Heritage Owners Guide which went to the Future Melbourne Committee as a draft in February 2020. The guide will now be finalised following the gazettal of C258 on July 10. 

Fast forward to February 2021. From CBD News, an article by Jess Carrascalao Heard – More City Heritage Under Threat.

The heritage-graded Kilkenny Inn building at the corner of King and Lonsdale streets is the latest historic CBD building under threat of development. 

Heritage lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) has called on the local community to send objections to state and local governments after an amended proposal for a $110 million 21-storey office tower on the site of the former pub was submitted by developer Charter Hall late last year.

MHA president Tristan Davies said the Kilkenny Inn, which was built in 1915, was graded as a “significant” building.

“It’s one of the few pubs standing intact in the CBD … it does retain its interiors as well,” he said.

The plans show that the Kilkenny Inn would be largely demolished, with only the facade remaining around the bottom of the 21-storey tower.

The historic bluestone Gough Alley, which runs behind the Kilkenny Inn and serves as a back entrance to the site, is also set to go as part of the plans. 

Under the proposal, the neighbouring former Paramount House at 256-260 King St, built in 1929 as Paramount Films’ Melbourne distribution centre, would also be demolished.

While the building current carries no heritage grading, it was recommended for both permanent and interim heritage protection in the City of Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid Heritage Review last year.

“The former Paramount House is a rare example of an interwar building associated with the film industry in the City of Melbourne, particularly in terms of it being purpose-built as a film distribution centre with exclusive long-term use (from 1930 to 1989) as the headquarters for a number of prominent international film distribution companies,” the council’s heritage review stated. 

MHA described the plans for the Kilkenny Inn as “yet another example of facadism”.

Facadism is when the front shell of a building with a heritage overlay is retained while the remainder of the structure is demolished. It’s a strategy that has been widely adopted by developers of heritage sites across the central city. 

New heritage policies developed by the City of Melbourne and approved by the Minister for Planning last year discourage facadism by enforcing greater internal setbacks and Mr Davies said the Kilkenny Inn plans were not consistent with heritage guidelines. 

The City of Melbourne’s heritage portfolio chair Cr Rohan Leppert said that to have a true understanding about Melbourne’s history, one needed to see what buildings were like in their three-dimensional form.

“If you’ve only got a shell of a building with no life behind the windows and an obvious modern form immediately behind that wall, you’ve lost so much of what heritage is about,” he said.

Mr Davies agreed, and said that it was important to keep these significant buildings as buildings, and retaining just the facade of a building was like having “a Hollywood set piece”.

He also said that heritage was not just about what a building was, but what it could be as a part of social heritage.

“[Facadism] really hollows out the city and the way that we use buildings. So many of these older buildings can have so many uses behind them, even if their interiors aren’t perfect,” Mr Davies said.

The news follows confirmation by the owner of the nearby heritage Metropolitan Hotel building at 263 William St that it was proceeding with approved plans for a $70 million 20-storey office tower at the site. 

The Metropolitan Hotel was also considered for protection as part of the council’s Hoddle Grid Heritage Review as a site of “social significance”. 

In February, Minister for Planning Richard Wynne introduced the Planning and Environment Amendment Bill 2021 to state parliament, which partly seeks to prohibit the development of land for up to 10 years where a heritage building has been unlawfully demolished.

The new provisions under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 will prevent developers from benefiting from the unlawful demolition or neglect of our precious heritage, enabling existing permits to be revoked and allow for new permits to be issued for specific purposes – such as building a park or reconstruction or repair of the heritage building.  

The Bill comes in the wake of the illegal demolition by developers of the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton and Minister Wynne said the “tough” new laws would strengthen Victoria’s building system and provide greater protection for heritage-listed places. 

“These new laws remove the financial incentive to illegally demolish by stopping development on the land for up to 10 years,” he said. 

“We’re sending a clear message to those developers who do the wrong thing – there are real consequences for willfully destroying our precious heritage.”

“Fines shouldn’t just be the cost of doing business. Preventing those who illegally demolish our heritage from redeveloping means they can no longer reap windfall gains from selling or rebuilding on their land.”

The Bill will also improve the efficiency and operation of Victoria’s planning system, in relation to the publication of notices, the inspection of documents and for panel hearings.

Cr Leppert said he looked forward to parliament debating the detail.

“Previously there has not been enough of a deterrent in our law to demolish heritage buildings or degrade by neglect,” he said.

Mr Davies said in the past, heritage had only been about the bigger, grander buildings, and viewed social changes as being negative.

“I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that we’ve got so much of the city that is unrecognised,” he said. 

Cr Leppert said that despite much of the city’s heritage being lost, Melbourne still retained a “fascinating mix of architecture and design change at its heart.”

“This is Melbourne’s story, and we need to be able to keep telling it,” he said.

The Issue? In the interim, planning permits for a range of façade style developments to continue to be presented for approval to the Melbourne City Council. The City of Melbourne is one of the more effective Councils yet developments such as the Eblana Mansion façade and multi-storey development proposal in Jolimont Rd East Melbourne continue to provide troubling dilemmas for Council and those supporting Heritage Values.

Other Councils need to urgently update their planning schemes with similar amendments as the City of Melbourne’s C258 amendment. There is simply too much inaction and meanwhile hundreds of Heritage listed buildings and those located in specific Heritage Overlays remain at risk.

It’s way past time for Government legislation to bring all local Government planning schemes into line with uniform Heritage policies. At the moment, the overall landscape remains a Developer’s picnic.

There are some powerful lobby groups working towards a proper acknowledgement of Heritage Values across Victoria, however there are far more powerful business interests pushing to roll back Heritage restrictions in many cases. The National Trust, The City of Melbourne, Melbourne Heritage Actions need real support and in the cases of not-for-profit organisations, financial backing. Heritage Victoria definitely needs to be financed adequately to do its job.

Balance Architecture is preparing a lobby group page for all interested in protecting the wonderful architectural Heritage of Victoria and its capital Melbourne (Greater Melbourne, that is.). Stay tuned for further details in April.

 ‘Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the restoration and renovation of Heritage properties and buildings.’

Heritage and its Destruction – The nub of the problem

In this week’s news it’s Hampton – in Bayside, Melbourne (Bayside Council to be exact.) – another historic home has been demolished by developers with complete impunity. With an interim Heritage Overlay and a VCAT hearing scheduled to stop the demolition, the house was demolished – legally – through bureaucratic incompetence and red-tape.

Aerial view of the demolition. Credit: 7NEWS

It simply amplifies the disconnect between Heritage protection and the ability of Councils to quickly apply Heritage Overlays. Time and time again, Councils issue demolition permits then apply for Heritage Overlays. Bayside Council has an atrocious record in this regard, having overseen the destruction of many mid-century modern homes designed by architects such as Boyd and his contemporaries, whilst knowing that either there is good reason to apply a Heritage Listing – or a Heritage Overlay – yet allowing demolition permits to be issued.

The home demolished and an adjacent property were constructed in 1910 or thereabouts. The motive is simple – a huge return on investment for the developers. It’s their intention to build a $17 million apartment block on the four house blocks, with a rooftop entertainment area and pool. Consider this – the homes are located in a quiet suburban street with typical single storey dwellings. Imagine the disconnect with a new apartment block of 36 units.

A heritage home in Hampton constructed in the early 1900s being torn down in order to make way for a modern apartment complex. Credit: 7NEWS

In this case the Victorian Government has indicated that it is the local Council’s inaction since 1999 (when Council first recommended heritage protection for the homes) that has caused the problem.

This is not an isolated incident. It would appear this is a tried and true tactic utilised by property Developers across Melbourne and Victoria. Once a demolition permit is issued, it is very difficult to rescind… It shouldn’t be. It should be legislated that if a Heritage Overlay is in interim stage, then the demolition should be forbidden until the Overlay is confirmed or denied.

These properties are good examples of the general inadequacies of many Local Government Heritage Overlays, and the inability of some Councils to update their Heritage Overlays regularly.

But it also highlights, indeed red-flags the need for the State Government to introduce a more comprehensive workable Heritage protection program. Legislation must include failsafe methodologies to ensure the protection of irreplaceable buildings, architecture and streetscapes.

The proposed apartment complex. Credit: 7NEWS

The destruction has gone on for too long and to a great extent, developers have had ostensibly unfettered access to older properties in Boroondara, Stonington, Glen Eira, Bayside and other Inner-East and Bayside Local Government areas.

The Corkman developers were brazen and lawless. But it’s what is flying under the radar that is of far greater concern. Should you require advice and assistance for any Heritage matter, please feel free to call Andrew Fedorowicz – Balance Architecture’s principal Architect, on 0418341443 – or simply leave your details here.

Andrew is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects (FAIA). With many years of experience in both Heritage and contemporary Architecture, Andrew can provide expert opinion, analysis and reportage on all Heritage matters

‘Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the restoration and renovation of Heritage properties and buildings.’

Yarrawonga Town Hall – an integral part of Old Yarrawonga’s heritage.

Inter-War Free Classical styled Shire Hall (1930), entry portico, Belmore Street, Yarrawonga.
Source: Lorraine Huddle 2004.

Yarrawonga has been a prominent riverside community in Northern Victoria for well over a century. The township was first surveyed in 1868 by government surveyor Henry Grimes. The early survey included sections 1-4 of the subsequent town planning scheme and includes the main part of the Town Centre Heritage precinct (south of Witt Street and north of Orr Street.). During the1880s, brick structures began to replace timber structures and the boom times of the 1880s saw many buildings begin to line Belmore Street. This growth consolidated through the harsher years of the 1890s.

The township’s prominence was initially due to the river crossing on the mighty Murray River. In 1886 the Railway reached Yarrawonga – a branch line from Benalla that linked the township to the state capital Melbourne. By 1903 it boasted a population of 1500 residents and supported a variety of industries.

But what may be forgotten is the history of Paddle steamers and barges passing through the ‘port’ of Yarrawonga in the late 19th century – carrying cargos of wheat, wool, timber and general merchandise between Echuca and Wodonga, right through to the mouth of the Murray at Goolwa in South Australia, then by train to the waiting ships and early steamers anchored at Victor Harbour. The Building of the Yarrawonga Weir in 1939 meant the end of the river trade and its boats and barges, but there are now still restored river boats plying Lake Mulwala for the tourist trade.

By this stage, Yarrawonga was a firmly established rural centre with wonderful old buildings and a broad avenue as its main thoroughfare – Belmore Street. Complete with statuesque tall palm trees. Buildings included the Shire Offices (1896), the State Savings Bank of Victoria (1912), the Post Office (1904), the Athenaeum Hall (1885) and the Shire Town Hall (1930).

Of course much of the decorative trappings have disappeared over the last fifty 50 years – the Kurrajong trees, the Palm trees, the chain and stone surrounds of the central roundabout. But the magnificent Yarrawonga Shire Hall still stands with its distinctive Art Deco theming.

‘The new shire hall was begun in 1929 and completed in 1930. With the rapid growth of Yarrawonga’s population in the interwar period, with both expanding agricultural production and the construction works associated with the weir, the hall answered a longstanding demand for expanded municipal offices for the Shire of Yarrawonga. The architects commissioned for the work were Harrison; Glaskin of Albury. The builder was J. Keith, whose tendered cost was £14,875. The hall was part of a large program of municipal works, including the sealing of roads and drain construction that occurred around this time.The Inter-War Free Classical style has a courageous weaving of Art Deco decorative themes into the detailing. Essentially composed of individual symmetrical elevations, it has a strong asymmetrical form, emphasised by the unusual roof outline. The subtle cement rendered classical modelling on the Belmore Street façade has giant order Corinthian columns in-antis either side of the recessed entrance and a tall corner tower addressing the intersection of Belmore and Orr Streets. The building is also a very important architectural landmark in Belmore Street. It is the largest building in the street. The bold corner tower, unusual roof form and superb architectural details create variety and delight in the streetscape. The building is also a very important architectural landmark in Belmore Street. It is the largest building in the street. The bold corner tower, unusual roof form and superb architectural details create variety and delight in the streetscape.’ – Moira Shire Stage Two Heritage Study 2007.

Corner clock tower illustrating the subtle cement rendered Free Classical detailing with Art Deco capitals on the classical pilasters.
Source: Lorraine Huddle Pty Ltd. 2005

In its own way, the former Shire Hall building (Yarrawonga now forms part of an expanded Moira Shire.) flows comfortably with the existing heritage architecture already mentioned.

Now we reach the present. The Yarrawonga Community Hall constructed in the 1950s is scheduled to be demolished. The current plan of the Moira Shire is to replace it with a new building, its purpose to have a new library and performance precinct.

Map of Yarrawonga Town Centre Precinct with location of 59 significant places marked with red dots.

The current design and plan for this new facility is quite simply inappropriate and incongruous to the current streetscape and the magnificent Shire Town Hall itself. It shows a complete determination to inject a modernist style building into what is essentially a late 19th century to early 20th century streetscape. It demonstrates absolutely no sympathy with or to the architectural style. It is in fact somewhat gimmicky and bizarre, spelling out the words ‘LIBRARY’ and ‘YARRAWONGA’ for those who perhaps have no idea where they are!

The new design is at best neutral, however in terms of the history, the former stunning streetscape has been quietly removed over time – it is a design entirely lacking in empathy for the Yarrawonga Heritage precinct. It pays no homage to the clever, intricate Art Nouveau design of the existing Yarrawonga Shire Town Hall, it ignores the streetscape of the late 19th century buildings and early 20th century pre and mid war architecture. It simply does not blend with, or compliment the present architecture.

With the prospect of losing their Community Hall as well as the pre-school centre already demolished, it is time for the Moira Shire to pay heed to the expectations and wishes of the local community. The current plan and design simply do not recognise the Heritage values of the Yarrawonga precinct, its history and its potential future role in honouring that Heritage. Consideration must be given to formulating a more considered design that melds with the current Town Hall/Shire Hall building and the immediate surrounds.