The Crunch Time – When neglect is rejected as a legitimate pathway to Demolition.

In the last few years, the Victorian State Government blocked a favourite pathway to demolition by unscrupulous property owners. The method was to leave a property unoccupied, with no security. ‘Vandals’ would arrive and pretty well wreck the place. The owners would then be at a loss ‘What to do?’ – too expensive to repair. The only solution was to apply for a demolition permit which, up until early 2019, was often granted.

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368 Auburn Rd which was 130 years old has now been demolished.

But then the State Government legislated to prevent such practices.

Heritage Victoria was given the power to issue orders of protection and restoration. If after the order had been issued and no action was taken, Heritage Victoria had the right to issue work orders to secure and repair the heritage listed property to a manageable state – at the owner’s expense.

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Urgent repair orders have been issued by Heritage Victoria for Macedon House which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Of course there are always situations where such actions can spark intense disagreement. Let’s not kid ourselves – a fire has always been seen to be the ultimate ‘stocktake’. It is remarkable how many unoccupied buildings sitting upon valuable real estate manage to be burnt down.

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Valetta House has been neglected and vandalised

But there comes a time when there must be a precedent set, and it would appear that the property located at 38 Black St, Brighton may well set that precedent.

Spurling House was constructed in 1889 by an American Architect – John Harbury Hunt. Mr Hunt was one of the first North American Architects to practice here in Australia.

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The house was very different to other properties of the time which were Italianate Mansions, Gothic, Georgian renditions or other grandiose renditions. This was in Shingle style using natural organic materials. It was truly unique and even today stands as an extraordinary construction.

Here is a recent article reprinted from The Age newspaper dated Jan 15th.

‘Uninhabitable’, but owner loses demolition battle for heritage house

The owner of a historic 131-year-old house in Brighton, which was damaged by fire and is currently uninhabitable because it is infested with mould, has lost her battle to demolish the property.

In a majority determination, the Heritage Council last month refused a permit to knock down Spurling House. The body noted that once demolished, the cultural heritage significance of a place on the Victorian Heritage Register is “ineradicably lost”.

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Spurling House in Brighton is currently uninhabitable

The case raises interesting questions about when the heritage significance of a property should outweigh the cost of maintaining it.

Dissenting Heritage Council member Patrick Doyle argued the refusal of the demolition permit was a “disproportionate price for the (owner) to pay, for the sake of the broader public interest in maintaining the heritage values of the place”.

Spurling House at 38 Black Street in Brighton was built in 1889 by architect John Horbury Hunt, one of the first important North American architects to practise in Australia.

It was the first house in Victoria to be built in the Shingle style, a North American architectural technique that used organic materials in a way that heightened their natural qualities.

“At the height of the boom in Melbourne, when the majority of houses were designed in a highly decorative Italianate style, the surprising design of Spurling House was exceptional,” according to the Victorian Heritage Register.

However, the two-storey home was damaged by a fire in the roof in October 2015 and has deteriorated further over the last few years.

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Spurling House before it was damaged in a fire in October 2015

Water from fire-fighting efforts, ash and exposure to the elements has also led to it being contaminated with fungus or mould.

More than $1.5 million in insurance was paid in 2016.

Heritage Victoria has issued two repair orders to the house’s owner, which require works to be carried out to prevent the further deterioration of the building.

Failure to comply with a repair order can result in fines of up to $396,528 or five years’ imprisonment, or both.

Spurling House owner Dr Damien Louis applied for a demolition permit in February last year.

She argued the house posed a serious health risk and demolition was the only method to make the site safe and remove the cross-contamination infection and allergen risks.

But this was refused by Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery, who said demolition would result in the complete loss of the cultural heritage significance of the place.

Mr Avery said Heritage Victoria was not satisfied that the contamination issues were unable to be remediated.

The decision was reviewed by the Heritage Council.

Committee members Professor Stuart Macintyre and Jeffrey Robinson upheld the decision to refuse permission to knock the house down in a majority determination on December 20.

“The committee accepts that the place is currently uninhabitable and finds that in order for the place to be occupied as a residence again, extensive and costly remediation works would have to be undertaken,” they said in their finding.

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The Heritage Council has upheld a decision to refuse a demolition permit

However, they disagreed with Dr Louis that it was impossible to remediate the house and said it could be made habitable within the amount provided by the insurance payout.

“It is the committee’s view that … the complete and irretrievable demolition of a registered heritage place … should be a last resort, even in exceptional circumstances, including in cases where there has been clear damage, contamination and deterioration at a place.”

However, Mr Doyle, the dissenting member, said he would have allowed the demolition provided there was an archival recording.

“If a place is added to the register, the private owners of that land should not be compelled to leave no stone unturned for the sake of the public interest in favour of heritage protection, all at the expense of their own private interest.”

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery welcomed the majority determination to refuse demolition.

“It is outrageous that four years after a fire destroyed the roof of a significant heritage place appropriate repairs are yet to be carried out,” Mr Avery said.

“This building has continued to deteriorate while the owner has done as little as possible to maintain the building.”

Dr Louis is appealing the repair orders in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Source: theage.com.au

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Spurling House engulfed in flames.

With the matter now heading to VCAT on appeal, it is likely to ultimately be heard in the Victorian Supreme Court if the appeal is upheld. It is a test case that will determine the strength of Heritage Victoria’s powers and its ability to enforce repair orders.

It is a most significant case. We will continue to follow it with interest. Again, dare we suggest it, Heritage regulations – overlays, protection orders and listings all need further updating and strengthened legislation.

Heritage is precious. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Til next time.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Melbourne’s Architectural Integrity and Heritage Buildings – the vision of the City of Melbourne

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 2.35.01 pmThe City of Melbourne for the main has a vision that looks to protect heritage architecture and buildings. In December, the City approved the new Central Melbourne Design Guide.

Specifically it looks to prevent some of the largesse and profiteering of developers only looking to create rentable space in the sky – at any cost. Investors from Asia and the Middle East combining with local developers built tower after tower in the 1990s, much to the chagrin of opponents. Many stand today with low occupancy.

Melbourne City Councillor Nicholas Reece presented this piece in The Age Newspaper on Dec 5 2019.

Spreadsheets in the sky are putting Melbourne’s liveability at risk

It has been said that the history of a city is written by its architects and urban planners.

Melbourne’s earliest days are still evident in the genius of the Hoddle Grid with its big streets, little streets and laneways. The legacy of the 1850s gold rush that transformed a remote outpost into a city of worldwide fame can still be found in the grand public buildings, beautiful boulevards and picturesque brick terraces with their iron lacework.

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Standards of development in Melbourne’s CBD need to be improved if the city wants to build on its healthy legacy.

Over the past two decades modern Melbourne has gone through another gold rush of sorts, fuelled by record immigration and population growth, a thriving financial and business sector, and an international student boom.

So how is the history of modern Melbourne being written by architects, planners and developers? The good news is that despite the demolition crimes of the 1970s, Melbourne has preserved more of its heritage buildings than other Australian capital cities. An emphasis on good street design, bluestone pavements, quality street furniture, beautiful trees, and some stunning examples of modern architecture have given Melbourne a distinctive contemporary character.

But unfortunately, too much cheap and nasty development has crept in. Too many new towers are nothing more than spreadsheets in the sky, delivering a big profit for developers but leaving the city poorer because of bad design and low-quality materials, particularly at street level. The biggest building boom the central city has ever known has put our world famous liveability and appeal at risk.

The point was driven home to me during a recent visit to Sydney. Our northern neighbour is blessed with a spectacular harbour but it is cursed by poor street layout, a century of bad planning decisions and a hotchpotch of urban street designs. But now after two decades of determined focus by local and state government on lifting architectural and design quality, the dividends are increasingly apparent.

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A legacy of heritage and good structure has served Melbourne well up to now.

More than a hundred buildings have been through the City of Sydney’s design competition process, while many other buildings have benefited from architectural design reviews. Last year the University of NSW surveyed 26 projects that were the result of design competitions. The researchers found 62 per cent went on to win industry awards.

With the wrappers finally coming off the long-delayed George Street tram, central Sydney stands proudly as a showcase of world-leading modern architecture. Meanwhile, Melbourne has produced some brilliant new buildings and has been buoyed by home-grown local architects and a distinctive design culture, without resorting to a line-up of global “starchitects” like Sydney. The new Parliament House Annexe, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Federation Square and Eureka Tower are all examples of local designers creating amazing buildings that we should acknowledge and celebrate.

But the painful truth is that Melbourne has suffered from far too many poor developments. Featureless glass boxes that could be in any city in the world. Buildings that are low grade and bland when newly complete, and destined to deteriorate into eyesores over time. Tall towers that set out to be seen from afar, but offer nothing to the pedestrians walking the streets of the city. Our planning processes are quicker and involve far less red tape compared to other big cities. This is an advantage we need to preserve. But we also need to acknowledge that we need to lift the general standard.

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The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Parkville stands out as one recent success.

So the City of Melbourne is drawing a line. We are saying that we must do better. The city last week gave the green light to the new Central Melbourne Design Guide and associated planning scheme amendments to encourage design excellence in future developments. The guide is the biggest rewrite of the city’s urban design policies since the 1990s and even includes a pictorial guide to make it easy for everyone to follow.

Some examples of the new mandatory provisions include the requirement that parking in buildings within the Hoddle Grid be underground, while parking in buildings within Southbank must be concealed by offices or apartments. Ugly building services will not be able to occupy more than 40 per cent of the ground floor, and we will require 80 per cent active frontages to streets and laneways in some areas.

We want to create more public spaces for people. This means at least 50 per cent of private plazas should be retained and refurbished to preserve access to these valuable open spaces in the city. We want to see more buildings that give back to the public realm, with well-designed ground floors that have character and contribute to rich street experiences with more fine-grain detail and quality materials.

The city is also establishing a Design Excellence Committee to engage members of professional design institutes, public advocacy organisations, the development industry and community members in championing good design in our city.

We’re also investigating the establishment of a Melbourne Design Review Panel to review development projects of local significance and provide design advice as part of the planning process. The new panel will be made up of independent design industry leaders and experts and will bring a new level of focus on the design of new buildings. This Melbourne Design Review Panel will complement the work of the design review processes run by the Office of the Victorian Government Architect but will significantly expand the number and type of buildings that will be subject to design review.

The City of Melbourne will continue to develop policy to encourage the use of design competitions in the right circumstances. This parallels an increased interest from private developers in the value of competitions to explore a range of design options.

Melbourne remains Australia’s most architecturally interesting and attractive city. But if we want to keep our world-beating liveability and appeal then we must do better. “Average” is no longer good enough when it comes to new design, development and urban amenity in our city.

Councillor Nicholas Reece is the chair of the City of Melbourne’s planning portfolio.

Source: theage.com.au

The Central Melbourne Design Guide offers some genuine hope that at least inner Melbourne is actually preserved and enhanced. Perhaps the Victoria Market could be reviewed in this light?

Til next week.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage – how precedents are set. Martindale Hall, Mintaro SA.

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Edmund Bowman Jr

Martindale Hall is a unique Georgian style mansion located near Mintaro in South Australia. Comprising of some 32 rooms, it was built for a wealthy pastoralist, Mr Edmund Bowman Jnr and was completed in 1880. Edmund Bowman Jnr was a bachelor. The building was designed by London Architect Ebenezer Gregg. Supervising Architect was Mr John Woods of Adelaide and the builder was a Mr R Huckson.

Due to the specialist nature of the work involved, 50 of the 60 tradesmen engaged were brought out from England for the project and returned upon its completion, no mean feat in those days, and imagine the expense! The Hall had 32 rooms, a cellar of 7 rooms and its grounds included a polo field, a cricket pitch, a racecourse and a boating lake. (The property was cameoed in the film Picnic at Hanging Rock)

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William Tennant Mortlock

Bowman was forced to sell a decade after its construction due to debt and drought. The Mortlock family, through its patriarch William Tennant Mortlock, purchased the property in 1891. His son John Andrew Mortlock developed an impressive collection of fine art. His wife, dying without heirs, bequeathed the property to the University of Adelaide in 1979 upon her death.

 

It had been registered on the now defunct ‘Register of the National Estate’ on the 21st of March, 1978. In 1980, it was listed on the 24th f July as a State Heritage place on the South Australian Heritage Register.

The University passed ownership of the property to the State Government in 1986. In retrospect probably an unfortunate decision.

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On 5 December 1991, the land on which the building is located was proclaimed as the Martindale Hall Conservation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 for “the purpose of conserving the historic features of the land”.[9] From 1991 to late 2014, the property was managed under lease as a tourism enterprise, offering heritage accommodation, weddings and other functions, and access to the grounds and Hall to day visitors. The property is currently managed by the Department for Environment and Water, which in August 2015 received an unsolicited bid for the purchase or long-term lease of Martindale Hall.[10][11] by the National Trust of South Australia.

Source: wikipedia.org

In recent years, the South Australian Government has been the Marshall Government. It has positioned itself as ‘pro development’ resulting in a number of skirmishes with the Heritage movement and Adelaide City Council.

Martindale Hall represents a simply outrageous, audacious plan to open up the property to development, somewhat puzzling as Mintaro is located in the Clare Valley, 136.1 km from Adelaide. Development would be entirely dependent on the wineries of the district.

It’s how this development has been proposed that beggars belief. From South Australia’s Heritage Watch website…

Revealed: Post-election plan to prep Martindale Hall for privatisation

In February, the State Government’s secret plan to repeal Martindale Hall’s conservation park status and extinguish the charitable trust protecting the historic mansion and grounds was made public.

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Such a move opens the door to privatising this priceless public asset, gifted in trust for the people of South Australia by the University of Adelaide in 1986, continuing the spirit of the Mortlock family’s original bequest.

If successful, the Government plan would:

  • Remove obstacles to the privatisation of the property, and abolish the conditions imposed by the charitable trust – including maintaining the historic integrity of the house and grounds
  • Shift authority for decisions on change of use and other development matters to the State Planning Commission
  • Set an alarming precedent – it is our understanding that none of South Australia’s 300+ conservation parks have had their status altered or removed (except when upgraded to become a national park or two or more parks have been amalgamated)
  • Rob South Australians of a voice in the future of Martindale Hall; a move to legislate was slated for late 2017 but abandoned, with a possible second attempt after the election avoiding scrutiny at the ballot box

The issue was a heated point of debate at our Valuing Our Heritage Forum on Thursday 15 February, with the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Ian Hunter claiming the current trust is an obstacle to any sustainable development of Martindale Hall. “There is no ability to do anything to the site,” Environment Minister Ian Hunter MLC said at the forum. “If we had any plans to open it up for private investment we can’t do that without changing legislation.”

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However such an extreme move cannot be undertaken lightly, especially when other advice apparently contradicts the Government’s view that legislating away the site’s protections is only way to secure its sustainable future.

“Martindale Hall is a special building worth protecting – the Minister’s advice was the park and charitable trust prohibits revitalisation,” Opposition Spokesperson David Speirs also said at the forum. “Other advice may say otherwise… the property has huge potential, needs to be unleashed”

Extinguishing the trust and Conservation Park would be an unprecedented move that could cast a shadow over similarly bequeathed treasures like Carrick Hill, undermine the confidence of future donors and philanthropists and betray the very premise of Martindale Hall’s original donation: that it should be “preserved as a place of heritage significance for the people of the state”.

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It’s clear that the public overwhelmingly opposes any privatisation of this important piece of our history. Now more than ever, we need your voice this election season to help make sure all parties and candidates commit to keeping Martindale Hall in the hands of the South Australian people.

Read the full article in The Advertiser here, contact your local member or candidates and join our campaign here. The results of a recent public survey on privatising Martindale Hall can be seen here:

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Source: heritagewatch.net.au

Martindale Hall remains an asset of the South Australian Government. It is currently under contract and is maintained with care and appreciation by a local couple who also operate the Mintaro Maze.

The key aspect of this story for us was the willingness of a State Government to actually change legislation and to abolish conditions set by a charitable trust. It points to the fact that Australia-wide there are Government inactions – and actions that not only undermine immediate Heritage values and rulings, but also set unpalatable precedents for future winding back of heritage values on simply irreplaceable properties and heritage sites.

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What we should be expecting from responsible Government bodies and authorities is exactly the opposite to what very nearly happened at Martindale Hall but for the vigilance and passion of South Australian and local Clare Valley heritage groups.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

From England, to Toorak, and Finally Melbourne Gardens – The Well-Travelled Nareeb Gates

The intricate Nareeb Gates might have caught your eye while strolling through Melbourne Gardens D Gate entrance – highly decorated, they stand out amongst the more modest entrances to the gardens, and this speaks to their colourful history spanning decades – and oceans!

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Originally built in England, the gates arrived in Australia, where they stood for over 60 years at Toorak’s grand Nareeb estate. Constructed in 1888, Nareeb estate was designed in an Italianesque style by architect William Salway, and built for Piano Manufacturer Charles Beale, who hosted many extravagant parties within it.

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The estate was truly grand, boasting 34 luxurious rooms including an ornate entrance hall, smoking room, music room, sewing room, and considering Beale had 13 children, not an insignificant amount of bedrooms!

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When Nareeb estate was auctioned off in 1965, it still operated using a gas-powered lighting system and so did its gates, the most eye-catching feature of which are the vibrant gas lamps adorning each post. When the property was demolished in the late 60s, the owners bequeathed the Gates to the National Trust of Australia, following which they were erected at the D Gate entrance, and officially declared open in November of 1967.

In 2019, the lamps adorning Nareeb Gate’s glorious posts are no longer functional, and the Gardens are hoping to light them once more, albeit with a more modern ‘flame’! With your help, we can restore Nareeb Gates and other heritage gems in Melbourne Gardens to their former glory so they can be enjoyed by future generations for years to come. Your donation can see to a Gardens rich in character and charm we head in to the future.

Source: https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/news/nareeb-gates


Balance Architecture were pleased to assist the Royal Botanical Gardens in providing material for the article featured here.

You can read about Nareeb, Armadale and Heathfield, Grand Mansions of Melbourne now demolished here.

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Heritage is of vital importance to our community, our city and the destruction of these grand masterpieces in less than 150 years probably indicates that at the time, our appreciation of such Architecture and its historical importance was of lesser importance than it should have been.

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So as you pass through those beautiful elaborate gates at the Botanical Gardens D Entrance, take a moment to be wistful and transport yourself back to 1888 as Charles Beale, Piano manufacturer first strolled through them on his evening walk. But now you may ‘take the airs’ yourself as you enjoy one of Melbourne’s most renowned Heritage treasures – the Royal Botanical Gardens.

(Don’t forget your plimsolls and boater hats!)

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Developers vs Heritage. The Continental Hotel, Sorrento and the Steller Group.

Nothing illustrates the risky nature of property development more than the recent failure of the Steller Group.

The Steller Group was founded and operated by Simon Pitard and Nicholas Smedley, both second generation property developers and members of two of Melbourne’s wealthiest families. This was a group that played ‘large’. It often paid way ‘overs’ (up to 50% more than the valuation) on targeted properties. Its funding came from dubious ‘hedge funds’ and mezzanine lenders. Our interest is in some of the heritage properties Steller controlled or ended up controlling.

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Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda

 

 

The Greyhound Hotel site in St Kilda and the Continental Hotel in Sorrento are the two most notable. The Group’s failure has defined the schedule and direction of the restoration of the Continental to date.

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London Hotel, Port Melbourne

The issue with the Greyhound Hotel and the London Hotel in Port Melbourne was the narrow parameters used to interpret the Heritage value of both buildings. Renovations on both buildings in the 1920s and ‘30s saw the original buildings originally constructed in the 1850s drastically altered to reflect the Moderne/Art Deco style favoured at the time. In doing so the Heritage value – based on architectural merit – was minimal, according to the Port Phillip Council’s initial heritage report. Nevertheless the planned apartment complex was never built on the Greyhound site which was recently sold to recover debt by the Steller Group’s receivers. The London is still ‘under planning’ – another empty building site with big plans – so long as the ‘off the plan’ apartments can be sold.

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Continental Hotel, Sorrento

But the major ‘faux par’ of the Steller Group was its inability to contribute to the completion of the Continental Hotel, Sorrento’s refurbishment and re-development. The Continental has the highest ranking Heritage listing available. With Steller failing the whole Hotel stood to remain permanently incomplete unless alternative funding could be confirmed.

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Here is its Victorian Heritage Database Statement of Significance.

Statement of Significance:

The Continental Hotel in Sorrento was established in 1875, for the Sorrento Hotel Company under the directorship of comedian, politician, philanthropist and businessman George Coppin (1819-1906). The Continental Hotel is constructed in a simple Victorian Italianate style using locally quarried limestone. The Continental Hotel is a four storey building which includes the mansard roofed tower, return balcony on the upper levels and two storey section to the rear of the building. The building has undergone some major changes, with a Moderne style renovation to the street front of the ground and first floors which includes a roof top deck.

The Continental Hotel is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.

The Continental Hotel is of historical significance to the State of Victoria for its associations with George Coppin businessman, politician and entrepreneur whose enterprise was largely responsible for the development of Sorrento from the 1870s to the 1890s as a seaside resort. Coppin established a number of business ventures associated with the Continental Hotel such as the steamer service from Melbourne and the Sorrento tramway to encourage tourism to Sorrento.

The Continental Hotel is of architectural significance to the State of Victoria as a relatively intact example of the type of hotel development popular in the later years of the nineteenth century providing accommodation, entertainment and associated hotel services for wealthy city tourists. The Continental Hotel, constructed of local limestone, is important as a landmark building for the seaside town of Sorrento as it is situated on a prominent site at the entry to the town.

Source: vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au

But Restauranteur Julian Gerner, the nominal owner and promoter of the Continental project, has seemingly managed a financial coup and expects now to complete the renovation and refurbishment program commencing early next year with new financial partners.

From The Age Oct 17th (Simon Johanson)

Hotelier in bid to restart work on Sorrento’s Continental Hotel

Redevelopment work on Sorrento’s historic Continental Hotel may resume early next year if hotelier Julian Gerner is successful in a bid to keep ownership of the $100 million project.

The Continental’s future has looked shaky since restoration work on the 144-year-old seaside hotel ground to an abrupt halt in May when joint-developer Steller ran into financial difficulties.

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Restaurateur Julian Gerner (left) with Steller’s Nicholas Smedley in front of the Continental Hotel before the developer collapsed.

A recent attempt to sell the project to another developer LBA Capital for $21 million came unstuck when The Age revealed LBA’s director Demetrios “James” Charisiou had been accused in the Supreme Court of involvement in a sophisticated $400 million fraud against a Korean investment house.

In the Continental’s latest twist, Mr Gerner said on Thursday he intended to retain ownership of heritage-listed project following both the collapse of Steller and the failure of LBA Capital to settle on its purchase.

“I have negotiated an agreement to deliver on the vision to restore, renovate, protect and preserve the 1875 ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ hotel,” Mr Gerner said.

He hopes to restart construction on the four-storey limestone pub after Australia Day next year.

The hotel is now effectively a building site with a large concrete slab and has been sitting empty since Steller’s collapse amid an outpouring of concern from hundreds of frustrated locals seeking answers about its future.

It was built in 1875 and has the highest level of heritage protection due to its historical significance.

Mr Gerner said he had briefed Heritage Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula Shire after forming a new company, The Ocean Amphitheatre Company, to take control of the development.

Ocean Amphitheatre had negotiated an agreement with LBA Capital to be nominated to take over its contract of sale. LBA would take no further role in the Continental’s development, he said.

Mr Gerner said he would be approaching potential investors to fund the final $100 million in construction and acquisition costs.

“It’s a massive relief. I’ve got a couple of key high net worth individuals I will be targeting in coming weeks,” he said.

Title documents show the Continental Hotel site is mortgaged to three different lenders, a factor which could complicate Mr Gerner’s efforts to take control of the redevelopment.

Mr Gerner originally agreed to purchase the Continental Hotel from the Di Pietro family in 2015 for $12 million.

Around the same time, the local council sold him a neighbouring site at 23 Constitution Hill Road for $1.98 million.

He lost control of both sites when Steller unravelled earlier this year.

Source: theage.com.au

The Steller collapse has illustrated the risky nature of depending upon traditional property developers to refresh and renew such heritage properties.

This difficulty and the potential conflict of interests was noted in Britain decades ago. A Heritage Fund (based on funding from the Heritage Lottery) has been Government backed and in operation for decades. You can read about this innovative fund here heritagefund.org.uk/about

With the current state of heritage protection in Victoria, it is time to consider some form of funding for Heritage protection of vulnerable heritage assets.

The wild world of laisse faire property development is most unlikely to satisfactorily protect our heritage adequately , if at all. The Victorian Heritage Council requires further and adequate funding to ensure timely inspections, local Government have a responsibility to provide up to date heritage database information for their areas to the Victorian Heritage Council and ultimately Heritage Victoria and the Minister for Planning Mr Richard Wynne.

It is obvious the system needs to be overhauled to provide failsafe protection for our valuable Heritage treasures. Heritage develops as our nation ages. It’s time to start genuinely valuing it and to do so we must ensure it is adequately funded.

These beautiful edifices and socially important properties need not be museums. With clever planning, architectural know-how and adequate capital, such iconic buildings can be preserved and protected for posterity, as useful ‘living’ entities. It really is time for a Heritage summit that addresses our approach to Heritage buildings, how we decide the merit of a building and then resolve what use is can be put to.

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Corkman Hotel, Carlton

Or we can watch as more Corkman Hotels, more Greyhound and London Hotels, more modernist architecture, more Art Noveau/Modern buildings are simply demolished. Not to mention the early colonial mansions, Victorian Villas and other treasures currently under threat in inner Melbourne.

It’s time for decisive, inclusive action at State Government and Local Government level with key players and stakeholders such as the National Trust, the Heritage Council, Heritage Architects and property owners and developers included in the deliberations. It’s time to define what we now wish to call Heritage and how we can protect it over the next 20-50 years.

Or we can continue on the same path. And frankly that just doesn’t feel like a sensible option.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Bayside – The Modernist homes of Black Rock and Beaumaris are under threat. What is the solution?

This will always be the conundrum. Bayside housing with views of Port Phillip Bay to the City and the Mornington Peninsula are prized and sought after. A property currently listed at 407 Beach Rd is priced at $6 million. The current building is rundown and not worthy of preservation. But that means that properties with strong ties to the mid-century modernist movement will also come under immense financial pressure. Bayside City Council has already permitted demolition of a number of such properties over the last few years.

It’s worth taking a look at several such properties. Currently under threat of demolition, 372 Beach Rd. An application has been lodged to knock down the existing building and construct two new buildings. In the building trade this process is known as ‘Dual Occupancy’ and it has been used effectively on less valuable standard housing ‘inland’ from the coastal strip and its more interesting modernist architect designed homes.

Here is a report from the Herald Sun dated 1.11.19 on No. 372…

Beaumaris mid-century homes: New fight to save modernist pad

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372 Beach Rd, Beaumaris could be replaced by two new homes.

372 Beach Rd, Beaumaris could be replaced by two new homes.
Beaumaris architecture enthusiasts are again going in to battle to save a historic Beach Rd mid-century home that has been at ongoing risk of demolition.

An application to build two new dwellings at No. 372 of the iconic Melbourne stretch lodged with Bayside City Council is open to objections until Monday, November 4.

Council will then consider the application including community objections.
The proposed new development would replace the two-storey modernist house designed by Arthur Russell and require “road access, removal of vegetation, (and) construction of front fence exceeding maximum height”, according to the planning application with council.

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Bayside beauty from the street.

Beaumaris Modern successfully fought alongside the local community against previous plans for developing the site by the same owner earlier this year, which the council rejected.

The group’s vice president Annie Price said the new challenge was “about the fifth time” the property with “a lot of architectural merit and historical value” had been at risk.

“Unfortunately, you can’t object to council on that basis. It’s null and void because there’s no heritage protection on the house.” she said.

“It’s very special. It’s been designed in an unusual kite shape to best work with the block and capture the best ocean views.

“Unfortunately, it’s been neglected but it’s just in need of a bit of tender loving care to bring it back.”

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Fiona Austin from Beaumaris Modern with the house.

Ms Price said the council had ditched a proposed study to identify the most significant post-war homes in favour of voluntary submissions by owners of individual properties.

“All these incredible young architects like (Robin) Boyd, Arthur Russell and Peter McIntyre flocked here in the 1960s to experiment with new designs, and created all these wild and wonderful mid-century homes,” she said.

“There was so much optimism that led to these unique, beautiful, individualistic houses.

“We still have some special homes hidden behind the tea trees here, but we’ve lost some really significant ones and The Abrahams House has been at risk so many times; I just can’t see why council can’t do something to save it.”

Bayside City Council director city planning and amenity Dr Hamish Reid said the detailed study on mid-century modern heritage was proposed by the council last year but abandoned following “significant opposition from property owners”.

“The voluntary inclusion process seeks to strike a balance between the protection of significant heritage buildings and opposition from property owners,” he said.

“Council wrote to 6500 property owners in late 2018 inviting them to nominate their properties. 372 Beach Road was not nominated.”

No. 372 was covered by a vegetation overlay that required a permit for the removal of native vegetation and zoned neighbourhood residential — allowing for multi dwellings on a single block with a maximum height limit of two storeys, Mr Reid said.

“The property was previously identified as having potential heritage significance however a detailed heritage study has not been done,” he said.

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It’s one of the last mid-century modern homes left on Beach Rd.

The 1960 property at 372 Beach Rd was on the market for some time this year for $2.4-$2.5 million, having last sold for $2.2 million in 2015, according to CoreLogic.

Beaumaris Modern’s website states “The Abrahams House” is “one of very few original mid-century homes left on Beach Rd”.

The group has listed information on objecting to the planning permit on its Facebook and Instagram pages.

Ms Price said MCM homes were designed for the local climate and landscape and it would be “madness” to pull one down to replace it with two homes squeezed onto a block.

Source: realestate.com.au

These properties designed by the modernist architects of the 1950s provide a difficult dilemma. At this stage, none of these modernist dwellings have heritage listing. NB. we have since been advised by Beaumaris Modern that the following properties do enjoy Heritage Protection – The Grant House, 14 Pasedena Ave Beaumaris, the Godsell House, Balcombe Rd, Beaumaris and the Johnson House, 451 Beach Rd Beaumaris.  It is the responsibility of Bayside Council (in this instance) to maintain a database of heritage listed homes/dwellings.buildings and locations within its boundaries and to ensure the list is then included on the Heritage Council of Victoria’s database. If the Heritage Council is not approached to list a property by Council in the first instance, it will not be inspected or listed. Residents groups can apply for heritage listing and status, but with demolition permits under consideration, it is 11th hour stuff and invariably the demolition proceeds. In simple terms a property with a higher value returns higher rates. The works of Robin Boyd and his contemporaries must be acknowledged and protected where necessary. And it is possible to refresh these properties and achieve excellent financial returns.

Consider this property at 14 Cromer St Beaumaris (owned by a well known hospitality entrepreneur). It demonstrates what can actually be achieved with these homes. If the property were located beachside there is no doubt you could add several more million to its price tag thus ensuring any investment is covered.

From realestate.com.au and the Herald Sun 1.11.19…

Arbory Afloat creative lists Beaumaris mid-century home

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14 Cromer St, Beaumaris is making waves on the market.

Arbory Afloat has rapidly cemented itself as one of Melbourne’s coolest drinking spots, and now the stylish modernist pad of one of the minds behind it has got the city talking too.

The mid-century Beaumaris home, updated to offer the best of contemporary comfort, is starring at inspections as it hits the market for sale.

The architect-designed and renovated house at 14 Cromer Rd has been listed for $2.1-$2.3 million and was among the popular properties with doors ajar for ‘Beaumaris Modern OPEN’.

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Pool or beach? The choice is yours.

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Stone and timber features give the contemporary home original mid-century character.

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Natural light flows through walls of windows throughout the floorplan.

The vendor, who did not wish to be named, is one of the creative forces behind the Yarra River’s floating pontoon bar and commissioned the transformation of their home.

Marshall White Bayside agent Matthew Pillios said the “absolute beauty” attracted 42 groups through its first sales campaign inspection before another 500 went through for the open-home event.

“It’s a very Palm Springs, LA type of home,” he told Property Confidential.

“You’ve got probably 270 degrees of light and vision taking in the gardens; it’s a corner block, single level, architect-designed, high ceilings, loads of windows – very rock star”.

Local modernist architecture aficionados Beaumaris Modern, who run the ticketed ‘Beaumaris Open’ event showcasing some of the Bayside suburb’s celebrated mid-century architecture, posted that the stylish home had “many visitors on Sunday wishing it was their home”.

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Arbory Afloat has quickly become a Melbourne favourite.

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Jadae Bischof and Charley Aitchison enjoy a spritz.

“The owners are now selling after many years renovating and landscaping,” they wrote.

“The original house was designed by architect Kevin Knight in 1953 and the recent renovation designed by architect Matt Green.

“The house has been sensitively renovated and is a fine example of why its often better to renovate and restore a MCM house than build new.”

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Verdant views.

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Tranquil outlooks.

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Soak it in.

The four-bedroom house is marketed as having a Japan-inspired internal garden alongside feature timber panelling, stone fireplace and soaring ceilings “just minutes from the beach”.

It’s scheduled for auction November 16.

CoreLogic records show the property last sold for $880,000 in 2009.

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Lofty ceiling heights give an airy ambience.

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Entertain in style.

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Cosy and comfortable all year.

Source: realestate.com.au

In March this year, the Bayside City Council nominated only four homes for Heritage assessment. Frankly, that was almost unbelievable and left many within the Beaumaris community group _ Beaumaris Modern – somewhat angry and upset. Private home-owners had at that stage initiated a number of heritage submissions themselves. It can be a confusing and complex application process, somewhat daunting and discouraging for any private individuals. According to the Beaumaris Modern group, Council representatives were lacking in information, somewhat uninformed and singularly discouraging of the process.

NB. Beaumaris Modern has contacted us over the weekend and made the following comment “Bayside Council hadn’t nominated any homes in March. It is only just of this week that they are putting forward 9 private homes and 7 council owned properties to the Planning Minister for heritage assessment following their voluntary heritage nomination process closing date. 14 private homes were nominated but 6 (including my own home) were rejected. And there is a very contentious issue with the Beaumaris Art Group Building (designed by Charles Bricknell) that has NOT been put to the planning minister despite Council’s own commissioned heritage consultants recommending it. We are currently fighting Council on this matter.”

Jamie Paterson, the group’s Treasurer, believes there are upwards of 300 homes warranting assessment in Beaumaris and Black Rock.

Balance Architecture is available to assist any homeowner or property owner wishing to avail themselves of Heritage assessment and possible listing. Under the Council’s approach, very few properties have been nominated. With the young Architects like Robin Boyd, Kevin Knight, Arthur Russell and Pete McIntyre creating a unique enclave of homes specifically designed and constructed for Australian conditions, the area is well worthy of preservation.

Council walk a fine line. The ratio of 4 from 300 is not good, but as Dr Hamish Reid of Bayside City Council said when asked recently “Council wrote to 6500 property owners in late 2018 inviting them to nominate their properties. 372 Beach Rd was not nominated.” It’s obvious that some property owners have other intentions and this is where a heritage overlay can ensure the ongoing preservation of unique and irreplaceable architecture. That is a Council responsibility and Dr Hamish Reid is the Bayside Council’s Director of City Planning and Amenity so it is within his province to act.

It is a major dilemma and a perfect example of the head-on clash between Heritage protection and property development. Hopefully with publicity and appropriate process, it’s not too late to save this unique enclave of Australian creativity and ingenuity.

Footnote: We have recently had communications from the Beaumaris Modern Group regarding various reported facts we accepted from both local and mainstream press.

It would appear that Bayside Council is not assisting in preservation of these buildings to the extent it could be.

We will provide updates on this ongoing strategy to protect the Modernist buildings of Black Rock and Beaumaris.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Federation Square – Heritage Listed – An Extraordinary Project

In Melbourne nothing stimulates discussion on the relative merit of the architecture of new landmark sites as does the mention of Federation Square or Southern Cross Station. People either love them or hate them.

In the case of Federation Square we are definitely admirers… Let me give you our reasons.

Over the last 200 years the site has had a range of somewhat unpleasant uses. It hosted the City Morgue and the trains that transported the dead to the Kew Cemetery, the original Fish Market, Corporate offices of the most unsightly building that ever graced Melbourne and massive Railway Yards, rolling stock and workshops, an atmosphere of dust, metal noise, smoke exhaust and oil.

With many planners keen to link the Melbourne CBD with its river the Yarra, these plans were always undermined by the conundrum of what to do with the then required extensive and extremely busy Railway yards and facilities.

Perhaps one of the biggest bug-bears was the ridiculous situation where the incredibly ugly Gas and Fuel Towers blocked the view of one of Melbourne’s most iconic and beautiful buildings – St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gas and Fuel Corporation Towers were somewhat representative of the times in which their construction occurred – 1967. Brown brick, aluminium windows, a pale green and brown monstrosity, commissioned and built over what was originally the Princes Bridge Station and Rail Yards on the South side of Flinders St. What a contradiction it was to the surrounding cityscape.

St Paul’s, Flinders St Station, Young and Jacksons Hotel, the Forum Theatre – all delightful and interesting buildings, constructed to be somewhat timeless – and the Gas and Fuel Building – plonked like a huge hideous misshapen Lego block. When it was finally demolished in 1997 it was to make way for Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, an extensive, beautiful addition to Melbourne’s parkland.

The Railways had occupied the land since 1859, and over the years it became the driving hub for the Melbourne Electrified Railway System.

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Prior to this for thousands of years the site had been the meeting place for indigenous tribes of the Kulin Confederacy. The Wathaurung, the Bunarong and the Woiworung peoples occupied the surrounding lands to the North, South and East with the swamps and salt marshes West to the Marybnong River and beyond being considered communal hunting grounds. Tribal people still camped on the Yarra banks, both sides, stretching from this area down to the MCG and Government House during the early years of European settlement.

Federation Square and its development leading up to the Centenary of Federation in 2001 gave rise to a perfect opportunity to celebrate the ideas of ‘identity’ and ‘place’ in providing a much needed civic and cultural space.

The Victorian Government had commissioned the architecture to Lab Architecture Studio, a firm based in London and Melbourne firm Bates Smart with whom they formed a partnership. Lab Architecture had originally been one of five finalists in the Victorian Government two stage design competition commenced in 1996. The partnership with Bates Smart, a premier Melbourne Architecture firm was required to proceed to the second stage and the consortium was awarded the contract for the design of the new area..

The Fractal Facade is an extraordinary feature. “Three cladding materials: sandstone, zinc (perforated and solid) and glass have been used in a circular pinwheel grid. This modular system uses five single triangles (all of the same size and proportion) to make up a larger triangular panel. Following the same geometrical logic, five panels are joined together to create a large triangular ‘mega panel’ which is then mounted onto the structural frame to form the visible facade.” [from http://www.fedsquare.com]

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For the public the controversy was fanned by ‘shock jock’ radio personalities and tabloid journalists who simply ‘didn’t get it’. The criticism went so far as to see the Glass Shards planned for the North Western corner removed from the plan and the finished result. It was claimed the Government did this to appease critics who believed it would again block the vista of St Paul’s Cathedral however many believe it was an unnecessary political intervention to ameliorate ongoing criticism from more conservative voices in the community.

It is now recognised as an extraordinary contemporary work lauded and praised internationally as changing the overall look of the Melbourne CBD and its entrance. The public have adopted it and its features with enthusiasm and it plays a huge role in Melbourne’s Cultural and Civic Events.

As well, as of 2019, Federation Square enjoys Heritage Protection, having been listed as a Heritage site by the Heritage Council of Victoria. This process was hastened by an ill-advised attempt by both the management of Federation Square and the State Government to demolish part of it and replace it with an Apple Store. With objections from the National Trust, the City of Melbourne, and one of the original architects, the modification was rejected and the square remains intact. Currently the South East corner is off-limits whilst the new Melbourne Underground is constructed.

This in no way encroaches on the visitors experience as most of the works are occurring beneath the ground.

Federation Square is well worth a visit. It provides a gateway to the Melbourne CBD and is an eclectic creation that offers a wide range of activities. From Bars and Cinemas, restaurants and expansive outdoor spaces, it is truly magnificent.

And everyday thousands of Melbournians commute on trains to and from the city beneath the structure. The cinemas, galleries, radio and television studios barely experience a vibration. It is in fact one of the largest expanses of railway decking ever built in Australia taking twelve months to complete.

Next week we revisit Melbourne’s latest Heritage battle – from Sandringham to Black Rock where the wonderful modernist homes of the 1950s and 1960s are under real threat. Already homes built and designed by Robyn Boyd and his contemporaries have succumbed to demolition. The latest challenge is a property located at 372 Beach Rd Beaumaris. The developers have applied to build two new dwellings on the site. Stay tuned.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.