Over the last year there has been a significant increase in the sale of rural and regional city properties. This has seemingly been in response to the COVID situation whereby many people have felt the need to re-assess their living situation and move to a more relaxed, more comfortable home in places such as Geelong, Ballarat, the region of Gippsland and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas.
Often the properties purchased enjoy a heritage overlay or a singular heritage listing. Beautiful Victorian terraces, villas and older Georgian style homes offer a whole raft of new and quite difficult impediments to developing a modern living space yet still maintain the period charm and heritage features of some of these wonderful old homes.
There are eclectic purchases that include old churches, former hotels, corner stores and even schools. Locales stretch from central Victoria – Castlemaine, Daylesford, Kyneton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Maryborough through to the Murray Valley, the high country around Bright, Mansfield and Beechworth.
Homes constructed during the late nineteenth century through to the early 1930s often present with unique issues. Electricals, plumbing, lighting and foundations nearly always need assessment and often replacement and renewal.
It is not unusual for such heritage listed properties to have suffered unkind modifications over the years – the removal of or bricking up of fire places and chimneys, tiling, ornate plaster mouldings, fragile stained glass and wrought iron features on verandahs such as lacework, pillars and ornamental features.
To renovate these types of properties can be immensely rewarding and satisfying but it is entirely prudent to arrange for a heritage report from a qualified and experienced Heritage Architect. Andrew Fedorowicz is such an Architect and as the Principal Architect for Balance Architecture Andrew has managed hundreds of such projects from initial assessment through design and planning to completion and lock up stage, supervising the contracted builders to assure complete compliance to both the restoration and design intended as well as ensuring compliance to the heritage listing or heritage overlay requirements.
It’s everyone’s desire to create a comfortable and liveable space, a home that is fitted with modern standards and a vision of space and light. It is possible to achieve true heritage compliance and beauty that is a highly desirable, comfortable residence.
Call Balance Architecture now on 0418 341 443 to arrange an obligation free consultation at a time that is convenient to your schedule. Alternatively leave your details here for a prompt reply.
Vision, Experience and a True Respect for Heritage and its Value – Balance Architecture.
Heritage – the pathway from our past ensuring a rich rewarding and fulfilling future.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whilst there has been much attention focused on the atrocious behaviour of the ‘Corkman Cowboys’ and their illegal demolition of Carlton’s 160 year old Corkman Hotel, the State Government has finally acted on preventing any further such travesties by introducing new legislation into Parliament this month.
Balance Architecture is passionate about the protection of Heritage buildings and Architecture in both Melbourne and throughout Victoria (Andrew Fedorowicz, Heritage Architect FAIA, Principal Architect for Balance Architecture is available for consultation on all matters pertaining to Heritage.)
There are two articles to follow. The first discusses the new legislation being passed in Victoria, the second gives an up to date account of what has happened to the Corkman developers, and an indication of what those who transgress Heritage Laws in Victoria can expect in the future.
Victorian Government plans to block property development if owners unlawfully demolish heritage buildings
The Victorian Government will introduce legislation into Parliament today which could stop development on a property for up to a decade if heritage buildings are illegally demolished.
The legislation will cover buildings that have been unlawfully demolished in full or in part and where the owners have been charged with unlawful demolition.
Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the legislation targeted developers who did the wrong thing.
“These new laws remove the financial incentive to illegally demolish buildings by potentially stopping development of the land for up to 10 years,” he said.
“This means that they can no longer expect to reap windfall gains from just selling or rebuilding on their land.”
New laws partly prompted by Corkman demolition
Mr Wynne said the legislation was, in part, prompted by the unlawful demolition of the 160-year-old Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton in 2016.
The developers who demolished the Melbourne pub were jailed for a month and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in fines and legal costs.
The Corkman Pub, formerly known as the Carlton Inn Hotel, was built in 1858.
Although it was not on the Victorian Heritage Register, it was covered by heritage rules.
The developers are appealing a contempt of court conviction and sentence.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) yesterday amended an enforcement order over the Corkman site to require a park to be built there by April 30. ‘Stringent protection’ for heritage buildings
Mr Wynne said the Corkman demolition was “unprecedented in planning in the state of Victoria” and strong action to protect heritage buildings was needed.
“We must put in place the most stringent protections possible and we are getting that through this legislation,” he said.
“It does not only deal with the Corkman matter but other attempts by people whose motives may not be essentially about ensuring the heritage protection of their buildings.”
He said there had also been issues around so-called “demolition by neglect”, where people were not willing or able to pay the cost of maintaining their heritage buildings.
The bill will also enable 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.
These new provisions are a significant strengthening of the current enforcement regime and are expected to act as a powerful deterrent to the unlawful demolition of buildings of heritage significance.
The minister said the reform complemented measures the Government introduced in 2017, which made it an indictable offence for a builder or person managing building work to knowingly carry out works without a permit or in the contravention of the Building Act, the regulations or their permit.
Corkman Pub demolition developers jailed for contempt of court
Developers who demolished a historic Melbourne pub have been jailed for a month and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in fines and legal costs.
Raman Shaqiri and Stefce Kutlesovski illegally demolished the Corkman Irish Pub in Carlton in 2016, and were sentenced after being found guilty of contempt of court by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
The Melbourne City Council and State Government sought to have the men held in contempt for failing to comply with VCAT orders, which compelled them to clear the site so it could be transformed into a public park.
The men had previously pleaded guilty to breaching building and planning laws when they knocked down the 158-year-old pub.
For that, they were fined more than $1 million and also found themselves subject to legal action brought by the council and the Victorian Government.
At Wednesday’s VCAT hearing, the men were fined $150,000 and ordered to pay $250,000 in legal costs to the State Government and the council.
The men’s lawyer, Matthew Franke, said his clients were “extremely surprised” by the sentence and would seek leave to lodge an appeal.
“The company and its directors are surprised and disappointed by the Tribunal’s findings, particularly in circumstances where the prosecutors in this case did not seek a term of imprisonment, and stated in written submissions that the imposition of such a sentence would be ‘manifestly excessive’,” he said in a statement. ‘They have trashed Victoria’s heritage’
The State Government had originally wanted the developers to rebuild the Corkman, but that plan hit a snag when an enforcement order to do so was deemed “not legally sound”.
The Corkman Pub, formerly known as the Carlton Inn Hotel, was built in 1858. Although it was not on the Victorian Heritage Register, it was covered by heritage rules.
It was demolished over a weekend in 2016, a week after a fire was lit inside the building.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the developer “deserved this outcome”.
“They have trashed Victoria’s heritage, refused to build a park, and shirked their legal obligations at every step,” he said.
Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith also backed the VCAT sentence and called on the State Government to seize control of the property.
“The Andrews Labor Government must compulsorily acquire this site and turn it into social housing, public housing, or a permanent park so these cowboy developers don’t make a cent from their illegal activity,” he said.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council and Government pursued the developer “in the public interest”.
“Today’s decision vindicates the court’s authority and sends a clear message that we won’t tolerate developers disobeying a court order,” she said.
“We look forward to seeing the site cleaned up and available for the public to enjoy.”
It’s been some time since we have discussed some of the ongoing Heritage disputes here in Victoria. What’s entirely disappointing is the return of several development battles we considered safe. Not the case – we are up for round two and the first of these is in Albert Park.
Previous rejected design for 1 Victoria Ave
No. 1 Victoria Avenue Albert Park. Last year the Developers – the Saade Group, were defeated at a VCAT hearing on their plans to demolish the existing building and replace it with what could only be described as an oversized ‘Birthday Cake’ of a building. The plan for the new building was rejected at VCAT as entirely inappropriate for the location given that it is an important component of the existing Heritage Overlay.
The developers have submitted a new design to Council and are seeking to demolish the existing original building and replace it with something equally and as oddly out of context with the areas Heritage overlay as the previous proposed ‘development’ but one storey lower in height . The new design is in no way in sympathy with the existing streetscape or heritage vista.This proposed building is literally just over one block from St Vincents Place and the St Vincents Gardens!
The second property at risk is a significant Robin Boyd designed house in North Balwyn. The agent’s advertising pitch offers ‘vacant land’ for those purchasing the property.
Here is a recent report from ArchitectureAU…
Significant Robin Boyd house at risk of demolition
A house designed by Robin Boyd in Melbourne’s eastern suburb of North Balwyn is at risk of demolition after the property was listed for sale and described as an opportunity to buy “vacant land” by the estate agent Fletchers.
A petition initiated by Melbourne academic and practitioner Jacqui Alexander calls on Boroondara Council to heritage protect the home and prevent it from demolition.
“It is a tragedy that this important example of post-war Australian modernism looks likely to succumb to the same fate as many other significant homes in Boroondara,” Alexander said in the petition.
“Architecturally significant homes from this era are being razed in Eastern suburbs like Balwyn at an alarming rate, only to be replaced with mass-produced and over-scaled mock-heritage mansions with no architectural or contextual value. These new developments come at the expense of our architectural heritage, the character of our streetscapes and the biodiversity of Melbourne’s leafy suburbs.”
A 2015 heritage study of Balwyn and North Balwyn prepared for the council identified the house as “a significant place in the City of Boorandara.”
The house was originally designed for pharmacist Don Woods and built in 1949 and is situated cross two lots at 12–14 Tannock Street.
It is one of the few remaining examples of Boyd’s early work as a sole practitioner prior to his partnership with Roy Grounds and Frederick Romberg. It is also one of three examples in the area that “provide rare and valuable evidence of the innovation, boldness and fresh design approaches of a young architect on the cusp of an illustrious career.”
Published in Australian Home Beautiful in October 1950, it was celebrated for its split level planning and its small footprint that “takes full advantage of space and outlook.” The Woods commission Boyd to extend the house twice, first in 1959 with two more bedrooms, a recreation room and a flat-roofed garage, and again 1971 with an addition across the street frontage. Both additions created seamless transitions between the old and the new.
When it was first sold in 1985, it was labelled as “timeless,” and “an outstanding work of contemporary design” by the estate agent.
The property is in the area of Boroondara Council. The council (along with Bayside Council) has an appalling record in the preservation of Heritage properties within its boundaries.
This is a prime example of the neglect of Heritage listings by Local Government officials. It is their responsibility to ensure that Heritage Listings and overlays are both accurate and up to date. It’s otherwise way too easy to apply for a demolition permit which can be actioned whilst the Heritage Council of Victoria, which is under-financed and also understaffed considers the merit of the proposed Heritage overlay or listing.
Yarrawonga Town Hall
Currently we are investigating a curious case in Yarrawonga. There the local shire is looking to place an ultra-modern designed library building next to a rather unique Art Deco design Yarrawonga Town Hall. In doing so it will destroy the local community centre but perhaps it will be sadder to see such a beautiful old building juxtaposed with against an ultra-modern design. More to come in the next few weeks.
For the Albert Park property – 1 Victoria Ave, you can lodge an objection with the Port Phillip Council planning division. Here’s a link to the Don’t Destroy Albert Park website.
Balance Architecture stridently believes in the full protection of our Architectural and historical Heritage and encourages all our followers and readers to make your thoughts known to those who would destroy it.
Heritage is more than our past – it’s who we really are.
Heritage protection of Melbourne’s fabulous older buildings remains a challenge in 2020. In January, the State Government acknowledged that the ‘Corkman Cowboys’ have thumbed their nose at the agreements and requirements those developers had entered into. The State Government has now initiated new legal actions against them. This consists of an enforcement order brought jointly by the State Government and the City of Melbourne at VCAT to ensure the developers deliver on their promises. As yet, they have not.
The Corkman Hotel before and after its demolition
The reality is that heritage protection in this state remains fairly weak with legislation hamstrung by the inaction of local councils in maintaining Heritage overlays and databases in their areas of control. Some examples of this are Bayside City Council and its intransigence on the protection of the midterm modern architecture in Beaumaris and Black Rock, and the ongoing rolling heritage disputes in the Booroondara Council areas.
The former Currajong House in Hawthorn
The former Currajong House in Hawthorn
Here’s a recent synopsis of the situation in Bayside as published in the Age Newspaper
National Trust slams Bayside Council’s ‘deplorable action’ on heritage sites
Planning Minister Richard Wynne is being urged to intervene to protect unique mid-century heritage in the City of Bayside – home to some of the best post-war architecture in the state – following the “devastating” demolition of two homes last week.
The National Trust has called for urgent action after the “tragic and unnecessary” demolition of the award-winning Breedon House in Brighton, which was designed by architect Geoffrey Woodfall and built in 1966.
Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin in front of The Abrahams House
Chief executive Simon Ambrose said the modernist house had been left unprotected due to the “deplorable actions” of Bayside Council, which had “for many years abrogated its responsibilities … to ensure the conservation of places of heritage significance”.
A mid-century home in Nautilus Street, Beaumaris, that was designed by architect Charles Bricknell was also demolished last week, despite objections from the National Trust and community association Beaumaris Modern.
And a third modernist home – The Abrahams House on Beach Road, Beaumaris – is also in jeopardy, with an application to build townhouses on the site before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin said the houses would have been protected if Bayside Council had not abandoned heritage studies in 2008 and 2018.
The Abrahams family in front of their one-time home
“This week in Bayside has been devastating for our architectural heritage,” Ms Austin said.
Heritage studies would have identified the best examples of the mid-century period, with a planning scheme amendment prepared to permanently protect them. This approach is taken by almost all other councils.
However, the council abandoned the heritage study in 2018 after some residents hit out when told their homes would be put on an interim heritage overlay until the study was completed.
The award-winning Breedon House in Brighton
“As soon as the letters were put in letterboxes, all hell broke loose,” Bayside mayor Clarke Martin told The Age. “It descended into a horrible situation, where people were literally yelling at each other in the streets.”
Cr Martin said some home owners feared the interim heritage overlay would make renovating difficult, drive down property values and mean they couldn’t sell their homes.
“What underlined the whole thing was the view that it is your castle, you should be able to do with it what you like.”
Cr Martin said the process was so divisive the council paused the heritage study and instead invited property owners to nominate their homes for heritage protection on a voluntary register.
He said the voluntary process had identified eight private homes and 11 council properties in Beaumaris, which the council had submitted to Mr Wynne for approval.
The mid-century home in Nautilus Street, Beaumaris
He said once these were given protection, the council would restart the heritage study.
However, the National Trust said it was aware of more than 100 places of heritage significance in the City of Bayside that remained unprotected and were at risk.
“Mid century homes are an important part of our history and utilised groundbreaking construction methods, innovative approaches to open-plan living and connections to the landscape,” said Mr Ambrose.
“The Bayside area in particular was a hotbed of architectural expression and experimentation and has one of the best collections of post-war architecture in Victoria, if not Australia.”
The National Trust and Beaumaris Modern have written to the Planning Minister urging him to intervene to protect heritage in Bayside.
Mr Ambrose said he requested that Mr Wynne use his ministerial powers to apply interim heritage overlays to places identified in previous heritage studies.
He said this would be done with a view to pursuing permanent protection through a planning scheme amendment. “[This] allows everyone – including home owners – to have a say.”
Mr Wynne said councils were responsible for protecting their local heritage and this was yet another example of their failure to do so.
“If the council considered these houses to be of local significance, they had the means to protect them and the demolition permits should never have been issued,” he said.
In Booroondara, the gap between Heritage Overlay approval and the protection of a property by a Victorian Heritage Council listing has meant a number of buildings have been demolished with impunity. The demolition permits were issued prior to the Heritage Overlays being approved and applied.
‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016
‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016
There needs to be an entire overhaul of Heritage protection in Victoria. Many councils are still running with Heritage Listings first applied in the 1980s and 1990s. It is imperative that these listings are kept up to date. Without an up to date Council Heritage listing all such buildings are vulnerable.
The situation has been allowed to slip whilst under the stewardship of both major political parties. There is one simple reason these issues are more often than not consigned to the ‘too hard’ basket – money. Those wishing to develop in these Council areas often represent a significant increase in rateable property income per property – e.g. Strata Title replacing single occupancy. On particular Local Councils, the developers hold major influence.
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
The National Trust, the Victorian Heritage Councils and the Heritage Inspection processes are heavily underfunded. With only limited staff, inspections that should take weeks, can be delayed for years.
The Real Estate Industry and the Building and Construction sector have good reasons to turn away – the simple answer is profitability. If heritage supporters want significant change then it will be necessary to strongly lobby both the State Government and individual Local Councils to do much more.
In the case of the State Government there needs to be much stronger funding of the Heritage Council of Victoria and Heritage Victoria. These organisations and the State Government Planning Department have the capacity to implement much more effective heritage policy, and for the Planning Department to provide far more realistic funding to these two organisations.
If you know of a Heritage property anywhere in Victoria currently under threat, please don’t hesitate to message us, or alternatively leave a message on our website and we will investigate and publicise the dispute.
Balance Architecture is committed to ensuring Heritage Architecture and listed buildings receive maximum protection and given due respect and recognition by both Government and Local Government Authorities. Heritage is who we are as a population, it’s where we’ve come from, and it’s the true basis on which future generations will rely to acknowledge our growth and diversity as a city and a State.
It’s time to ensure real protection, to value it, and to celebrate it.
Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there is a need for a stronger lobby group in presenting the arguments, the cases for retention and protection of heritage buildings in Greater Melbourne and Victoria.
Right now, the Government agencies responsible for such protections are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests for Heritage protection. The budget allocated to Heritage Victoria and the heritage Council of Victoria seems to be inadequate.
‘Forres’ at 9-11 Edward Street, Kew, torn down in July 2016
Heritage has become a political football. The public and our grand heritage inheritance are the losers. Countless buildings are demolished whilst Heritage overlays are investigated by the Heritage Council. Without publicity, the problem is hidden and the solution becomes moot – often the building just simply disappears. There are loopholes upon loopholes. The recent events in Booroondara bear testament to this.
Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May
Beautiful residential dwellings in Kew, Toorak, Hawthorn, Elsternwick, Caulfield North, Black Rock and Beaumaris have been destroyed. Old Hotels built in the 1880s, modified in the 1920s to an art nouveau style have been demolished. Why? Well, because their original architecture was diminished. What about the fabulous Art Nouveau transformations? Look at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda and the London in Port Melbourne, both now vacant blocks.
Greyhound Hotel, St Kilda
At Balance Architecture, we are passionate about Heritage Architecture. The richness of Victorian era opulence engendered by the 1850s Gold Rush, the extraordinary craft and skill in the simple yet intricate details of masonry, tiling, slate roofing, monochromatic brickwork, stained glass windows – the Ballroom and Staterooms. The drawing rooms, the huge and impressive stairwells – the symmetry, the grace.
The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million
Over the last few years we have brought you the passing vista of homes and buildings saved and preserved, of those that are derelict and in need of restoration, and of those demolished and gone forever.
A bulldozer moves in on 368 Auburn Road
We now arrive at a crossroads. It is time for genuine action. We propose the formulation of a new group. The purpose of the group will be to lobby the government (State) to improve Heritage protections, to ensure Heritage Overlays across the entire state are up to date and to commit to the ongoing protection of our precious Heritage assets.
We are aware of other groups operating within the same arena but want to apply a more modern approach utilising online and social media opportunities to not only demonstrate the community depth of feeling on the issue, but to focus the various local groups into a strong voice for Heritage stability and protection.
This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is set to be demolished
Preparing for Heritage Listings can be both a daunting prospect and a set of difficult procedures. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be, and this is one of the objectives we believe we must work towards – a simplification of the processes combined with much increased funding to the state government bodies charged with doing the relevant inspections and determining the Heritage listings or otherwise.
In many cases, the ultimate process will find its way to VCAT or a higher court. Often it is Heritage that is the loser. Time’s up on that nonsense. No more Corkman Fiascos, no more Currajong interventions.
The Corkman Hotel, prior to its illegal demolition.
Let’s get a clear, open process in place. Let’s call all parties to the table – Architects, Developers, Residents and Bureaucrats, Council officials, Heritage Council officials and the National Trust – and politicians of all persuasions.
55 Seymour Rd
It’s five past midnight and it’s time to act. Keep watching our page. We will provide details of a new group for those genuinely interested in Heritage protection. You will be able to join up on Facebook and then we can broaden the base from there. We will announce the new page here soon.
Heritage is our history, our persona, our character – the people of Victoria own it. Time to claim it.
Victoria is fortunate in that State Government politicians have a bipartisan approach to heritage protection. To a major extent political parties, Local Government and the public agree on the majority of established Heritage listed properties being protected. The issue here is the updating and strengthening of protections for those buildings and properties either undergoing Heritage inspection and/or those not currently heritage listed.
In Tasmania there is a different problem. Capital is scarce in Tasmania and the value put upon Heritage classification is definitely not uniform. The current Government, as can be seen by its pro-development stance on the Treasury Buildings in Hobart is less than enthusiastic in truly protecting Heritage buildings in the State. Add to that Local Government Councils that seemingly have little or no understanding of Heritage values and you have a disaster in the offing.
From the ABC…
Tasmania is full of heritage-listed sites, but are they worth saving?
The Hunters Hotel in Tasmania has seen better days
In the heart of Queenstown on Tasmania’s remote west coast stands a forest green hotel, framed with gold trimmings and a grand wooden balcony that overlooks the township.
The Hunters Hotel has a historic past, with its balcony serving as a stage for many speeches throughout its life.
In the early 1900s, workers’ rights advocate and Labor MP King O’Malley spoke from the balcony to the people in the street below.
Then in 1912, amidst the tragedy of the North Lyell mine fire where 42 men lost their lives, the community was given updates from the balcony.
But now this piece of history is facing the possibility of destruction.
The West Coast Council has issued an emergency order for the owners to dismantle the sagging balcony due to safety concerns.
West Coast Mayor, Phil Vickers said the owners have 28 days to make a decision.
“It’s a private property that has a verandah that is built over the top of a council footpath,” he said.
“It’s heritage-listed and we’ve had an engineers report that demonstrates that it needs to be either re-engineered and fixed up or dismantled.”
The owners and concerned members of the community are desperately trying to save the balcony.
One resident has started a crowdfunding page, but only $1,800 of the required $35,000 has been raised so far.
Ralph Wildenauer says he has tried to do work himself, but health setbacks mean he needs to hire labour
Hotel owner Ralph Wildenauer said he was planning to fix the balcony next year after the rest of the hotel had been opened for business to raise the necessary funds.
“I was doing most of the work and last year I had a major stroke, so I’m not able to do work anymore and it means we have to employ people to finish everything off, which is very expensive,” Mr Wildenauer said.
Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’
Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.
“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.
Clarendon House looks good on the surface
Heritage sites held together with ‘sticky tape and glue’
Tasmania has the highest concentration of heritage sites of anywhere in Australia.
“Anyone that owns a heritage site knows that you just keep throwing buckets of money at it and that’s just the nature of the beast,” Matthew Smithies of the National Trust said.
In Tasmania, the National Trust has eight sites ranging from Home Hill, the family home of former Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, to Hobart’s Convict Penitentiary.
However, the cost to maintain and preserve these heritage assets is huge.
Mr Smithies said the National Trust has a bit of a legacy at the moment of maintenance and conservation works that are well overdue.
“We’ve got about $3.5 million worth of conservation works that we need to carry out immediately, and raising that funding is difficult,” he said.
Clarendon House, in the north of the state, is in desperate need of maintenance and restoration — some of the building’s walls being reduced to rubble, issues with the staircase that is no longer straight and a basement that is cracked from a flood that occurred five years ago.
“From an engineers report that we’ve received, we’re actually going to lose the front face of Clarendon in the not-too-distant future,” Mr Smithies said.
The Tasmanian Branch of the National Trust has found its priority list is constantly changing due to the rapid rate their heritage sites have been deteriorating.
A floor is in ruins inside Clarendon House, a heritage-listed site in Tasmania’s north
Last year, the Launceston City Council told them to close the Franklin House site to the public due to safety issues with a wall.
“The convict-built, brick boundary wall at Franklin House was at the brink of toppling over, causing a lot of occupational health and safety concerns as it was a boundary wall with our neighbours and at the eleventh hour we did manage to get some funding from both Launceston Council and the State Government,” Mr Smithies said.
To minimise the loss of heritage during the wall dismantlement, each brick was numbered, catalogued and photographed as it was removed.
Contemporary foundations were then laid before the wall was rebuilt, with each brick placed in its original spot.
‘Mould everywhere, mushrooms growing on the floors’
The owners of the Hunters Hotel have faced the same problem when it came to the maintenance and preservation of their heritage-listed building.
The balcony of Hunters Hotel is in desperate need of repair
Mr Wildenauer and his wife took over the hotel more than two years ago, but before that, it had been abandoned for almost 20 years.
“You know, twenty years of leaking roofs and missing windows, there was mould growing everywhere, there were mushrooms growing on the floors, it was really, really bad,” he said.
“If we hadn’t started working on it, by now huge sections would have collapsed, you know ceilings would have come down, roofs would have come down.”
Mr Wildenauer believes if he had used professionals to work on the structure, it would have cost close to $1 million.
He tried to obtain multiple grants to help fund the needed work restorations but has been unsuccessful so far.
Cr Vickers said that small councils could not afford to help everyone, especially when the building is private property.
“It’s a historic building and we have lots of historic buildings that are in private ownership within our district, we can’t help everyone,” he said.
But the National Trust said it was a challenge for people who were custodians of heritage in both the private and public sectors.
“There is a bigger discussion that needs to be had around how we can keep our heritage assets standing,” Mr Smithies said.
What’s worth saving?
Due to limited funding, maintainers of heritage sites within the state have to decide which assets should be maintained.
Mr Smithies said it was hard to put a price on heritage.
“It’s what makes towns and cities and villages different from one another,” he said.
“I’m from Sydney, so the greater western suburbs, where they’ve just built these matchbox houses side by side, they’re absolutely soulless and I don’t think people particularly want to live like that.”
A staircase at historic Clarendon House near Launceston has visible cracks and mould
Those within heritage management asses value by looking at what stories are linked to the asset.
Mr Smithies said there were some wonderful collections at the National Trust that would fetch a high price at auction, with some even gaining international interest.
But his favourite heritage asset is a 120-year-old kerosene tin that he believes is worth about 50 cents.
“Someone’s cut the front out and put a candle in … it comes from a farm of a well-known agricultural family and it was the kerosene tin that they used to go down to the dairy when there was calving,” he said.
“How do you measure significance? Is it the stories behind it or is it the bean counter? What is its commercial value?”
For Mr Wildenauer, although the Hunters Hotel is expensive to maintain, its history is priceless.
“Once that balcony is gone, it will be gone forever, the history will be gone with it,” he said.
“OK, they might have saved a few beams and a few bits and pieces, but it’s not going to be the same balcony if they rebuild it and the cost of rebuilding is going to be way, way more than the cost of repairing it.
“It’s not always a viable thing to restore these buildings, but to let them collapse is even worse.”
Heritage protection and Heritage values should not vary from State to State. In Melbourne when one of the oldest remaining buildings in the CBD was in imminent danger of collapse, its inhabitants too old and infirm to take action, the City of Melbourne stepped in and provided reinforcing whilst funding and plans for its restoration was determined. It’s still braced, located at the corner of King St and Latrobe St.
It’s time to evolve a national approach to our Heritage buildings and properties, create a funding model and provide significant education from an early age to enable people to realise the true value of such neglected buildings.