The Battle to protect Heritage is hotting up. Two Key Issues.

The ongoing battle to protect heritage architecture and our historic buildings from unscrupulous developers has seen two major issues come to a head this January. One is the removal of the planning loophole (Amendment 299) that enabled Heritage destruction in Booroondara. This amendment by the Victorian Government Planning Ministry permitted the destruction of buildings subject to interim Heritage Overlays in Booroondara, and was rescinded by the planning Minister on or about January 2nd 2020.

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A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road

The second major issue is of course the Corkman Demolition and the ongoing refusal of the developers involved to co-operate or to fulfil the terms of agreement made with Government’s Planning Minister, Mr Richard Wynne, last year.

The Corkman Saga is becoming a major thorn in the side of the Minister and his department. Land value at the time of purchase in 2015 was assessed to be in line with the purchase price of $4.76 million. However as a Heritage listed building this essentially meant nothing until the developers ‘knocked the pub over’. Land value is now estimated to be $8 to $10 million. Its plain to see that with fines reduced to $1.1 million last year in the County Court, compulsory acquisition as being touted by the Victorian Government opposition is hardly punitive.

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The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.

We suspect that current legislation in ineffective in dealing with such matters. As can be seen, fines are limited. It’s probably the right time to introduce stronger punitive measures, but no Government wants to be viewed as ‘anti-development’. In this case the Corkman ‘Developers ‘could reap up to 3 times the land value if they were permitted to build. Quite frankly they should never be permitted to under any circumstances. Again – this will require new legislation.

Here are two recent articles from the Fairfax press on the situation

Seize Corkman land, opposition says, after another broken promise

The developers who own the Carlton site where the historic Corkman Irish Pub once stood have failed to carry out their latest promise, which was to build a temporary public park on the land.

The failure has led the opposition to renew its call for the Andrews government to forcibly acquire the land.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski in October 2016 knocked down the 159-year-old pub without planning or building permission.

They were initially fined almost $2 million for brazenly destroying the building over the course of a weekend. Last year, their County Court appeal saw the fines cut to $1.1 million.

Rubble covered the site for three years after the demolition, but in 2019 Planning Minister Richard Wynne reached an agreement with the pair to turn the site into a temporary public park.

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The pub in 2016 before it was knocked down

Under the terms of their agreement with Mr Wynne and Melbourne City Council, the pair cleared the site and were then supposed to deliver a plan for a temporary park, which was meant to be open by February. But the pair have not yet even submitted plans to the city council for approval.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the council was considering its legal options to make sure the site was turned into public space.

“We’re extremely disappointed the owners of the Corkman site have not complied with the VCAT order,” she said.

Contacted on Tuesday, Mr Kutlesovski refused to say why no action had been taken on the promised park. Mr Shaqiri did not return a message left with him.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith said that Mr Wynne now needed to step in and compulsorily acquire the land, because of his repeated failure to compel the owners to do anything that they had agreed to do.

In 2016 in response to intense public outrage, Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski issued a promise – via their public relations consultant, and now Labor MP Will Fowles – to Mr Wynne that they would rebuild the pub. They later reneged on this promise.

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A graffiti piece depicting demolition of the Corkman pub, directly across the road from the site

“Richard Wynne first said the pub would be rebuilt and it hasn’t been,” Mr Smith said. “He then said the rogues that knocked down the Corkman would have the highest fines ever, and that’s not true,” he said.

Mr Smith said the latest failure meant the government “must surely now intervene and compulsorily acquire the site and put it to good use, which is student housing, social housing or a park”.

He questioned why the government was so easily able to compulsorily acquire land needed for major transport projects and yet was unwilling to take the Carlton site off its owners. “We’re not talking tens of millions here,” he said.

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The pub immediately after Kutlesovski and Shaqiri demolished it

Mr Kutlesovski and Mr Shaqiri bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million and it was last year valued at between $8 million and $10 million.

Mr Wynne said the planning department was working with the city council to force Shaqiri and Kutlesovski to comply with the VCAT order to build a park on the site. “These cowboy developers have shown, yet again, that they are recklessly disinterested in obeying the law,” he said.

Mr Wynne did not respond to questioning about whether the government would compulsorily acquire the site.

He has previously said the price the government would have to pay to acquire the site would deliver huge profits to the developers, and for this reason he would not proceed down that path.

Source: brisbanetimes.com.au

‘You’re not above the law’: State takes Corkman Pub ‘rogue developers’ back to court

The state government will take developers who razed the historic Corkman Irish Pub to court again, seeking an order forcing them to build a temporary public park at the Carlton site.

Developers Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski have failed to deliver on their promise to build the park by February under an agreement they reached with Planning Minister Richard Wynne last year.

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The Carlton site on Tuesday

The site remains closed off by a barbed-wire fence and the pair have not submitted plans to the City of Melbourne for approval.

Mr Wynne on Wednesday said the state government and Melbourne council would seek an enforcement order at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to ensure Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski delivered on their promise.

The minister said he would speak with Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to expedite the court process and have the matter heard in VCAT soon.

“We don’t want this matter hanging around – we want this matter resolved, we want this park to be built,” Mr Wynne said.

“You can be absolutely confident of my determination and the government’s determination to ensure the enforcement order, if we are successful at VCAT, is in fact abided by these developers. You are not above the law.”

If an enforcement order is issued and the developers again fail to build the park, Mr Wynne said Melbourne council would step in to build the park and seek costs from Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski.

The opposition renewed its calls for Mr Wynne to step in and compulsorily acquire the land following his repeated failure to compel the owners to act.

But Mr Wynne rejected those calls, accusing the Coalition of “not understanding planning laws”.

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The Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton, built in 1857, was demolished in 2016

“One of our eminent planning [lawyers] advised me absolutely that the state would be required to pay the enhanced value of the site, plus compensation, and we’re not prepared to do that,” he said.

“We’re not prepared to reward these developers who have flouted the law.

“We will never allow this site to be acquired with a massive windfall gain for these rogue developers at the expense of taxpayers.”

The opposition’s planning spokesman Tim Smith hit back, calling the state government’s decision to take the pair to VCAT a “joke”.

“Dick Wynne has now been dragged back to VCAT, where he says he’s going to get another wet lettuce to slap these two cowboys with over the wrists again,” Mr Smith said.

“Wow, what a joke. These two cowboys are just laughing at Dick.”

Mr Kutlesovski and Mr Shaqiri bought the pub in 2015 for $4.76 million and the site was last year valued at between $8 million and $10 million.

In October 2016 they knocked down the 159-year-old pub without planning or building permission.

They were initially fined almost $2 million for destroying the building over the course of a weekend. Last year a County Court appeal led to the fines being cut to $1.1 million.

Source: theage.com.au

Unfortunately, this saga is now playing into a political situation. To date there is very little substance as to suggestions to compulsorily acquire the property.

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

In the UK, the developers would be forced to reconstruct the hotel, be fined heavily or face confiscation of the property.

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

To the second issue – Booroondara. This is another political gamesmanship issue – the loser has been Heritage. The State Government has rescinded Amendment C299 which applied specifically to buildings subject to Heritage Overlays in the Booroondara Council area.

Here is a statement from the Mayor or Booroondara…

Removal of unjust Amendment C299 loophole boosts heritage protection in Boroondara

Council takes back control of protecting the City’s history.

The City of Boroondara is aware of media reports about the Victorian Minister for Planning’s intention to remove the unjust, discriminatory and exclusively prejudicial ‘Boroondara Planning Scheme Amendment C299’, which uniquely allowed the demolition of buildings subject to Interim Heritage Overlays in Boroondara.

Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Cynthia Watson, said Council had been advocating since June 2018 when C299 was imposed by the Minister on Boroondara, for the removal of Amendment C299.

“We are relieved to see common sense finally prevail with the proposed removal of the Amendment C299 loophole,” said Cr Watson. “No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria is subject to an exemption like this one, which allows heritage properties to be demolished”.

During 2019, Council wrote to the Minister requesting the removal of the Amendment on seven occasions (8 and 13 May, 24 June, 30 August, 9 and 13 September and 21 October) and also wrote to all local members of state parliament and Premier Daniel Andrews, seeking assistance to have Amendment C299 removed.

During this time, Council also repeatedly sought authorisations and decisions from the Minister which would have protected properties at risk of demolition. On average, the Minister took over five months to respond to these requests for heritage controls, with several sitting on his desk for well over a year.

In one such instance, the Minister was given three months’ notice by Council that a property at 360 Auburn Road Hawthorn was at risk, and he chose to do nothing. That property was subsequently demolished on Christmas Eve.

Usually, a building’s inclusion in an interim Heritage Overlay would overrule any building permit issued prior to the introduction of heritage controls.

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Under what has become known as the C299 loophole, which exclusively targeted the City of Boroondara, property owners with a building permit were able to override interim Heritage Overlays and demolish historic buildings.“While we are pleased to finally see the end of Amendment C299, we are saddened that this loophole was responsible for the loss of nine irreplaceable heritage properties. Council can now take back control of protecting our City’s history on behalf of our community,” said Cr Watson.

“The Minister chose to exclusively and unjustly target the community of Boroondara and has clearly realised the error of his ways.”

During community consultation for the Boroondara Community Plan, our residents clearly told us that they place great value on Boroondara’s heritage buildings and precincts. We currently have well over 10,000 properties in Boroondara currently protected by heritage controls and have allocated over $1 million dollars to our five-year Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study to identify further historical properties and precincts. Boroondara is a Council that has a long history of investing in the protection of our heritage and will continue to have a strong partnership with our community in its ongoing preservation.

Information about the Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study is available on the City of Boroondara website at http://www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/heritage.

Comments Attributable to Mayor of Boroondara, Councillor Cynthia Watson

After months of petitioning for the removal of the Minister’s ill-conceived loophole, it is disappointing but not surprising that Council has had to learn via the media of the Minister’s plans to revoke Amendment C299.

As at 3 January, Council has not received any notification from the Minister’s office indicating a decision on removing the Amendment has been made.

We are pleased to see common sense finally prevail but frustrated it has taken this long and at such great cost to the heritage of our City. No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria was subject to an exemption allowing heritage properties to be demolished in this way.

Amendment C299 was responsible for the loss of nine heritage properties across the City. With its removal, Council can take back control of protecting our historic properties.

We now encourage the Minister to expedite the removal of Amendment C299 from the Boroondara Planning Scheme by ensuring its gazettal at the first opportunity. Until this is done, as the Minister knows, at least five more historic properties are at risk of demolition.

Source: boroondara.vic.gov.au

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This historic house at 55 Seymour Road Elsternwick was demolished in August, despite outrage from locals

Mr Tim Smith is the member for Kew, he is also the Shadow Minister for Planning and Heritage. Booroondara is a Liberal party controlled council. Demolition permits are issued via Council. Heritage Overlay submissions are made by Council. A number of vulnerable buildings in both Kew and Hawthorn have been demolished. The State Government Planning Department stepped in to halt the demolition last year of the historic Currajong House.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished

What is required now is an expansions of Heritage Overlays and protections to cover areas not considered important in the 1980s and ‘90s and until recently were not at risk. Armadale, Elsternwick, Hawthorn, Kew and other near city suburbs are in dire need of real action to protect our valuable Heritage buildings from unscrupulous developers.

This will require a genuine non-partisan co-operative action on the part of both State Politicians, Municipal Councils and bodies such as Heritage Victoria, the National Trust and all interested and involved parties; re-vamped Heritage laws with significant powers, increased funding and staffing of Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council and the co-operation of organisations like the Master Builders Association and the Housing Industry of Australia.

It’s time for a positive change.

Heritage most definitely does matter.

 

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

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.

How to develop Heritage in Australia’s first colony remnants. Sydney – the place of Opportunity.

Heritage and development – are the two qualities mutually exclusive? perhaps by revisiting a significant battle in Sydney, it’s rather intriguing to follow the process. For in many cases the battle continues. In this case the area is Millers Point, one of Sydney’s earliest settled areas.

The exposed promontory proved to be the best place to situate Windmills in early Sydney Town. As well Sandstone was extracted from a quarry at the end of Windmill St.

The area quickly became a hub of activity with wharves and warehouses. The ‘mercantile’ elite built fine homes on elevated streets whilst the workers lived in small cottages near the wharves. Millers Point had by 1850 become the maritime heart of Sydney and was set to experience a long economic boom.

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Millers Point

In the 1890s the Great Maritime Strike was focused on Millers Point. It was a pivotal event in Australia’s short history. Between 1900 and the beginning of World War 1, there was an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, with the result being a massive clean-up of what was very sub-standard housing and the very first public housing ever constructed in Australia.

From post World War 2 until the 1970s saw the Maritime Services Board run worker housing and tenancies with homes often passed down through families over generations. Developers eyeballed the Rocks and adjacent areas but the BLF and its leader Jack Mundey enforced the now famous Green Bans preserving the area from demolition and devastation. Millers Point residents were very supportive of the bans fearing the ‘Development’ engine may consume their suburb.

In the 1990s the Maritime Board transferred control of its housing stock to Housing NSW. Residents were no longer wharf workers with maritime activity transferring to Port Botany.

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Walsh Bay

Walsh Bay saw a development between Dawes Point and Millers Point. Luxury apartments, restaurants and a new ‘cultural precinct’ whet the appetites of developers for prime locations like Millers Point.

In 2003 Millers Point and Dawes Point village precinct was listed on the State Heritage Register. More Wharves were sold off and the new urban precinct known as Barangaroo was established.

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Residences at Millers Point

By 2006, the State Government was selling off 99 year leases on 16 of the Millers Point properties, with a further 20 added in 2010 – many fetching more than $1 million. As the houses left fell into disrepair the residents were beginning to be relocated.

Enter Crown Casino – James Packer and Crown Resorts in partnership with Lend Lease announced their plans for the Barangaroo hotel and Casino. The Government proposes selling 250 public housing properties on Millers Point, by 2014 is would be 300 dwellings. The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore is outraged by the decision and an MP Alex Greenwich called it Social Cleansing. The first 6 Heritage properties are sold for up to $3 million each. Heritage rules were ‘relaxed’ for new buyers of the Millers Point properties.

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Millers Point viewed from Observatory Hill

Fast forward to 2016. Shirley Fitzgerald, the former Historian for the City of Sydney spoke at the NSW Parliament.

‘Millers Point today. Woolloomooloo tomorrow. Glebe. Ultimo. Pyrmont. Surry Hills. And so on. There are pockets of public housing everywhere. Public housing that helps to make for a good city that works… So, sell them. For a quick and dirty profit today and pile up social problems for tomorrow. When we’ve achieved a completely socially segregated city where there isn’t any affordable housing in any neighbourhood which commands high land prices then we will really have problems. Social problems. Human problems. Environmental sustainability problems as the rich clog up the centre and the workers travel from the outer areas to service these inner areas. And right now, where is the government’s accounting of the immediate social costs of breaking up the Millers Point community in the unnecessarily cruel way it is being done?

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Millers Point

‘We have mentions of substitute housing elsewhere in the inner city but no promises. And rumours of further sell offs down the track. Others will talk about all this. My role here is to say something about the heritage issue.

‘What is heritage? We tend to think of it as ‘old stuff that we like.’ Buildings. Places. It is these things but it is far more. Heritage is what explains our past to us, and that includes far more than just the physical fabric of places. The State Heritage Register lists places that are protected under the heritage legislation. It lists things against a complex range of criteria: historical, aesthetic, social, research potential, rarity, degree of intactness – the list goes on. Significance can arise from who the people are and what the communities represent.

‘So forget definitions that are just about buildings. There are dozens of buildings on the State Register in Millers Point but there is also a listing for the ‘Millers Point Conservation Area’ (1999). This listing is not for this or that building in Millers Point but for the totality of the place. And ‘place’ is defined as its social fabric along with the physical fabric.

A heritage listing under the Heritage Act gives preservation some teeth. But it is a sad truth that heritage listings get updated – i.e. watered down – and when they do it is really hard to find official references to older listings. It is rumoured that the Heritage Council will have to review the Millers Point Conservation Area listing because it will be wrong once the government has kicked out all the public tenants. It was reported in the Herald at the time of the announcement of the sell off that the conservation guidelines would also be reviewed to put in place a heritage strategy that would ‘interpret’ the period of public housing. It will need ‘interpreting’ because we will no longer have it as a reality. Could anything be more cynical?

‘I have a reference to the 2003 listing of the significance of Millers Point as a ‘living cultural landscape’ with ‘an unusually high and rare degree of social significance’. Social significance. I cannot find this in the current listing. Even so, this is what the Heritage Register said when I last looked at it this morning. [day of the screening in Parliament House, 19 March 2015]:

‘There are many paragraphs, including:

  • 1.3 Its demonstrative capacity is heightened by [building listings] and by the experiences and memory of its long term community.
  • 1.4 Its public housing …and its development into a Government corporate town were probably the first such developments in Australia (apart from first settlement) and may be of international significance.
  • 3.3 [refers to ]… a pioneer programme of public housing and social improvement, demonstrated by development of a company port town by the Sydney Harbour Trust. This encompassed construction of purpose designed workers’ housing and support services.
  • 6.1 Its unity, authenticity of fabric and community, and complexity of significant activities and events make it probably the rarest and most significant historic urban place in Australia.

‘I’m reading all this to get it on the record before it too all disappears if the listing gets ‘modified’. I’m not a lawyer, but there is a Heritage Act and the Millers Point Conservation Area is a state significance listing under that act. And its listing unequivocally includes its significance as public housing and as community. It reads to me as though the government is in contravention of the law.

‘They are trashing Millers Point. Not the physical fabric, maybe. But the community, the rarity. Of course they are. This government does not want to be reminded of a time when governments undertook great public works for the public good. The Labor opposition mouths allegiance to a great social housing heritage and genuflects to people like Jack Mundey and Tom Uren, but promise little and fight for less.

‘That quaint old thing called public housing. Governments in the early 20th century understood that you had to have a place for workers to live in the city. They were motivated by ideas of what makes a city work efficiently as much as by ideas of the welfare state – these were and remain good ideas and they are ideas that leave for dead the current sterile ideas about maximising the bottom line.’

Source: millerspointcommunity.com.au

The National Trust was so concerned with the trashing of Heritage values that it put out its own statement.

Millers Point Under Threat

National Trust of Australia (NSW) says the sale of 293 heritage buildings in Millers Point is the most devastating attack on Australia ís nationally significant heritage since The Rocks were saved in the 1960s.

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National Trust of Australia (NSW) CEO Brian Scarsbrick warns rare heritage – some buildings dating back to 1820 – are being sold with no contractual heritage protection. He says all political parties should state their policy on this issue highlighting a ‘test sale’ of nine of these precious heritage properties which has produced disturbing results.

The Millers Point sale of 293 heritage buildings is the most devastating attack on Australia’s nationally significant heritage, since Jack Mundey working with the National Trust, saved The Rocks’ unique heritage during the 1960s.

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“Australia’s rare heritage provides a vital “sense of place” for communities. Selling off heritage buildings, some dating back to 1820 (only 32 years after the First Fleet arrived), with no contractual heritage protection, exposes that precious heritage to destruction and loss” – Brian Scarsbrick AM, CEO of the National Trust of Australia (NSW)

Irreplaceable properties that go back to Sydney’s colonial roots are being sold without full protection. The Millers Point area is not just built heritage, it is social heritage. For 200 years, it has been the home and workplace for merchants, shipping companies and waterfront workers and many of the people still there are descendants together with a range of public housing tenants.

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“We are deeply alarmed at the damage facing the 293 State heritage listed properties located at Millers Point because State Heritage Register Listing alone has been proven not to be sufficient protection,

A “test sale” of nine of these heritage properties, sold outright before Christmas on freehold title with no contractual obligation to protect their heritage value, has produced disturbing results.

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Already a third of the properties sold in the “test sale” are subject to unauthorised works and Sydney City Council is issuing stop work notices”, said Mr Scarsbrick

The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is calling on all political parties to clearly state their policy on the protection and conservation of our nationally significant Millers Point/The Rocks.

The National Trust is not against the sale of the Millers Point properties- but it is against the inadequate conditions and manner of sale which fails to protect the heritage values of the properties. This heritage destruction must be stopped and the Trust is asking the community to stand up against this inappropriate selling off of public assets.

“History shows that selling properties in The Rocks area on 99 year leases results in only a 5% – 10% discount and the assets can return to the public estate at a greatly increased value after the lease expires”, stated Trust Director – Advocacy Graham Quint

More than $700 million worth of public heritage assets are being sold freehold and not as in the past, on 99 year leases where approvals to undertake works had to be obtained from the owner – the government. The current freehold sales of the properties have no contractual obligations to ensure that conservation works are approved and no Compliance Bond to ensure that works are carried out in a timely manner using qualified heritage architects.

Brian Scarsbrick stated “these properties could easily be sold on 99 year leases which would involve purchasers being contractually obligated to protect the properties’ heritage values. They should remain ‘in the public estate’ and return to the Government in 99 years at massively increased values. Properties could be sold and the Government and the NSW public benefits now and later. This area is a rich part of the heritage fabric of Sydney located close to The Rocks and its wealth of State Heritage Register listed buildings”.

The heritage significance of the oldest surviving, continuously inhabited urban residential precinct in Australia’s European settlement history deserves the better protection that 99 year leasehold sales can provide.

Source: nationaltrust.org.au

The key lesson in this very unfortunate saga is that Heritage Listings and the Heritage Database must be kept intact. History doesn’t change. Rewriting history suits some parties but does nothing to preserve our heritage.

What has happened in Sydney is now beginning to occur in Melbourne. Areas without appropriate up-to-date Heritage overlays in operation are being savaged by developers. And here it is even worse in that buildings with heritage protection or interim heritage protection are being toppled at a rate of knots. In all the lesson is that it is a Government responsibility to provide protection for Heritage listed or proposed properties. The legislation must be current, workable and provide genuine protection

Of course, we can always subscribe to the ‘feel good’ version of such developments. From Domain…

First renovated Millers Point properties back on the market, attracting prestige buyers

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Several rundown Millers Point public housing properties sold by the NSW government in recent years have now filtered back onto the market, renovated and with hefty price tags to match.

One such property is 60 Argyle Street, listed for sale for $4.5 million, after selling for $3.175 million just over two years ago.

It’s one of Sydney’s oldest terrace homes, built by whaling captain George Grimes about 1845.

A development application submitted to the City of Sydney shows the property was changed from a boarding house to a residential dwelling at the end of 2015. It was put up for auction as part of the government’s Millers Point public housing sell-off in February 2016.

Agent Richard Shaloub, of Sotheby’s International, said the home was an investment property for the owner, with records showing it was advertised for rent, fully furnished, initially for $2,700, and then for $2,500 in April of this year.

Many of Millers Point’s terraces were home to Sydney’s low-income families and pensioners but they were evicted and moved elsewhere after the government announced plans in 2014 – despite protests from the community – to sell off its inner-city housing.

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The area has since undergone a metamorphosis, attracting prestige buyers with its large heritage buildings, proximity to the city and the Barangaroo precinct, as well as harbour views. The suburb’s median house price rose 36.15 per cent over the year to $2.78 million.

If the property sells for its $4.5 million asking price, it will represent a $1.325 million windfall for the seller over the two-year period they owned the property.

“A lot of people buying into Millers Point are going in for the high-end properties,” Shaloub says. “Being historic, heritage homes there’s a really strong appetite for restoring historic features. From my experience, buyers are not afraid of putting in a significant amount of capital for improvements.”

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“It’s a rare opportunity to buy something [in Millers Point] that has been renovated”, Shaloub says. “Everything that has been traded has been run down or dilapidated. This is one of the first that you can move straight into.”

Shaloub has another renovated Millers Point property on the books – 60 Kent Street, which sold for $1.75 million in May 2016. Also bought as an investment property, the home is currently listed for $2.75 million.

“They were both purchased for a good price. They’ve put some money in, but it’ll be a nice earner for them,” Shaloub says.

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“It’s a very unique proposition, it’s a very highly sought after area in the precinct”, he adds.

A five-bedroom renovated home at 53 Lower Fort Street is also currently listed for sale, with an advertised price guide of between $4.8 million and $4.9 million. It last sold for $1.575 million in 2009.

Billionaire Kerr Neilson recently bought into the precinct, paying about $5 million at auction for an unrenovated set of three apartments, formerly known as George Talbots Townhouses.

Investment banker Richard Kovacs has also purchased property nearby, paying $9.9 million for two Georgian townhouses.

A reported $550 million has been raised from the sale of 177 NSW Government-owned properties so far.

Source: domain.com.au

Median house prices in the area have risen by 36.15% in one year – 2018.

Therein lies the story. Keep in mind these properties were all Government owned. A slice of Australia’s earliest history. But hey – it’s a good investment. The plan was that most people would purchase and spend substantial capital on heritage base renovations. The actuality is many are simply being rented out as Airbnb, to the extent that Kent St is now known as ‘Rent St’.

So beware, development is not always going to support heritage or produce the results intended or expected. And without proper Heritage protection – it’s just another building – land banked for an uncertain future. Such is life, a famous fellow once said.

Time for action we say.

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

Spring Time – Refresh, Renew and Revitalise – Heritage restoration with Space, Comfort and Style – with a Heritage Architect

At this time of year Melbourne is now heavily into the Auction Season. Homes in inner Melbourne are being offered for sale with the gardens in full bloom, the interiors freshly painted, new flooring or freshly sanded, as well as refreshed and renovated kitchens and bathrooms. Should you be lucky enough to purchase one of the many heritage properties for sale right now, it is a clever move to contact a Heritage Architect for an inspection and assessment of your new property acquisition.

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Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA) is our principal Architect and is well situated to assist you in all Heritage property restoration and refurbishment.

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In Inner Melbourne, ‘land banking’ is a common practice. People buy properties in reasonable condition and let them out to tenants for 5-10 years (depending on the rate of appreciation and the deposit applied to their purchase). The tenants pay off the loan and then these ‘land bankers’ apply a quick makeover. Hardiboard with tile surfaces, new lighting fittings and garden makeovers provide a refreshed and seemingly well cared for appearance to prospective buyers.

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On one street in South Melbourne, two houses were offered for sale in quick succession. One had $200,000 spent on renovation with a proper architect design creating a purposeful living area and retaining all the heritage features, enhancing some that were previously neglected to bring the whole property into line with its original 1880s construction, yet offering comfortable modern liveability.

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The other was given a quick makeover by the family who owned it and had rented it out for 10 years. The actual façade was intact in original bluestone, but the sidewall featured a major crack running from the roofline to nearly ground level. Internally it was repainted, the flooring sanded and the kitchen and bathroom tiling replaced with more ‘modern’ tiles. About $25K was expended. It was a cosmetic makeover, but it ‘looked’ very good.

The first house sold within two weeks. House number two has been passed in at Auction and attracted no buyers at the price it was offered. The valuation was put at about $1.9 million by independent valuers. The owners were asking for $2.5 million. Sometimes ambition clouds judgement. Buyers also recognise quality over cosmetic coverups.

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Balance Architecture and Interior Design have a wealth of experience in creating and providing elegant solutions in the presentation and living areas of Heritage properties. Many earlier properties were built with structural internal walls, separate anti-rooms for servants, stables and slate roofing.

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Electrical wiring, plumbing and lighting were set to standards we no longer find acceptable. Foundations were often bluestone lintels laid on a sand base.

Add to this some truly appalling ‘renovations’ of the 1950s, ’60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Ironwork was removed from ornate verandahs on Victorian Terraces by migrant families buying cheap then looking to ‘modernise’. Feature tiles were ripped up and more ‘modern’ tiling replaced the delicate Victorian mosaic tiling. Architectural mouldings both internal and external were removed. Ornate glass, be it leadlight or the original window glass was often replaced with ‘feature’ glass (whatever that meant). Old gardens with 60 year old well kept roses and old fashioned perennials made way for eucalypts, grevillias and kangaroo paws. And dietes, so many dietes.

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To restore a home to its original glory takes vision and capital. It takes an experienced eye to take hold of the rudder and steer the project in the direction of faithful restoration yet incorporate entirely liveable spaces. Andrew Fedorowicz of Balance Architecture is such a visionary. A fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects, Andew can explain to you the very real options available to you in developing your heritage property. (Andrew is in fact the Principal Architect of Balance Architecture). A true understanding of Heritage Architecture and its restoration will add real value to your new home, and Andrew will provide this.

Whether you’ve purchased in inner Melbourne – Albert Park, South Melbourne, Clifton Hill, Moonee Ponds or Carlton – if your property is considered ‘heritage’ or you live in an area with a heritage overlay, please call Andrew on 0418 341 443 and book a consultation to ensure a professional assessment of your proposed renovations. Andrew is also both interested and experienced in the restoration and renewal of rural heritage properties.

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If more convenient, please leave your contact details here for a prompt response.

Heritage Architecture is a holistic pursuit. It’s not just creating a façade, it’s maximising the value of your historical and beautiful home.

Heritage – It’s worth saving, it’s worth preserving.

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