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.

Heritage Knock-Downs and the ‘Politics’

There is an old saying many of you will have heard – ‘The law is an ass’. It’s an interesting statement. The ass or donkey is not renowned for its intellect but it is in fact a sturdy beast of burden that will carry heavy loads without complaint. Heritage law for some Councils is in fact ‘a heavy load’.

With competing agendas creating and angling for different outcomes, the current situation in Boroondara Council is an excellent example of legislative failure, at least at a local level, and an inability at a State level to ensure compliance with heritage values enshrined in legislation. The amendment simply makes no sense as currently applied by the State Government.

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses.jpg

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses

At a Council level, Planning Departments have competing agendas. On the one hand multi-occupancy on single occupancy sites makes for significant increases in rates and revenue per property.

It would also seem that it is somewhat mischievous to permit demolition permits on properties known to be included in projected Heritage overlays being submitted to Heritage Victoria and the Victorian Heritage Council for approval. In saying this, it’s recognised that the approval process for heritage listing can take up to 12-18 months. In this case Boroondara is imploring the Planning Minister to intervene.

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

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18 months on, the site is an ‘ugly paddock’

There are several deficiencies at work. The Heritage Council is seemingly underfunded and understaffed. With this in mind, it would be sensible of the Council’s in question with outstanding demolition orders on properties included on proposed heritage overlays, or indeed properties to be heritage listed in their own right, to apply a freeze, an injunction on these properties until a decision has been handed down by the Heritage Council. In turn this could be added to current State Heritage legislation as an amendment to current legislation to prevent any such demolitions being pursued through VCAT or the courts.

This is a most serious issue for Heritage protection. To date this demolition permit loophole has been used to demolish properties in Armadale, North Caulfield, Hawthorn, Kew, Black Rock and Beaumaris. Councils such as Boroondara, Stonnington, Glen Eira and Kingston have all been placed in such untimely dilemmas.

It comes down to properly maintaining heritage listings and overlays within their province and keeping them up to date.

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

It would appear the dilemma between development offering significant revenue increases and the preservation of heritage style properties is somewhat daunting for our elected officials.

As has been stated previously, the maintenance of the Victorian Heritage Database is unfortunately not keeping pace with the shift in Real Estate valuations and the mounting pressures for development. The process, due to lack of Heritage Inspection staff is interminably slow.

This article from Melissa Heagney in Domain covers much of the current angst.

Heritage knockdowns: Boroondara Council calls on government to close a planning ‘loophole’

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368 Auburn Road was demolished on August 30

Boroondara Council is calling on the state government to close a planning “loophole” which has seen a Victorian-era home torn down, and puts another six homes at risk.

An amendment made to the council’s planning rules by the state government last year allows home owners who have approval to tear down and rebuild a house, to push ahead even if the council attempts to stop them by placing an interim heritage overlay on the property. The council is calling on Planning Minister Richard Wynne to change this.

The properties the council argues are now at risk include homes on Belford Road in Kew East, Toorak Road in Camberwell, Moir Street in Hawthorn, and on Auburn Road and Burwood Road in Hawthorn East. Each has approval for demolition.

Local residents were dismayed at the recent demolition of a 130-year-old home at 368 Auburn Road in Hawthorn, knocked down two weeks ago.

In wake of the razing, the council fears for the other residences in question.

“All six properties can be demolished in accordance with the loophole implemented in the Boroondara Planning Scheme by the minister through Amendment C299,” Boroondara Mayor Jane Addis said.

“Typically, an interim Heritage Overlay would invalidate these building permits, thereby protecting properties from demolition and maintain their contribution to their respective heritage precincts.

“We fear that without the removal of the loophole, these six properties will share the same fate as 368 Auburn Road, Hawthorn.

“Council has requested the minister to remove this loophole four times now and we are hopeful the Minister will now act.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has argued that the changes to Boroondara’s rules made the planning process fairer for home owners.

“I introduced the planning amendment to stop this council from continually moving the goalposts,” Mr Wynne told Domain in an email. It was the only council with such an amendment, he said.

Since February 2018, more than 20 amendments had been approved for the Boroondara planning scheme to provide heritage protection for precincts and individual sites, Mr Wynne said.

It was the most extensive application of interim heritage overlays in any council area in Victoria in recent times, protecting thousands of properties.

He said Boroondara had been too slow putting together its heritage applications.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is one of the six homes set to be demolished

The issue in Boroondara came to a head after approval to tear down a home at 25-27 Victoria Avenue, Canterbury was brought into question when the council introduced an interim heritage overlay on the property after it had been torn down.

The Victoria Avenue property was legally demolished in early 2018.

“It doesn’t make sense for the council to seek heritage protection for a house … many months after approving a demolition permit to knock it down,” Mr Wynne said.

But Boroondara Council argued Mr Wynne had taken six months to review some of these studies before a decision was made.

The council had been undertaking heritage gap studies while some home owners applied for demolitions. As there had been no heritage protection in place at the time, the council was unable to protect such houses.

Under Victoria’s planning rules, a council permit to demolish a home is only required in certain circumstances including: if it is listed on the heritage register; is larger than 40 square metres; or would create a danger to the public when being torn down.

Losing these types of homes has raised the ire of local residents, politicians and the National Trust, with two state MPs airing the issue this week.

The National Trust raised concerns about the number of homes under threat as a result of the Boroondara-specific planning scheme amendment.

“This issue has highlighted the need for clearer and more consistent State Government guidelines around heritage protection, including interim heritage overlays,” National Trust of Australia (Victoria) chief executive Simon Ambrose said.

Boroondara Council and other councils should be “identifying places of potential heritage significance and seeking heritage protection before demolition permits are issued”, he said.

“The best way to do this is through implementing strategic heritage studies, like the gap studies recently undertaken by the City of Boroondara,” he said.

“But even in individual cases, councils have a safety net under the Building Act to withhold consent for demolition and apply for interim heritage protection if it’s warranted.”

Source: domain.com.au

So as the Chief Executive of the National Trust has stated, Councils have a safety net under the building Act to ‘withhold consent for a demolition and apply for interim protection if it is warranted’. We would also suggest ‘if they have an appetite for it’.

The whole scenario illustrates perfectly that the time to act is now. The minister must step in and prevent demolitions until heritage status is determined.

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

Councils must urgently create ‘Gap’ studies and ensure that their heritage registers are up to date. Local Government and State Government bureaucracies can move slowly and often it’s too slowly. It’s time to step in and intervene – co-operatively to save our valuable heritage buildings and precincts – State Government and Local Government – co-operatively. We simply cannot afford to lose further heritage treasures. Act now and stop politicking. This is far too important.

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

Heritage – a true appreciation has evolved. Can this be matched with Government action on preservation?

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, if it was ‘old’ then it had little or no value. There was very little appreciation or understanding of heritage – whether it was architectural, historical, social or community based. The mantra was knock it down and build a nice new facility. Today we look at both ends of this spectrum, the ignorance of the past and the appreciation of present heritage values.

In 1972, the once powerful Victorian Railways was being usurped by Road Transport. Steam Engines were largely replaced by Diesel Locomotives, the main line from Sydney to Melbourne had been converted to standard gauge from broad gauge (track widths) enabling an express train to run without impediment between our two largest cities.

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Benalla Railway Station

What was actually happening though was rather sad. Branch lines were neglected or closed. And the substantial buildings that had served the public for many years were either demolished or repurposed in renditions of the architecture of the times. People drove cars, cars needed carparks. The old steam locomotive infrastructure paid the price. Buildings were demolished, tracks removed.

But the real travesty was the destruction of what were in effect community assets – the actual station buildings.

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Benalla Railway Station

Benalla was a good example.

From The Age, Nov 14th 1974, by Jennifer Byrne.

“It’s just an old railway station”

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71822892_131636181553441_331139362886516736_nThe battle to save Benalla’s historic railway station has been lost.

Demolition of the 19th century brick building is now well advanced, despite strenuous opposition from a local preservation group and intervention by the National Trust.

Both groups have struggled for years to retain the building-former refreshment rooms and tower section of the station-claiming it has architectural and historical significance.

But a railway wrecking crew moved in several days ago.

Preservation is now impossible.

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Bar at Benalla Railway Station

The chairman of the National Trust (Mr. Rodney Davidson) has called on the Premier (Mr. Hamer) to halt the demolition.

The demolition marks the end of a 14 month fight by the Benalla Railway Preservation Society-an offshoot of the Benalla Tourist Association-to save this dilapidated yet impressive section of the building.

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They planned to build a $60,000 museum-type complex in the old refreshment rooms.

A society spokesman said townspeople had been “totally apathetic” to the idea of saving the building.

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Benalla station master Mr. George Pryor, 47, said yesterday he wanted a new railway station and carpark-not an old museum.

“It’s all right if you’re an historical bod about these things, but if you’re a passenger waiting in the rain or someone working in a cramped hot office it’s not so good,” he said.

“It’s attractive but it’s not really historical at all…it’s just an old railway station which has been here for almost 100 years.”

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Mr. Pryor said the building had been closed for more than 10 years.

A recent report said it was infested with white ants.

The society has one small consolation-the Victorian Railways has offered it nearly all the station’s internal and external fixtures, to be used in a museum which may be built of Benalla station bricks in the public gardens.

[Picture: Benalla station master George Pryor, holds wrought iron from the old building…”It’s just an old railway station”]

Source: facebook

“It’s not really historical at all – it’s just an old railway station which has been here for almost 100 years” – Stationmaster George Pryor

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What a staggering attitude – but one very common at the time. It was this attitude that gave free reign to the ‘Whelan the Wreckers’ of the time in demolishing much of our heritage.

At the time, the National Trust was but a fledgling organisation. There was no Victorian Heritage Database. It was open slather.

The building was an extraordinary architectural marvel complete with tower. Gothic in style, it was a striking edifice with fully capped chimneys, polychromic brick bands and curious upper level windows. It appeared to have a mansard roof in slate, high pitched with circular windows in the tower.

This was a building built with purpose, designed to be a landmark for generations to come. Today the demolition would not have got past the architects report.

Contrast that to the vision shown by Maldon couple Kieran and Karen Moy. Moving to a town nominated by the National Trust as ‘Australia’s first notable town’, the Moys showed sensitivity and respect for the town and its heritage by transporting and restoring (although already in fine repair) an original California style bungalow dwelling (which would otherwise have been demolished) from McKinnon to Maldon.

And there’s more to the story.

Maldon heart of gold saves McKinnon home from wrecking ball

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The recently relocated home with the historic Maldon Dairy in the foreground.

A historic dairy with ties to a renowned Australian philosopher is on the market with a relocated house saved from a developer’s wrecking ball in one of Victoria’s most historic towns.

The Maldon Dairy and a family home are for sale at 36 Parkins Reef Rd with a $640,000 asking price.

The milking shed was home to farming equipment built by Romulus Gaita, father of renowned philosopher Raimond Gaita and titular character in his esteemed 1998 book, Romulus, My Father.

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The Maldon Dairy contained equipment built by local figure Romulus Gaita.

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Kieran and Karen Moy at the home while it was still in McKinnon

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and after they relocated it to Maldon

The vendors recently donated the galvanised steel stalls and cow bails made by the builder to the Maldon Museum.

They sit alongside the motorbike used by actor Eric Bana when he played the title role in the 2007 film version of Romulus, My Father.

The movie was based on Mr Gaita’s 1998 memoir of his childhood at a dilapidated farm in the Maldon region.

Bana travelled to Maldon, dubbed by the National Trust as “Australia’s first notable town”, to shoot the film.

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The Moys recently donated equipment used at the dairy to the Maldon Museum.

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The property has a price guide of $640,000.

The weatherboard house was moved to the block by vendors Kieran and Karen Moy, who saved it from destruction in McKinnon a few years ago and finalised the move last year.

Controversial plans to build a three-storey apartment block at 2-4 Penang St, McKinnon had locals seeing red and two weatherboard homes in jeopardy of being demolished.

Luckily for residents — who were unhappy to see dramatic changes to the quiet street’s character — Kieran and Karen Moy, both 58, purchased the dwelling and relocated it.

Mr Moy said getting approval to move the house to the town was straightforward because it was in keeping with the style of historic homes in Maldon.

“We couldn’t just build a new house in that area — the old California bungalow fit into the council criteria,” Mr Moy said.

“My wife and I wanted to put a house on a block and we decided we’d look at our options with a house for sale for removal — that’s how we came across the house in McKinnon.”

“When we went down to look at the house to inspect it, we saw all the signs around McKinnon in people’s yards saying, ‘Save Our Neighbourhood’ — we thought it was a bit odd to start with.

“We realised it was developers who had bought the houses to be demolished — we were getting looks from some of the neighbours, so we wandered over and, after talking with them, they were so relieved and happy that we were saving the house.”

Mr Moy said the couple were thrilled with the way the house fit into Maldon’s landscape.

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Inside the old dairy, which is now more suited to short-stay accommodation than milking.

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The Moys are selling because they have moved interstate.

“I wish we knew the people that owned it — they obviously loved it because it was a beautiful house that was maintained wonderfully,” he said.

“Now that we’ve finished it’s sitting there in Maldon, proud as punch.”

Jellis Craig Castlemaine agent Kate Graham said the dairy, the facade of which could not be altered, had potential to become short-stay accommodation or studio.

“Much of the town has been assiduously preserved, including the old 1954 dairy,” Ms Graham said.

She said the property would suit downsizers and tree-changers alike.

Source: realestate.com.au

The property is still on the market if anyone is interested.

Heritage is largely an educated perception. Victorian history dates from the 1830s and ’40s when the State was established. The Benalla Station building would now be 146 years old if it had been protected and retained.

There are still too many people out there with the attitude ‘it’s just an old building’. An old building designed and executed by amazing architects, tradesmen and artisans in a fashion no longer practiced in many cases. A gem, an iconic location.

The Victorian State government and local Councils must endeavour to ‘catch up’ again and provide legislation that precludes such travesties ever occurring again. Certainly, these beautiful buildings are eye catching and show extraordinary architecture in stunning detail. But more than that, given the times, the materials involved and the mechanisation of the times, they provide a unique and precious vision of our past and where we have come from. It’s well past time to ensure their protection, maintenance and prominence as integral elements of Victoria’s development as a State. Heritage protection is critical. A timely message would be that “those who neglect the lessons of history are destined to repeat them”. Let’s hope not.

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

Mt Macedon – an area rich in Heritage.

It’s the school holidays. What a perfect time for a visit to Mt Macedon located 64km North West of Melbourne. On a clear day when looking west from anywhere with sufficient elevation in greater Melbourne, Mt Macedon sits like a sentinel. It’s indigenous name is Geboor or Geburrh in the traditional language of the Wurundjeri people.

During the expansion of the British Empire in the late nineteenth century it was often the case than an area was selected for a ‘Hill Station’ or summer residence for the then Governors and their key staff. In Victoria, it was Mt Macedon that was selected. Named by explorer Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836 upon his ascension of the summit, he was actually renaming it. In 1824 the expedition of Hamilton Hume and William Hovell sighted the mountain and named it Mt Wentworth. Mitchell was passionate about ‘Ancient Macedonia’ and named the mountain after Phillip of Macedonia, based on his viewing of Port Phillip Bay from the mountain’s summit.

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Mt Macedon

Mt Macedon stands at 1101 metres or 3,317ft in the imperial scale. Being at a higher elevation, it offered a cooler climate and was often covered in snow at its highest altitudes in winter.

This was very appealing to those who had emigrated from the cooler climates of the Northern Hemisphere.

The State Parliament in the late 1880s allocated 12,000 pounds to purchase the land near the summit to build the official summer residence of the Governor of Victoria. It was ‘fully renovated’ in 1892. A substantial building it became known as the ‘Government Cottage’.

Government Cottage, Mount Macedon, 1949 | Victorian Places

By 1934, it was described as ‘an estate of slightly more than 54 acres in ‘Upper Macedon’. It was a two storied wooden building of 31 rooms as well as four bathrooms, six storerooms, a further six rooms for servant quarters, an entrance lodge of four rooms with stabling and garage.’

In that same year (1934) it was sold for the princely sum of 5600 pounds via public auction to raise funds in the post-depression economy.

It was eventually converted to a Guest House and unfortunately suffered a devastating fire in July 1954 and was totally destroyed. Priceless antique furniture, paintings and a grand piano were lost.

As well much of its intriguing history was lost to time, but fear not, the hill station attracted many of society’s well heeled social circle to build similar properties in the late nineteenth century.

Braemar House, Woodend side of Mount Macedon, c1910

Braemar House, a Heritage listed substantial two storey mansion, built upon brick and stone foundations, featuring high pitched roofing, intricate gables and asymmetric features was constructed in 1889-90 to a design by Italian born architect Louis Blondini. It was to be the site of Clydes Girls Grammar School, a private Girls Boarding School that operated from 1918 til 1976. It was the inspiration for the Boarding School featured in Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock (circa 1967).

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Braemar House

It is located at 1499 Mt Macedon Rd, Woodend.

From the Victorian Heritage Database:

Braemar House – Statement of Significance

What is significant?

Braemar House is a substantial two storey timber mansion on brick and stone foundations with high pitched roofs, intricate gables and asymmetric features, which was constructed in 1889-90 to a design by Italian-born architect Louis Boldini. Boldini spent some years in New Zealand, where he designed a number of notable buildings in Dunedin between 1880 and 1888. He migrated to Melbourne in 1888 and designed Karori, Mount Macedon a timber house for New Zealand broker, CW Chapman. The intricate timber infills to the gables of Braemar House show the influence of New Zealand domestic architecture on his work. A heavily decorated octagonal tower is on the south-west corner of the building.The house retains some intact internal decorative features, the grand entrance hall and staircase and the former (restored)dining room. The garden, originally designed by William Taylor of Taylor and Sangster, retains rows of mature oaks along the west and north fronts. Remnant early garden including rock walling survives on the south west side and landscaped slopes to the north west. A cottage constructed in 1890 is situated at a distance, to the rear of the main house.

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Braemar House

Braemar House, Woodend was built as a guest house for affluent Melbourne residents by a consortium of Melbourne businessmen. The location of Braemar House in the Mount Macedon area which was noted for its bracing mountain air made it attractive to those who believed that city life was not conducive to good health and that regular vacations in a healthy environment would restore well being. Access to rail transport and proximity to recreational activities such as walking and climbing in picturesque locations such as nearby Hanging Rock made Woodend a suitable place for such a venture. The property had an electric generator and a telephone. The facilities included tennis courts and frequent dances and concerts were held to entertain the guests. The firm of Taylor and Sangster of Macedon and Toorak was employed to plan the gardens.

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Braemar House

The group of businessmen included several directors of BHP Ltd, including William Knox, William McGregor, William Jamieson and Col Templeton as well as Dr Duncan Turner, a Melbourne physician who advocated the health benefits of the cooler altitudes of Mount Macedon. Their first plan was for a health spa or sanatorium but this later was changed to a guest house. Braemar House operated as a guest house from c1890 until at least 1908 and possibly until 1918. The timing of the venture on the eve of the economic depression of the 1890s meant that the Braemar Estate Company went into liquidation and ownership had passed to William Knox by about 1896-96. Improvements designed by Melbourne architect Sydney H Wilson were carried out c1898 and these included the addition of a billiard room and new kitchens. Knox died in 1912 when the property passed to his widow, Catherine.

In 1918 the property was bought by Isabel Henderson, principal of Clyde School in St Kilda. In 1919 Miss Henderson moved the school to Woodend. The school was from 1920 run by a company whose shareholders were past pupils and friends of the school. During the 1920s the school bought up land adjacent to Braemar House.

During Clyde’s occupancy, the detached cottage of four rooms at the rear, known as the Bachelors Quarters,was converted into classrooms. A hall and two further classrooms were built in 1935 (the architect was probably Phillip Hudson) , new music rooms in 1954 (architects AF & RA Egglestone) and a new boarding wing in 1957. A flat for the headmistress and art and dressmaking rooms were built c1960. In 1967 architects Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell designed the new Science Block.

In 1976 Clyde School moved to become part of Geelong Grammar School and the place was bought for a non-denominational coeducational day school for the children of the district. This is known as Braemar College and is still in operation.

How is it significant?

Braemar House, Woodend is architecturally and historically important to the State of Victoria.

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Braemar House

Why is it significant?

Braemar House, Woodend is architecturally significant as a rare example of the work of Italian-born architect Louis Boldini (1828-1908). Braemar House is architecturally significant as a rare example in Victoria of a substantial two-storey timber resort building, embellished with sophisticated classical elements and highly ornate fretwork in timber. It displays diverse architectural influences, including renaissance, classical, chalet style from northern Italy, and timberwork with New Zealand influences.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

In contrast the summer retreat of Frederick McCubbin is not in good repair. The original building was constructed in Melbourne and moved to Macedon. It was purchased in 1901 as a home for McCubbin and his family. He named it after the forest near Paris where the Barbizan painters had worked. His family were resident for 5 years. McCubbin continued to spend weekends and holidays there over his lifetime.

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Fontainebleau

Statement of Significance – Fontainebleau

McCubbin was one of Australia’s most admired artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was one of the founders of the Heidelberg school and was a major figure in the development of the Australian school of landscape and subject painting that emerged at the close of the nineteenth century. The garden and bush around Fontainebleau became one of McCubbin’s main painting grounds, and was to provide him with the inspiration for some of his most memorable and best-loved works, including the iconic painting The Pioneer (1904), which was painted in the bush near the house. Two years after McCubbin’s death the family moved back to Fontainebleau. His widow Annie planned to run it as a guest house, and in c1920 added two new accommodation wings. Although the venture was not successful it continued to be run as a guest house after Annie’s death c1930 until the 1960s. It is now a private residence.

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Fontainebleau is a rambling asymmetrical two-storey timber and fibro building with a corrugated iron clad roof. The oldest part of the building is a weatherboard Gothic style house with a steeply-pitched gable roof and dormer windows, originally with three main rooms, the front one with a bay window, and a kitchen on the ground floor and three bedrooms upstairs. At the front, facing Hanging Rock, is a recessed verandah. As part of the c1920 conversion to a guest house, two two-storey fibro-clad gabled wings were added, one along the east side of the house and one along the rear. The side wing has a large lounge room with an open fireplace on the ground floor and bedrooms and a bathroom above. The rear wing has a kitchen, a laundry and the former dining room on the ground floor and bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor. The house is set on a large steeply sloping block of land amidst gardens and bushland on the north side of Mt Macedon. Below the house is a level terrace, once used for games. This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.

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How is it significant?

Fontainebleau is of historical and architectural significance to the state of Victoria.

Why is it significant?

Fontainebleau is of historical significance as the former home of Frederick McCubbin, a founder of the Heidelberg School, the first major local movement in the history of Australian art, and one of Australia’s best-loved artists. He was an important figure in the development of art in Australia, and his depictions of the Australian bush are among Australia’s most well-known and popular paintings. McCubbin was deeply attached to the bush close to Fontainebleau, which was a continuing inspiration for him. The works painted in the area during the last seventeen years of his life are considered to be amongst his most important.

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Fontainebleau is historically significant for its association with the development of the tourist industry in Victoria in the early twentieth century, which occurred then mainly due to the development of an effective and relatively cheap transport network and increasing levels of affluence and of leisure time. The 1920s was the heyday of the guest house, the main form of accommodation in the popular seaside and mountains resorts at the time.

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Fontainebleau is of architectural significance as a rare and essentially intact example of a typical guest house of the 1920s. Guest houses at this time were often built from inexpensive materials such as timber, cement sheet and corrugated iron and were typically extended in a haphazard way around a former private residence.

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

The house has largely fallen into disrepair. Presently there are no funds to properly maintain it or restore it. This is a real shame considering the place Frederick McCubbin has in Australian Art History.

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Derriweit Heights is the last place we will visit this time. Located on Douglas Rd Mt Macedon, it was constructed in or around 1874. Its original garden of 65 acres was designed by Baron Von Mueller, the well known botanist and designer of many of Victoria’s famous Botanical Gardens (including the Melbourne Botanical Gardens). the house was built by Mr Charles Ryan, with an intent to capture the views over Port Phillip Bay and create a world class garden. Destroyed by bushfires in 1983’s Ash Wednesday Fire, it was rebuilt in a French Colonial style, retaining the surviving original coachwing. It was purchased in 2016 by Dr Paul and Mrs Anne Mulkearns with a view to restoring the original gardens to their earlier splendour. The Mulkearns have adopted a 5 year plan to do so.

Mt Macedon is well worth the drive. Many of the gardens are open to the public as are a number of the more historic properties. The statement of significance on Braemar House was written in 2002. It demonstrates the need to better fund the Heritage Council and its activities. But right now there is much to see and enjoy. And when you visit heritage properties it gives you a much finer perspective on just what we are preserving.

Enjoy your visit to the ‘Hill Stations’ of Macedon. Take the airs. It’s part of your heritage as Victorians.

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

Mansions in Transition – Art at Burnham Beeches

Last week’s article provoked considerable discussion as to the financial viability of some of the stately old homes that to some extent have been permitted to become somewhat derelict and rundown. Abandoned as habitable homes, the effect of the elements and time take an exacting revenge on such buildings.

In comments last week we suggested that such buildings need ‘big ideas’ and well devised business plans and strategies. Without doubt, most would qualify for some form of assistance via the Heritage Fund, but equally it’s no point simply focussing on the restoration, without a sensible usage plan upon completion.

In England, many stately homes have been restored and have been ‘put to purpose’. Many become art galleries, five star hotels or are simply funded by the National Trust as unique heritage buildings maintained in working order.

In Australia we do not seem to apply the same values as universally to our historic buildings. It is often the individual vision and ability of the buildings owner/s that manage to save and re-purpose a site.

Burnham Beeches provided such a conundrum. Built in 1933 by Alfred Nicholas of the ‘Aspro’ Nicholas business empire, it has seen a series of iterations – from research facility, children’s hospital to luxury hotel. See previous blog on Burnham Beeches

More recently, street artist ‘Rone’ was approached by one of the current owners to consider an installation. Rone accepted and the results were simply stunning.

You can read more about it here and view some of the images…

Street artist Rone transforms Melbourne mansion Burnham Beeches in his installation Empire

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Everything from the wallpaper to the dust has been brought in for the project

Surrounded by trees at the end of a windy, shaded drive, a long-abandoned Art Deco mansion has just undergone a makeover.
Rather than “a new lease on life”, however, this elegant dame has been brought down at the heel — deliberately, by Melbourne street artist Rone aka Tyrone Wright.

It’s not the first time Wright has taken over an abandoned site; he has become known for his murals of women’s faces in buildings marked for demolition.

Empire is the first time he’s been given a building in its prime — albeit for just six weeks.

Imagined decay

Burnham Beeches, built in 1933, is located in Sherbrooke, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

Originally the home of industrialist Alfred Nicholas and his family, it later served as a research facility, a children’s hospital, and a luxury hotel.

It hasn’t been open to the public for more than 20 years.

Wright first heard about it when one of the building’s owners (celebrity chef Shannon Bennett) suggested he use it as a canvas.

The artist was immediately drawn to the building’s atmosphere.

“It’s almost like a ship in the forest — the shapes of it are just beautiful.”

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There are plans to turn the 1930s Art Deco mansion into a luxury hotel.

“I already kind of romanticised what it would look like on the inside, and when I came in I was almost disappointed that there was nothing here,” he recalls.

“It was totally stripped out and it was more of a construction site. There were old Herald Suns from like 1993 folded up … [it was] like a tradie hangout at the moment when they were just about to start a renovation.”

Treating the building like a “blank slate”, Wright set about recreating his imagined vision of its interiors.

The result is a haunting picture of abandoned opulence, housing “hundreds, if not thousands” of objects, from chandeliers and a grand piano to vintage shampoo bottles.

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Objects like this tower of champagne glasses draw the viewer around the space.

Wright describes it as “a kind of open-house viewing” that gives you a glimpse of the life of an imagined family, and foments a sense of mystery around why they might have left.

“I didn’t want to try to tell a historical story of the space because I’m only going to get it wrong,” he explains.

“This is more a fantasy story than it is a documentary.”

An elaborate construction

Empire is Rone’s most ambitious project to date: a 12-month endeavour involving custom-made fittings, heritage consultants, creative collaborators — and a “monstrous” amount of paperwork.

The wallpaper has been custom-designed and printed, the ceilings have been transformed with a patina that looks like black mould, and even the “dust” (which is actually ash from the cafe on the property) has been artfully arranged. It almost looks too real — at first glance, it might even look au naturel.

But then you see the piece de resistance: the “library”. The most elaborate of the rooms in the project, this one has been flooded in a difficult operation that had to be done twice — because it leaked the first time.

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The house’s “library” sits inside a glass case flooded with inky water.

Throughout the house, various objects distract and draw the eye thanks to interior stylist Carly Spooner.

The team spent days collecting greenery from Burnham Beeches’ gardens. Autumn leaves are piled up in corners, grass seems to sprout out of couch cushions, and in some rooms trees look to be springing out of the walls.

In the hallway, branches have been intertwined overhead to create a dark, atmospheric tunnel.

“It looks like nature is starting to come back and take over the building once again,” says the artist.

“Walking around this property and driving up here [you see] how important nature is to the area … you could see this place just being engulfed if it was left for another few decades.”

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Rone says the beauty of his murals is enhanced by their crumbling surrounds.

Rone’s signature portraits of aloof women haunt the walls, besieged by peeling wallpaper.

The finishing touches are an evocative soundscape, by composer Nick Batterham, and a custom scent designed by Kat Snowden.

Visitors are given a map upon entry and encouraged to wander at will.

Fragile beauty

Wright hopes Empire’s impermanence will add to its appeal — much like street art.

“I think that’s something with street art and graffiti … you have to go see it now while it lasts because it could be gone tomorrow — and that’s what makes it exciting,” he says.

“I kinda hope this whole project has that same energy.”

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Although Burnham Beeches will be stripped of Empire when the exhibition is over, Wright hopes the work will live on once plans to transform the building into a hotel (described on the website as “Australia’s first 6-star luxury retreat”) come to fruition.

“We’ve scanned the whole installation in 3D — it’s almost like a Google street view that we can integrate into an augmented reality,” he says.

“So in the future, I hope … you’ll be able to walk around the hotel and see [on your phone] what was once here.”

It’s a new way to experience his paintings, which he feels are enhanced by the ruins that surround them.

“There’s that fragileness of something that’s just about to fall apart that kind of makes it more beautiful.”

Source: abc.net.au

Part of gaining acceptance for any proposed renovation requires public awareness of the building and property as well as an understanding of what in fact makes it unique and worthy of preservation.

Exercises like Rone’s Installation profile what is a beautiful building and bring it into sharp focus. It raises awareness of the property and its unique heritage features.

For Governments this is a rather tricky proposition. Investing in our heritage can be confused with subsidising property developers.

It again comes down to a fresh appraisal of what our heritage values are, what we as a population are prepared to invest in and what such investments mean for the state.

Currently the Victorian State Government is heavily invested in PPP projects in the education arena. Many new schools are currently being built under what is known as the Public Private Partnerships model. There is no reason this scheme could not be expanded to include Heritage Preservation, Restoration and Re-purposing.

Current PPP projects also include the major infrastructure developments such as:

  • North East Link
  • Northern Roads Upgrade
  • South Eastern Roads Upgrade

These are currently under procurement.

Other contracted projects include

  • Ballarat North Water Reclamation
  • Barwon Water Biosolids Management Project
  • Bendigo Hospital
  • Royal Melbourne Showgrounds Redevelopment

There are another 27 projects currently utilising the scheme with an overall project value of $30.1 billion in capital investment.

It’s time to push the boat out on Heritage protection and restoration. The major advantage is that the larger projects will ultimately return a significant revenue to both the promoters and the State Government – the people of Victoria. It’s time to rethink, re-purpose and re-use.

Let’s foster and protect the character of our state through its many superb buildings and outstanding properties.

Heritage – it’s here to stay, if we choose. Time for some action, legislation and clever policy. It’s not too late.

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

The Dilemma – What can be done with previously abandoned Heritage locations like Mintaro Mansion?

There is a widespread recognition amongst savvy property investors that Heritage listed properties can offer excellent returns – given the right circumstances. At one stage investors would simply allow a property to further deteriorate then call the demolition team when the building became unsalvageable. The current Victorian Government introduced laws to prevent this practice. These days Heritage Victoria will serve a works order on the owner. If the works are not carried out within a certain time, then a further order for works will be contracted by Heritage Victoria and the owner must cover the cost.

It is a somewhat tricky proposition purchasing a run-down and dilapidated mansion. The asking price will be substantial. Let’s take a look at Mintaro, an Italianate mansion with intact outbuildings – stables, workshops, butchery, etc, but definitely a faded beauty. The asking price in 2012 was set at $3 million. Bids at Auction reached $2.85 million. It was soon sold privately for an undisclosed sum, and then… nothing. The new owners did nothing to repair or restore the mansion and its accompanying outbuildings. It was back on the market by 2015.

This is no ordinary building. It is a living rendition of the pastoral elegance of the times. As part of John Pascoe Faulkner’s original ‘run’, the land was subdivided and sold in 1860 to a Captain Robert Gardiner, who made his fortune through shipping, whaling, gold mining and grazing. Gardiner commissioned well-known Melbourne Architect James Gall to design a new residence fit for a man of his status.

In 1881 the grand mansion Mintaro was completed. The superb interiors were designed by a German artist MR W Brettschneider. Gardiner died in 1890 and the building was sold to the Methodist Church, but more about that later.

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From the Victorian Heritage Register…

Mintaro

Description Summary

The Mintaro homestead is a two storey rendered brick Italianate building with a two-storey loggia running across the front and a part way along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free-standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive three storey tower with a belvedere. The two storey service wing to the west is lower and simpler in form. The elaborate and remarkably intact interiors are notable for their variety of surviving original finishes, including hand painted and printed wall and ceiling papers, painted stencilling and wood graining. Elaborate plaster mouldings and ceiling roses are present in many rooms as are marble fireplaces, light fittings, venetians, curtain rails and door and window furniture. All the plasterwork and joinery is marbled, wood-grained, gilded, stencilled or hand-painted and these are integral elements of the overall decorative schemes. All the different elements have been very creatively combined into interior schemes, with each room presenting a unified, richly decorative whole. The spectacular entrance hall features fluted Scagliola columns and Minton encaustic tiles. Opening off the entrance hall are the former drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, all with marble fireplaces and elaborate and largely intact decorative schemes. Three of the four large bedrooms upstairs retain their original wallpapers, with beautifully matched schemes with botanical and classical themes. Other notable intact areas are an original bathroom and a butler’s pantry. Outbuildings comprise a small brick detached toilet, a brick stable and coachhouse, a woolshed and another shed which was once a working horse stable. The mansion is enclosed by a designed landscape providing a dense screen and windbreak on three sides. The original decorative gardens around the house have been largely lost, but the property retains a number of outstanding or rare species, including a very rare Ulmus ‘Viminalis’, Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations.

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This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.

How is it significant?

Mintaro satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria’s cultural history
  • Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
  • Criterion E Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics

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Why is it significant?

Mintaro is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Mintaro is an outstanding and largely intact example of the mansions constructed in Victoria in the 1880s during the colony’s Boom period. It reflects the prosperity of the colony at the time, and the money that wealthy individuals were prepared to spend to demonstrate their success. (Criterion A)

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Mintaro is a rare and relatively intact surviving example of a Boom period mansion with an intact interior decorative scheme. Interiors at this time were extremely elaborate, but intact surviving examples are rare. Mintaro is one of the few houses where the original or early fabric of the decorative schemes for entire rooms survives and is still visible. Notable features include the variety of painted finishes such as stencilling, marbling and wood graining, intact wall and ceiling papers, original gas light fittings, door furniture, tiles and window dressings. The presence of intact cabinetry and decorative schemes for functional and servants’ areas such as the bathroom and butler’s panty is also rare. (Criterion B)

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The Mintaro planting features several trees rarely cultivated in Victoria. The Ulmus ‘Viminalis’ which is unusually grafted at about 2m, is one of only four known examples in Victoria, the other three all being in the Benalla Botanical Gardens. The perimeter windbreak around the property includes the rarely grown Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations. The large number of Juniperus is unknown in any other planting in Victoria. The variety, size and maturity of species of Quercus, Ulmus, Photinia, Morus, Crataegus, Laurus, Pinus, Cupressus and Hesperocyparis, Cedrus, Araucaria and Sequoiadendron are significant. (Criterion B)

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Mintaro is an outstanding and intact example of a Boom period country mansion, and demonstrates the principal features of such houses, which were designed to demonstrate the status of their owners. They were typically were two-storeyed, in a Classical style, most often with a tower, had a picturesque form with asymmetric massing and planning, and elaborately decorated interiors. (Criterion D)

The intact decorative schemes are rare surviving and outstanding examples of the highest level of interior decoration available in Victoria in the 1880s. The designs, colour schemes and textures of the original materials and artwork provide a rare opportunity to experience the elaborate aesthetics of 1880s interiors. (Criterion E)

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The Mintaro homestead complex sits within an outstanding designed landscape created from 1881 to the 1920s. The serpentine avenue of Monterey Pine along the driveway is entered through decorative gates and sweeps through an extensive parkland and dense perimeter planting. The perimeter planting is laid out to create an internal scalloped edge and includes a large variety of conifers and a few broadleaf and deciduous trees of contrasting foliage and colour. (Criterion E)

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Mintaro is also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:

Mintaro is of local significance for its association with one of the prominent early landowners in the area, Captain Robert Gardiner, who owned Mintaro from 1860 until 1885 and with the architect James Gall. (Criterion H)

Source: vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au

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You can view the interior as it was photographed recently here…

The second purchase in 2015 has seen some progress. The new owners restored and replaced the majority of the sash windows, provided maintenance, painted internally to protect the building and its finish from further deterioration.

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The old mansion has been used as a visual backdrop for TV series such as Dr Blake, The Broken Shore and Glitch.

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Still unrestored, the old building was described in June 2019 as beautiful but derelict.

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“A rendered brick Italianate building with a 2 storey loggia running across its front and partway along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive 3 storey tower with a belvedere. It still retains its landscaped grounds which are considered outstanding, with very rare trees still in place.”

Mintaro ‘hit the skids’ from 1903 when purchased by the Methodist Church as a Reformatory Home for Girls. It operated as such from 1903 until 1912. Very little was remodelled or changed by the Church. It was again purchased by a Dr Crivelli as a family home. Sold again to the Rea Family in 1934, it remained in their hands until 2012.

And there it sits, waiting for a new suitor. 2012 until now, very little has been done.

In England, the key Heritage organisation runs a lottery. It uses the profits to purchase and restore Heritage buildings such as Mintaro. This historic building is in dire need of attention. Let’s just hope it soon receives it. In our view, buildings like Mintaro require significant investment upon purchase. Perhaps as a pre-requirement to purchase, buyers should be required to provide a strategic restoration plan.

What do you think? Should the State Government invest in preserving Heritage properties like Mintaro? We’d like to think so – til next week.

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

Legal Process halves Corkman Cowboys Fines on appeal.

The developers who demolished the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton have now had their Magistrates Court fines for both the demolition (brought by the City of Melbourne and State Government in Melbourne Magistrates Court), and the dumping of asbestos in a paddock in Cairnlea (brought by the EPA in Sunshine Magistrates Court) halved.

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Let’s not gloss over the gravity of these actions. First, the demolition of one of Carlton’s oldest remaining heritage listed buildings under the noses of Council inspectors demanding the process cease, then the dumping of dangerous waste in a highly populated suburban neighbourhood, are both heinous transgressions of our accepted laws.

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The historic pub, in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton, was knocked down in October 2016

 

The Corkman developers were represented by a very well known SC (Barrister) who is a leading legal advisor to many developers. The County Court Judge can only be guided by the letter of the law, not emotion. As such considering all factors, he has halved the fine.

This case demonstrates dramatically it is now time for a complete restructuring and for newer more appropriate regulations to be enacted and scheduled to protect Heritage buildings and overlays.

It is also time for Government to intervene in this case. It is high time that an appropriate precedent was set to ensure such vandalism never happens again without major punitive consequences. It would be appropriate in this case for the Government to enforce a compulsory acquisition of the property, preferably at Market Value pre demolition, deducting all fines and costs from the sale price. Alternatively, purchase the vacant land at land value as of the time of demolition, deduct all fines and costs from the sale price then build a memorial park to remind all that such travesties will not ever be tolerated again.

The next move on the part of Minister Wynne and the Planning Department will be immensely important. The Corkman Developers are significantly ‘cashed up’ and demonstrate a propensity to utilise legal subterfuge to slow down and subvert any punitive actions. If the Government can make amendments to its planning schedule and strategy to suit locations such as Booroondara, what’s to stop them putting a similar amendment through on this issue? – The ‘Corkman Amendment’.

Whatever happens, it’s imperative that these Developers are significantly financially disadvantaged by any sanctions applied by Government. It is ‘the’ test case as to the credibility of Richard Wynne as a Minister and the ability of his planning Department to control rampant uncontrolled development that is entirely at the expense of our Heritage.

Here is the article from Friday’s Age…

Fines cut in half for developers who demolished Corkman pub

The developers who illegally knocked down Carlton’s Corkman hotel have had their penalties for the demolition cut in half by the County Court from almost $2 million to $1.1 million.

The state opposition has demanded the Andrews government compulsorily acquire the site and also appeal Friday’s decision. Planning spokesman Tim Smith said the decision let “these cowboy developers get away with the heist of the century”.

Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski in October 2016 bowled over the historic Corkman Irish Pub without planning or building permission.

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Developer Raman Shaqiri whose Shaq Demolitions razed the historic hotel

The pair bought the pub for $4.7 million in 2015. Savills state director Clinton Baxter said the empty site was now worth between $8 million and $10 million.

Having knocked down 80 per cent of the 159-year-old pub on a Saturday in October 2016, they were ordered to cease demolition that night by Melbourne City Council. They ignored the orders and finished off demolition works on Sunday.

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Stefce Kutlesovski, one of two developers who had his fine for demolishing the Corkman Hotel cut in half.

“The community was outraged by the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished,” Judge Trevor Wraight said in his ruling on Friday morning.

“They made a commercial calculation,” Judge Wraight said, which would allow them to build a 12-storey tower on the site once the historic pub was gone.

“They weighed up the potential penalties … with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead,” he said.

“Indeed, despite the litigation, delay, and any loss of reputation, ultimately, the development will go ahead.”

He found the men had displayed no remorse for the loss of heritage on Carlton.

The pair were appealing fines levelled against them by the magistrates in Sunshine and Melbourne courts; they said the amounts they had been fined were too severe.

Judge Wraight agreed that the fines against the men by the Sunshine Magistrates Court, over charges brought by the Environment Protection Authority on asbestos dumping, had been “excessive”. So too were fines levelled against the men over charges brought against them by the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council on the illegal demolition.

He reduced the financial penalties from just under $2 million to $1.1 million.

The Environment Protection Authority, the Victorian Building Authority and Melbourne City Council – which had separately brought prosecutions against the two developers and their company – all said they were extremely disappointed by the decision.

Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith called on the Andrews government to “appeal this decision which sends entirely the wrong message to the industry”.

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The rubble of the Corkman Irish Pub the day after it was illegally demolished.

He said Planning Minister Richard Wynne must also respond to calls from the Opposition and Melbourne University urban geographer Dr Kate Shaw to compulsorily acquire the Corkman site.

Mr Smith said this would mean “these cowboys do not profit from their unlawful behaviour”.

Mr Wynne has previously said compulsory acquisition would require the government to buy the site “at the market rate for its highest and best use” – which would see “taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to these developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

Both Dr Shaw and Mr Smith question whether this is in fact true.

Two weeks after the Corkman was demolished, Mr Wynne launched legal proceedings to force Shaqiri and Kutlesovski to “replicate the site immediately prior to demolition” if they wanted to redevelop.

“Any application for a permit for buildings and works on the site will require the restoration and reconstruction of the [pub] in its entirety in the form it was in prior to demolition,” he said.

But in May this year, Mr Wynne backed down and allowed the site to be developed with a tower on it up to 12 levels high, in return for the remaining wreckage there being cleared and turned temporarily into a park.

On Friday, Mr Wynne labelled Shaqiri and Kutlesovski “cowboy developers” and said the demolition had been “unforgivable and the community has a right to be outraged by it”.

He said the government would review the court decision and look “at what options are available to government”.

He said the government would not compulsorily acquire the site because it “would mean using taxpayer’s money to pay top dollar directly to the developers, which is hardly a just outcome”.

In 2017 in direct response to the Corkman demolition, Mr Wynne brought in tough new laws ramping up penalties for anyone who demolishes a heritage property.

Shaqiri, 37, was not in court on Friday; he did not attend last month’s court hearing because he was in Spain getting married. Kutlesovski, 43, declined to comment after the court case finished.

Source: theage.com.au

From the ABC…

During sentencing, Judge Wraight acknowledged the public anger the demolition had caused, but said it was up to Parliament to increase the penalties available.

“The community was outraged at the audacious manner in which the hotel was demolished by the owners without any consultation with the community,” Judge Wraight told the court.

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Raman Shaqiri (pictured) and Stefce Kutlesovski organised to have the pub hastily demolished on a weekend.

“It may be that the community — and possibly the sentencing magistrates in this instance — regard the available maximum penalties in relation to this conduct as inadequate.

“However, unless and until Parliament increases the penalties available, courts are bound by the prescribed penalty and must sentence in accordance with the proper sentencing principle.”
Developers made ‘commercial calculation’

Judge Wraight said he found there was little evidence of genuine remorse on behalf of Mr Shaqiri and Mr Kutlesovski.

“It was their decision alone to demolish the hotel,” Judge Wraight said.

“They made a commercial calculation and weighed up the potential penalties that they would face as a result of the deliberate breach of the law, with the potential profit that would result from development of the site, before going ahead.

“They clearly made that decision with forethought and planning as they needed to organise large machinery and employees to hastily bring down the hotel over the weekend.”

The chief executive of the Victorian Building Authority, Sue Eddy, said the authority was extremely disappointed in the outcome and the decision did not lessen the developers’ guilt.

“[The developers] did not have a building permit, had not applied for a building permit, and took it upon themselves to carry out dangerous demolition work without any regard to the state and local laws,” she said.

“With the building industry currently under intense scrutiny, it is vitally important to send a clear signal to all builders and developers that the VBA — and the community — will not tolerate illegal building work of any kind.”

“The VBA is concerned that today’s outcome promotes non-compliance as an optional cost of doing business for those who flout the rules.”

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The pub was known as the Carlton Inn Hotel in 1957

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) fined the developers $7,500 in 2016, after it discovered some of the rubble had been found at a construction site at Cairnlea, in Melbourne’s north-west.

The developers were told they could not remove the debris because it contained asbestos and were ordered to cover it.

The chief executive of the EPA, Cathy Wilkinson, said she was disappointed with the reduced penalty.

“We believed this was a clear-cut case that showed blatant disregard for the environment and the community and deserved a substantial penalty,” she said in a statement.

“As the Judge found, this was a case where experienced developers knew better and showed little remorse for their actions and the community are right to feel aggrieved.”

Source: abc.net.au

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has said the Andrews Government would be reviewing the court decision and would consider changes to the law.

“Let’s make no mistake here, what these cowboy developers did is unforgivable and the community is outraged by it. If the current legislation does not meet community expectations we will strengthen it.”

Amen to that. Don’t leave it too long!

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