Queen Victoria Market Back on The Heritage Agenda

The City of Melbourne has determined that it will again attempt to re-develop the historic and heritage listed Queen Victoria Market precinct. Previously Heritage Victoria blocked the re-development of the original market sheds. The battle to save the market and its character was long and hard fought. You can refresh your memories of the event here 

It would appear that the vision of former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is again being revisited. The aim of the then proposed development seemed to be to modernise the “food court” to resemble something more akin to the upmarket food halls found in department store environments. This perspective is completely at odds with what “old city” markets represent worldwide. The Queen Victoria Market is listed not only as a State Heritage Site but as a National Heritage Listing.

For more on the current situation please refer to this article from The Age by Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham: 

Fears $40m plan for Queen Vic Market will turn it into shopping centre

By Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham

April 8, 2021 — 2.00pm

A plan by the City of Melbourne to add two sheds to Queen Victoria Market at a cost of almost $40 million has renewed fears that the site will be turned into something resembling a shopping centre.

On Tuesday, the council will decide whether to invest $35 million to build a “trader shed” and “northern shed” on Queen Street, which would include logistics, storage, waste and recycling facilities, customer toilets and trader bathrooms and meeting areas.

A further $4.5 million would be spent on a refurbishment of the market’s food court.

The response from market traders to the plan was mixed, with some suggesting it would reduce the landmark heritage site to “a little boutique market”.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the project would employ about 400 workers, in addition to 500 already building the Munro development and restoring the market’s heritage sheds, and help attract more shoppers.

The Munro development includes a community hub, apartments, retail and a carpark.

“These stages of the market renewal program will deliver 900 jobs for our city at a time when we need them most,” Ms Capp said.

“Businesses throughout the City of Melbourne have been hit hard by COVID-19 and major projects such as the Queen Victoria Market renewal are critical to create local jobs and support our economic recovery.”

However, the secretary of the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, Miriam Faine, said the plans went against the recommendations of the people’s panel, which was appointed to give the community a greater voice in the market’s redevelopment.

“We don’t think they are upgrades at all; we think they are continuations of the [former lord mayor Robert] Doyle plan,” she said.

“We think they will make life impossible for traders in every way.”

Ms Faine said the group believed traders would be forced to store goods and perishables in the sheds and that they were being built to accommodate franchises moving into the market.

She said the northern shed would cut off traffic access from Queen Street, which would mean traders would have to load and unload produce at designated times.

“These are designed to turn the market into a shopping centre and into an entertainment precinct,” she said.

Rosa Ansaldo, a fruiterer of 34 years, said there would not be enough new storage and traders would face challenges moving stock without forklifts in the market.

“[The council has] an agenda to get all of us out of here and only have a little boutique market,” she said.

“I want to see an upgrade that works for all of us.”

Queen Victoria Market fruiter Rosa Ansaldo is concerned long-term stall holders are being pushed out. 

Ms Ansaldo felt the council and market management had not listened to her over the past six years.

“Our livelihoods are all at stake; family businesses will go to the wall,” she said.

However, Leo Moda, an owner at Egg stall Eggsperts, said he supported the redevelopment, believing the new look would be cleaner and draw customers back.

“At the moment it doesn’t look nice when people walk through and see dirty rags,” Mr Moda, who has operated his stall for six years, said.

“Traders are mostly for it. The traders who have been here 20-plus years, they are against it, they don’t want to see change.”

Fruiterer of two decades Nash Bideci was indifferent to the plans but feared the ongoing impact if customers stayed away due to noise and dust.

In the past three months, after coronavirus rent-relief was withdrawn, Mr Bideci said his business had suffered a 40 per cent decline while nearby shed restoration works occurred.

“It might look good in the future, but at the moment we are paying full rent and it’s affecting us,” he said. 

The market’s chief executive, Stan Liacos, welcomed the development and rejected the claim it was part of a plan to turn the market into a shopping centre.

“It is imperative that to safely operate a business of our scale we need better infrastructure, storage and safer operations,” he said.

“These two projects will take us into the next century, because the facilities that we have are probably Dickensian and virtually have not seen investment since the 1800s.”

Mr Liacos said the investment would form part of the market’s recovery after a drop of about 80 per cent of its revenue because of COVID-19. This included millions spent on rent relief for traders, a reduction in car park fees and the loss of its night markets. The night markets returned in a reduced form on Wednesday and will be at full capacity in June.

Cr Capp said traders wanted an upgrade to the food court, built in the mid-1990s, as the current one limited the potential to expand their businesses.

She said the upgrade would also include an improved dining area with more seating, a cooking demonstration area, greenery and a new floor and roof

The plan would invest $4.5 million in refurbishing the market’s food court.

“The trader shed and northern shed will deliver important safety, efficiency and sustainability improvements,” she said.

Heritage permits for the two sheds were approved by Heritage Victoria in December. Construction is expected to start in early 2022, subject to approvals.

Friends of Queen Victoria Market has long been concerned about the council introducing fixed storage and refrigeration for fresh produce traders, and loading docks.

The group believes vegetable traders are being driven out of business so they can be replaced with stalls selling wine and takeaway food.

The battle over the redevelopment of Queen Victoria Market – the site of one of the most colourful and contested parcels of land in Melbourne – has been running for years.

The Queen Victoria market is the last remaining in Melbourne’s CBD. Gone are the Eastern and Western Markets, the Fish Market in Flinders Street, the Meat Market in North Melbourne. Markets such as the Queen Victoria are places of the people where shoppers come for fresh produce, the atmosphere and the open air. Generations of migrants have made the Queen Victoria their shopping destination and this is reflected in the huge variety of fresh vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and specialty products available. It is eclectic with a charming hustle and bustle. A sterile. modern foodhall just won’t be the same. It might be nice for council’s new residents located in the Munro Street development – but for the rest of Melburnians it’s pretty simply a disappointment.

The market represents one of the largest areas of relatively open space available in inner Melbourne and it is no doubt coveted by developers seeking new potential sites. Considering council paid $74M for the Munro Street site just imagine what the entire Queen Victoria market site is now valued at. 

Over the coming years, no doubt, further attempts will be made to water down the heritage listings that protect the market and its precinct. The first step in ensuring the protection of this wonderful location, its history, its unique architecture and fabulous eclectic atmosphere is to ensure its heritage value and listing are fully and totally protected. 

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

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It. 

Heritage Homes in Rural Victoria. Renovate, Restore and Refurbish With Balance Architecture

The last twelve months in Victoria has seen a rapid uptake on sales of older properties in regional and rural Victoria, with many being covered by Heritage Overlays or unique Heritage Listings. For a number of purchasers this provides a conundrum; on the one hand how to preserve and enhance heritage characteristics, features and the overall heritage quality of their new home, and on the other hand how to modernise plumbing, electricals and internal space to adjust to modern standards and demands. 

Balance Architecture can provide the right solutions with a careful melding of both the past and the present within the boundaries of the heritage protection afforded such properties. One of the first priorities should be to do a property architectural inspection of the building/s to identify what needs to be done and what can be done.  

Older buildings from the 19th and early 20th century have often been rudely modified by church organisations, government bodies and individuals. Smaller properties have seen odd renovations during the 1950s and 1960s (Spanish arches, removal of ceiling mouldings, removal of pillars, stainglass, feature tiling, ironwork – and the list goes on). Where once there was space there are now dividing walls, false ceilings and bricked up fire places, again the list goes on. 

There are choices to be made. If the building is sound can a full restoration to the original design be undertaken? Can an extension be added? Can there be demolition of unwanted add-ons such as laundries, workshops and other oddities? 

Can the original tilings, mouldings, light fittings, architraves, fire places etc. be sourced, obtained and refitted? Is it possible to rebuild and re-create the original space and ambiance? 

An experienced Heritage Architect can often find the right solutions that will not only add value to your property but will enhance the liveability of your new home with space, light and warmth. 

Whether you select a rural farmhouse on acreage, a Victorian terrace in a provincial city or a grand mansion built in bygone days Balance Architecture offers vision, creativity and competence in all elements of planning, building and construction. Heritage buildings were constructed to last a millenium not just fifty years. Often it took great wealth to facilitate their construction.

The foundations are there in place. It’s time to enhance your property and enjoy its features and beauty whilst being confident of today’s building standards and requirements – climate control, solar systems, water reticulation, functional, beautiful bathrooms and superb bedrooms, living rooms and entertaining areas. 

Call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 and speak with Principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your convenience. Alternatively you can leave your details here for a prompt reply. 

Refresh, Refurbish and Renew with Balance Architecture.

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of historical architecture, specialising in the renovation and restoration of heritage buildings.

Heritage How Do You Value It?

Shell House, Spring Street, Melbourne. Wikimedia.

The CBD of Melbourne is short on one thing – space. There is a continual battle to achieve useable space by developers, the reason is simple – you can only go up! Going up means one thing – profitability. In this case we are not speaking of a moderate profit, we are looking at mega profits. Now we get to the latest conflict in the CBD – the dispute over the Heritage listed Shell building on the corner of Flinders Street and Spring Street designed by the late Harry Seidler, the famed modernist Architect. The space in question is the two sections of the Shell Plaza opening onto Flinders Lane and Spring Street. The Shell Building and its Plaza are heritage listed. Note it’s not just the Shell Building itself but the adjoining Plaza is also included. The Plaza is an integral part of the overall design and, as such, is covered by the heritage citation of 2017.

For your interest here is a recent article Clay Lucas published in The Age April 5, 2021.

Plonked on a plaza: Skyscraper plan puts spotlight on heritage laws

Marcel Mihulka and his family chose to live near Shell House – the skyscraper on the corner of Flinders and Spring streets – in part because of the heritage listing stopping redevelopment of one of Melbourne’s most decorated pieces of architecture.

But the heritage listing for the 28-level tower, designed by world-renowned architect Harry Seidler, will be set aside if an application before authorities is successful.

Marcel Mihulka on the plaza where Shell House’s owners want to build a second skyscraper. Credit:Jason South

The tower’s owners, the Besen and Roth families, want to dig up its rear plaza in Flinders Lane and build a 33-storey tower, standing apart from Shell House but linked via a sky bridge at the 15th level.

“If they can do that to this building, what’s next? Why have heritage laws if they can just plonk this tower here?” said Mr Mihulka, whose property is not overly affected by the plan but who is angered by what he sees as its brazen nature.

Ultimately, Planning Minister Richard Wynne, whose office for a time was in the tower, could decide on the plan.

Two integral parts of Shell House’s design, according to its 2017 heritage citation, are the larger Spring Street plaza and a smaller one in Flinders Lane, about 1200 square metres in size.

The plazas were designed to complement the tower, completed in 1989 by the Shell company. Seen from above, the skyscraper is the shape of a nautilus shell.

In 1994 Shell sold the tower for $135 million to its current owners, the Roth family from Sydney, and a Melbourne company with Daniel Besen among its directors.

The group wants to replace the Flinders Lane plaza, referred to in one of the company’s submissions as “underdeveloped land”, with a tower they argue will complement Shell House.

Shell House is Melbourne’s only tower designed by Seidler, a controversial pioneer of modernism in Australia and one of the country’s most influential architects. It won both state and national architecture awards.

Proposed development area

Seidler – who died in 2006 – designed many Sydney towers including Australia Square and the much-criticised Blues Point tower. His work redefined Australia’s city skylines. His other acclaimed buildings include the Australian embassy in Paris.

The plan for the rear plaza of his Melbourne tower has been supported by Seidler’s firm, now led by his wife, architect Penelope Evatt Seidler. The firm worked on recent renovations to Shell House.

Also in support is architectural historian Philip Goad, from Melbourne University, a leading modernism expert.

In a submission to Heritage Victoria, he argues the larger Spring and Flinders streets plaza is unaffected by the plan, and a new building on the Flinders Lane plaza would be sympathetic to both Shell House’s heritage and another building on the site, the art nouveau Milton House. It was built in 1901. The new tower would project over Milton House.

An artist’s impression of the proposed tower behind 1 Spring Street.Credit:Source: Phillip Nominees Pty Ltd

Other experts, though, have questioned the plan.

Another Melbourne University architecture academic, Rory Hyde, said while the proposed new tower was respectful and “seems to be of high quality and considered”, the entire site was heritage listed, not just the Shell House tower.

Harry Seidler’s legacy

He said increasing density on another Melbourne city block was “part of a worrying trend”, and had already happened at Nauru House on the corner of Collins and Exhibition streets, where a tower has been built just metres away.

Professor Hyde argues the plaza should not be built over.

“We need more of these public spaces, not fewer,” he said.

The National Trust has submitted a strong objection, with Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose saying the proposed tower will “completely undermine” the integrity of Seidler’s original design.

“The approval of this proposal would set a dangerous precedent for all places provided with the highest level of heritage protection in our state,” Mr Ambrose says.

The building is almost entirely leased to government departments, including the Department of Transport, Public Transport Victoria, the Taxi Service Commission and VicRoads.

The tower would cantilever over Milton House, built in 1901.Credit:Phillip Nominees Pty Ltd

Its owners spend $1.3 million a year “maintaining and conserving” the tower and Milton House.

Heritage consultant Rohan Storey made a submission opposing the plan on behalf of lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action. He says the tower is a fantastic example of a free-standing Seidler tower.

“Modernist towers tended to be free-standing and surrounded by open space,” he said, adding the tower’s plaza’s were “landscaped with materials that are Seidler signatures; it’s not just a plaza, it’s a Seidler plaza”.

Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert, chair of the city’s heritage committee, says the proposal could not be approved by Mr Wynne even if heritage authorities allow it to proceed. “The lack of setbacks render the proposal prohibited under the Melbourne Planning Scheme,” he said.

If Heritage Victoria approves the plan it will go to the Planning Minister, Mr Wynne, for approval. His spokeswoman said the application was only now being assessed by the heritage body.

Harry Seidler in his own words

The late Harry Seidler talks about his career. From a 2004 documentary, with footage and images of his buildings as they stand today.

Mr Mihulka says Shell House is “a great example of modernist architecture and one Melburnians are rightly proud of”. He says the new tower, designed by architects Ingenhoven and Architectus, “looks world class – but [Shell House] is heritage-listed for a reason”.

The skyscraper’s owners argue the project should be allowed to proceed because it will improve pedestrian access through the city block. “If they want to improve pedestrian flow, you can do that without a tower,” said Mr Mihulka.

Also to clarify the matter further here is the Statement of Significance from the Victorian Heritage database.

Statement of Significance

What is significant?

1 Spring Street, Melbourne comprising an office tower and northern podium, main foyer with Arthur Boyd mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ and external plazas including a large external plaza at the Spring Street corner containing the Charles O Perry sculpture ‘Shell Mace’. The building was originally known as Shell House, and is referred to as such below.

History Summary

Shell House was the third headquarters building erected for the Shell Company of Australia Ltd in Melbourne. Constructed in 1985-89, the building replaced earlier headquarters constructed in 1933 and 1958 and was occupied by Shell until 2003-2004. The company commissioned the highly regarded commercial architect and leading Australian modernist, Harry Seidler, to design Shell House. Seidler was trained by Modernist architects in the United States before arriving in Australia in 1948 and throughout his career his work continued to display the ideals of this movement. This included the use of basic geometric shapes, sculptural and simple form, visual expression of structure and generous civic spaces. Seidler continued to explore skyscraper design from the 1960s to the 1990s, producing a series of office buildings in Australia and overseas. Shell House is the only example of these built in Victoria. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year.

Description Summary

Located on a sloping L-shaped site at the south-eastern corner of the Melbourne city grid, Shell House is a late twentieth century International style office tower with side podium, basement carpark and external plazas. The building is a concrete structure with granite-faced lower facades and a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length. With an interest in geometry, simplicity of form and clear expression of structure, Harry Seidler designed the building using two counterpoint curved sections to maximise views to the south and east, to accommodate existing underground railway tunnels and to present a commanding entry point to the city. The core of the building, containing lifts and amenities, is located on the off-view north side and the office floors wrap around this core.

The building integrates dramatic level changes for public access from the south, south east and north through a central control point located in the main Spring Street foyer. This foyer is accessed via stairs from Flinders Street or directly from the primary external entry plaza at the corner of Flinders and Spring Streets. The main entry plaza contains a dominant structural and sculptural building pier and a specially commissioned sculpture, ‘Shell Mace’ by American sculptor and architect, Charles O Perry (1989). The foyer has soaring ceilings, with a mural, ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and sets of escalators which lead to the mezzanine and conference centre level. The conference centre provides access to meeting rooms arranged around a circular light well, an auditorium and a narrow secondary pedestrian plaza entry from Flinders Lane. The mezzanine level provides access to a former cafeteria space, with built in seating arranged around the base of the light well, a servery and adjoining commercial kitchen.

The office tower uses a repetitive floor construction system of clear span beams of equal length, resulting in a uniform 15 metre wide column-free space from the services core to the external windows. This, along with the concealment of computer cabling and electrical wiring under a 250 mm access floor, creates an interior aesthetic which is open, light and spacious. All office floors have expansive views to the south and east of the city. The top two floors of the office tower contain an executive suite with external terrace garden, garden court and spiral granite staircase between levels. A variety of quality finishes have been used throughout the building for paving, floor and wall cladding, including Italian granite and travertine, and much of this has been retained.

Some changes have been made to the office floor configurations and fittings, including the executive suite.

This site is part of the traditional land of the people of the Kulin Nation.How is it significant?

Shell House is of architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:

Criterion D

Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.

Criterion E

Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.Why is it significant?

Shell House is significant at the State level for the following reasons:

Shell House is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of a late modernist office building in Victoria, designed by one of the style’s most accomplished proponents, the renowned Australian architect, Harry Seidler. Late modernism, as expressed in Shell House is demonstrated principally through sculptural form, use of solid concrete and other massive materials, and a variety of textural finishes. Shell House is also significant for the clarity with which it expresses particular themes and motifs characteristic of Seidler’s work. These include the use of opposing curvilinear forms and the generous planning of public areas, both externally an internally.

Shell House is one of an important series of high rise tower projects designed by Harry Seidler both nationally and internationally from the 1960s to the 1990s, and is the only one located in Victoria. Shell House is of architectural significance for its innovative design response to a difficult site and for its integration of dramatic level changes for public access from surrounding streets through a central lower foyer control point. Shell House won a number of awards including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Merit Award in 1991 and the National RAIA Award in the same year. Seidler is considered to be one of the major talents in Australian architectural history who made a substantial contribution to Australian architecture. [Criterion D]

Shell House is aesthetically significant for the sculptural effect created by the interlocking curvilinear form of the building that is reflected in the interior planning. The quality of the interior spaces and their relationship to the extensive outdoor terraces at several levels of the building is of high aesthetic value, both visually and experientially. The location at the south-east corner of the Hoddle Grid is highlighted by elements such as the large tapered pier at the Spring Street/Flinders Street entrance.

The aesthetic qualities of the place are enhanced by the incorporation of large scale artworks which complement the architecture and were selected by Seidler for the building. Significant pieces include the foyer mural ‘Bathers and Pulpit Rock’ by Arthur Boyd (1988) and the external plaza sculpture ‘Shell Mace’ by Charles O Perry (1989). [Criterion E]

The ability to appreciate the relevant aesthetic characteristics is enhanced by the high degree of intactness and integrity of the Place, both internally and externally.


Let’s get to the nub of the problem. Developers are prepared to take great financial risks to overcome heritage listing and overlays. The Corkman Cowboys stood to make a huge profit on the twelve-storey apartment block they proposed to build. The promoters of the Metro Nightclub development which saw irreplaceable decorative mouldings and a Melbourne icon destroyed were motivated purely by profit. In the case of many such CBD developments the aim to create apartment complexes is at odds with the current glut of unoccupied apartment buildings within the area. But development is often a long term strategy so when the market turns? – it’s profit all the way. 

It comes down to what we value as a community and as a society. Do we want to become another Shanghai or Kowloon with not a millimetre of open space available for recreation, for trees, for greenery? 

Why is this happening? Quite simply it’s made possible by the impotence of the current heritage system. Heritage Victoria is somewhat underfunded by the Victorian government and complicating this is its reliance on local government maintaining both local heritage overlays and to some extent policing heritage laws. In a number of municipal areas it would seem the preference would be for increased rates and planning fees from developers. There is little public understanding of what heritage values are and why there is a value placed on heritage. Only a few weeks ago on the Balance Facebook page we have had comments from people decrying the Eastern Freeway heritage listing and more recently the difficulty of owning heritage properties in Brunswick.

There is little or no knowledge of the heritage grants available in various locations and little appreciation of some of the magnificent architecture that has been and is still retained via the Heritage system.

Now is the time for genuine action and response. We feel for the Besen and Roth families and their dire need for more profit, but frankly, we would like to see a plan brought forward to bring the Shell Plazas to life for public usage. The last thing Melbourne’s CBD needs is another multi storey tower adjacent to parklands. It really is time for a heritage summit, bringing together local government, State government, the National Trust, Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria as well as developers and property owners. There must be an acknowledged and accepted recognition of what heritage values are and why heritage preservation is so very important. In the UK heritage protection is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This funding is substantial and guarantees heritage action where and when required. 

We would like to see some of Britain’s laws on heritage introduced here. For instance, if you demolish a heritage building in Britain you are forced to rebuild it to the exact specifications of the original building and, at the same time, suffer heavy fines for having demolished the building. 

In Australia, it seems that heritage listing is seen as a challenge (to overcome) by developers and their advisors. 

Well, no more – heritage is who we are, where we have come from and what we hold in true high esteem.  It’s time for a change. Right about NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JW Land did not respond to requests for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Industrial pocket rezoned for high density housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ground level apartments will embrace the gardens directly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A display suite is expected to open in December.

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

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

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

8 Ballarat St Brunswick

8 Ballarat Street, Brunswick, VIC 3056

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

An End To Façadism When? Not Any Time Soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heritage and its Destruction – The nub of the problem

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

Aerial view of the demolition. Credit: 7NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The proposed apartment complex. Credit: 7NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heritage Protection in Victoria. How Does It Actually Work?

For many people heritage protection of both buildings, precincts and open space is somewhat confusing. In real terms the cultural basis of our living city Melbourne and regional cities, our rural areas, our history is integrally bound up in our treasured heritage buildings and precincts. For Indigenous people, our First Nation’s people, heritage values are of vital importance in terms of their connection to country, their history, their culture and their beliefs.  

Heritage values are imperative in our understanding of our current circumstances and urban development, and the influence the past has had in formulating those values. Last week one of our readers commented that heritage is not just about the grandeur of older buildings, the mansions and estates, the public buildings such as town halls, the railway stations and other old world edifices, such as mechanics institutes, masonic halls, churches and the like. Her view was that heritage has a much broader impact and foundation and she’s quite correct. For instance, many inner city suburbs – Carlton, Fitzroy, South Melbourne, Albert Park and Clifton Hill –  for example, have complete suburb wide heritage overlays that protect large swathes of early residential housing, streetscapes, parks and public buildings as well as historical places of interest. Today it is the responsibility of the Heritage Council of Victoria, established in 1995, to maintain the Victorian heritage database. It is overseen and advised by Heritage Victoria, a division of the Victorian government planning department, as to what places and objects deserve protection and conservation in having State level heritage. This authority was formalised by the Heritage Act of 2017 in the Victorian State Parliament. The area that is somewhat less clear and not as effectively protected is what is described as “local level heritage”.

From the Heritage Victoria website:

“Local-level heritage – The protection of places of local heritage significance is the responsibility of Victoria’s 79 local councils (councils). The Planning and Environment Act 1987obliges all of Victoria’s councils to use their Planning Schemes to conserve and enhance buildings, areas or other places which are of significance within their municipalities. Planning Schemes set out objectives, policies and controls for the use, development and protection of land within a municipality. Councils are responsible for ensuring their Planning Schemes protect places with local heritage significance through a Heritage Overlay. To introduce a Heritage Overlay for a place or precinct, a Planning Scheme Amendment is prepared by council with the final decision made by the Minister for Planning. There are about 23,000 heritage places listed in Heritage Overlays in local government planning schemes. These places can include buildings, structures, farmhouses, gardens, mining and industrial sites, residential precincts and historic town centres, as well as many other types of heritage places of importance to local communities. Altogether, upwards of 180,000 properties in Victoria are included in heritage overlays. Tens of thousands of these properties include Victorian, Edwardian and other early twentieth century buildings, many in heritage precincts. There are about 23,000 heritage places listed in Heritage Overlays in local government planning schemes. Councils are responsible for conducting heritage studies, investigating the merits of listing places in their Heritage Overlays and consulting with their communities. If a Heritage Overlay does not apply to a place or precinct, and a council considers that it is worthy of protection, it is able to request the Minister for Planning to apply an Interim Heritage Overlay. This introduces a temporary heritage overlay to a place while it is being assessed by council for local heritage significance. A request for an Interim Heritage Overlay may be prompted by a demolition request or planning application for redevelopment received by a council. Councils have a safety-net under the Building Act 1993to prevent demolition of important buildings that have, for whatever reason, not yet been provided with protection until an assessment is made of their potential importance. The Building Act requires a report and consent of council for a building permit for the major demolition of a building on land within its municipality. This provides the council with an opportunity to advise of the need for a planning permit or an opportunity to seek an Interim Heritage Overlay if one is considered warranted.”

Original facade of building above and changes made subsequently below illustrate how the original architectural style can be lost.

To reiterate there are three levels of heritage protection activity in the State of Victoria. The majority of heritage buildings, architecture and places in Victoria fall under the protection of the State’s 79 local councils.  In our opinion the protection offered in many cases is manifestly ineffective and, as such, is open to manipulation by unscrupulous builders and developers.It is plainly evident that some local government authorities value increased income through strata title property rates collection over properly enforced heritage protection; with many heritage overlays being hopelessly outdated and inadequate. For heritage protection to work the requirement for there needs to be a clear understanding of which body is expected to provide and enforce such protection. Where the responsibility is that of local government authorities they have often failed. In recent times there has been a plethora of unnecessary demolitions and outright destruction of heritage buildings and streetscapes. This has simply confirmed the inadequacy of current legislation.  Melbourne has grown and expanded substantially since 1995 and in many cases local government has simply not kept pace with registering precincts or buildings for heritage protection

Balance Architecture offer a full Heritage Consultation service for both Heritage property owners and Community groups with significant interest in local heritage.  Principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz is available to meet and confer with interested parties, develop site reports and provide expert appraisal on all Heritage properties, precincts or projects affecting Heritage overlays.

Call now on 0418341443 to speak directly with Andrew or leave your details here for a prompt response.

Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the restoration and renovation of Heritage buildings and property,

The Battle Continues. Is it heritage or just a ‘façade’?

East Melbourne is an area covered by both Heritage overlays and individual Heritage listings. It features some of Melbourne’s grandest buildings. Over the years there have been many stoushes to protect what is a unique vista and part of Melbourne’s living history.

The latest property to be put at risk is the ‘landmark’ East Melbourne Mansion, Eblana, the former home of Young and Jackson’s publican Thomas Jackson. It was built in 1883 in the ‘Grand Italianate’ style of the times.

Developers consider if the façade remains then there’s no reason they cannot demolish the rear of a stately home and replace it with a modern tower, in this case four stories high, rising to 15m over the height limit for the precinct.

There’s a simple reason such projects get traction – profit. Four new luxury apartments towering over the original building offer a staggering return on investment. To the property owner or developer the equation is simple – it’s worth pushing the boundaries on Heritage to achieve a compromise. But quite simply there should NEVER be a compromise of any sort.

As the following article rightly identifies, façadism is the new go to ‘soft’ option for developers.

Frankly façadism is an absurdity. The character of the Heritage neighbourhood is simply lost to glass and steel. Natural light is blocked and in all honesty, what is left is often nothing short of comical. Quite simply, it is both inappropriate and a travesty to see some of the rather pathetic examples described as ’sympathetic design’. Market St South Melbourne is a good example. It has several ‘façades’ which are simply the front walls of previous buildings whereby visitors then enter an extensive courtyard gracing the entrance to multi storey glass towered apartment buildings.

The proposal for Eblana is simply the thin edge of the wedge. It cannot be permitted to proceed. Here is the recent article from the Age regarding the planning application, the objections of local residents and the National Trust to the proposed project and ‘façadism’.

Young and Jackson founder’s grand home the latest to get ‘facade’ treatment

Developers have lodged plans for the partial demolition of landmark East Melbourne mansion Eblana, built for Young and Jackson publican Thomas Jackson in 1883, to make way for an apartment tower.

At almost 42 metres, the tower would soar from behind the facade and front two rooms of the grand Italianate-style building at 140-142 Jolimont Road. The new building, home to four luxury apartments, would be almost three times the 15-metre recommended height limit for the precinct.

East Melbourne residents Greg Bisinella (centre). Nicole and Chris Pelchen, Sylvia Black and Diana Bosak outside Eblana.

Human Habitats director Will Pearce said the proposed development sought to protect the grandeur of the existing building’s frontage, while including a sympathetic design at the rear of the property.

But the application has been strongly opposed by local residents, representing the latest flashpoint in a long-running stoush between developers and heritage advocates to balance the preservation of character with new developments in historic precincts.

Eblana, the grand house built for Young and Jackson’s co-founder Thomas Jackson in 1883.

Prompted by a raft of developments in which the facade of buildings are retained in a nod to the original heritage – while the rear of the building is demolished for modern towers – the National Trust of Australia is now drafting guidelines for heritage-sensitive development across Victoria.

The trust’s Victorian director of advocacy, Felicity Watson, said “facadism” was a poor design outcome.

Some of the most egregious examples of the practice in Melbourne include the former Celtic Club Irish pub in Queen Street, the former Turf Club Hotel in North Melbourne, and the former Palace Theatre in Bourke Street, she said.

An artist’s impression of the proposed development at landmark East Melbourne mansion, Eblana.
The former Turf Club Hotel on Flemington Rd, North Melbourne.

“If you only retain the facade, or you only retain the external walls and a very small portion of the building, it removes all of the evidence of the building’s former function, its methods and materials of construction and also its ability to be understood within the streetscape,” Ms Watson said.

The National Trust says the former Celtic Club, on the corner of Queen Street and Lonsdale Street is an example of facadism being a poor design outcome.

Ms Watson said the proposed tower on Jolimont Road, East Melbourne, would dominate neighbouring buildings in its current form.

“East Melbourne is well known to have a very high number of significant 19th century buildings, and a number of very intact streetscapes and generally, we don’t want to see the erosion of that character of East Melbourne.”

By Sunday, 106 objections had been lodged with the City of Melbourne to the proposed development. A spokesman said council’s urban planners would carefully consider the application, and any development would be required to suit the area’s special local character and history.

Mr Pearce, whose company Human Habitats completed a town planning and urban context report for the City of Melbourne, said Eblana was not an “individually significant” building under current heritage guidelines.

“From a heritage response point of view, a superior outcome has been achieved than what the policy actually expects,” he said.

The role of town planning was to balance maintaining existing character and modernising the city, Mr Pearce said.

“There’s been considerable thought and effort put into the facade of the new building, and how that complements the existing heritage building on the site.”

The City of Melbourne introduced heritage policies last year, which have been approved by Planning Minister Richard Wynne, in an attempt to better protect the city’s historic buildings and precincts.

Councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the heritage council’s portfolio, said the new guidelines – while not binding – made it clear that facadism would no longer be tolerated.

“The days of as-of-right facadism in the City of Melbourne are over,” Cr Leppert said.

“And new developments will take some time to adjust to that new reality. But we value heritage buildings in the round, in their three-dimensional form, and that’s the expectation the market will now need to adjust to.”

Greg Bisinella, who is the heritage and planning convener of the East Melbourne Group, said the proposed 42-metre development behind Eblana’s facade was disrespectful to the area’s heritage and locals were livid.

“It just sticks out like a sore thumb,” he said. “It is completely incongruent to the suburbs of Jolimont and East Melbourne.”

Mr Bisinella said retaining the building’s facade was not enough and that the internal building needed to be preserved.

“You lose the integrity of that building. It’s starting to chip away at one piece of living history, you are losing something that can’t be replaced,” he said.

Source: theage.com.au

For advice, assessment and reportage on Heritage architecture and prospective Heritage listing, please feel free to contact our principal Architect Andrew Fedorowicz on 0418 341 443 or leave your details here for a prompt reply.

Andrew is a Heritage Architect and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects with many years’ experience in Heritage Architecture, both public and private buildings.

Balance Architecture is passionate about Heritage Architecture, its preservation and restoration. Each year the base of our heritage ‘capital’ is continually eroded with attempts to bypass Heritage listings and the overall intent of heritage preservation. The time for this to stop is now. It requires a bi-partisan approach and cooperation between all relevant authorities – State Government, Local Government and a properly funded Heritage Council of Victoria.

The ground rules must be spelled out and understood by all – property owners, local government officials and developers alike. Heritage is precious – it’s our responsibility to ensure it’s here for future generations – not just a ‘façade’. It’s really up to each one of us to ensure its proper protection and to maintain the respect it deserves.

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