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.

TO SUMMARISE:

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

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,

Touring Melbourne’s Heritage homes – Corkman pair receive massive fine.

The Corkman Pub developers have been fined a further $1.3 million for recklessly demolishing the heritage hotel in Carlton even after being ordered to stop. This set of fines is on top of $600K imposed last year by the EPA.

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Contrary to what various commentators have said here over the last few months, the company cannot sell the site. It has an enforceable order requiring the full restoration of the hotel using the original materials placed on it by the City of Melbourne and backed by the State Government Planning Department. To date the developers have caved in at each milestone, both pleading guilty to the knocking down and demolition of the Hotel. It is expected that their appeal against the ruling will fail.


Heritage Homes are delightful, but it is imperative you engage a skilled heritage architect if you are fortunate enough to purchase such a home. Quite simply, merging building and engineering techniques of the late 19th Century with today’s requirements requires experience, vision and expertise. Andrew Fedorowicz, Principal Architect with Balance Architecture is a fellow of the Architects Institute of Australia. Andrew is more than happy to meet with you to discuss your needs and future projects.

Enjoy our tour courtesy of raeen99 [through the suburbs of Melbourne.

“Hepburn Terrace” – East Melbourne

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Located in East Melbourne’s George Street, “Hepburn Terrace” is a well-preserved, symmetrical group of six rendered brick two storey terraces designed by the architects Austin and Ellis for Robert Hepburn and built in stages between 1855 and 1872. 201 (seen to the left of the photo was the first built in 1855). 203 (seen to the right of the photo) was built in 1867.

Constructed on bluestone foundations, all the houses that make up “Hepburn Terrace” share similar architectural details and matching cast iron two-storey balustrading. The dwellings are wide with three full height windows to the upper floor and entry with two double hung windows to the ground floor. “Hepburn Terrace” presents an intact frontage, with all lacework, cast iron fencing, bluestone plinths and, in some cases, front door handles, in place and quite sound. Numbers 199 -203 present quite a different design to Numbers 205 – 209, reflecting the seventeen year gap in their construction. The former are slightly smaller, and tend to the more austere, unembellished approach of the earlier Victorian era. The fine bluestone piers and cast iron fences are intact the length of the Terrace.

Heronswood Historical House and Gardens – Dromana

 

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Heronswood historic homestead was seriously damaged by fire in January 2014. The then existing Café was destroyed and the house slightly damaged. Full restoration has occurred since.

The first law professor at Melbourne University, William Hearn, employed Edward Latrobe Bateman to design Heronswood house in 1866. The property’s name was probably derived from Hearn’s family motto, the heron seeks the height, or his family crest, on a mount vert, a heron. Or it could be a contraction of ‘Hearn’s wood’.

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The architectural style of the house, which was completed in 1871, is Gothic Revival. It is made from coursed, squared granite blocks quarried at Arthur’s Seat. The windows, doors and corners are dressed with limestone from the southern end of the peninsula. It features many medieval-inspired elements such as the bell-cast roofs covered in Welsh slate, pointed lancet windows, and buttressing on the front porch.

Billilla Historical Mansion – Brighton, Melbourne

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Billilla Historic Mansion, which was the former the home of the Weatherly family, is a beautiful heritage property incorporating a stately formal garden and the magnificent historic house.

Billilla, at 26 Halifax Street, Brighton, is one of Melbourne’s few remaining significant homesteads. The mansion was built by merchant Robert Wright in 1878 on land which had originally been owned by Nicholas Were. The house has a mixture of architectural styles, featuring a Victorian design with Art Nouveau features. With exquisite formal gardens, which retain much of their original 19th Century layout, the property was owned by the Weatherley family (whom named it Billilla) from 1888 to 1972.

Billilla retains many original Victorian elements and a number of outbuildings still stand to the rear of the property including the butler’s quarters, dairy, meat house, stable garden store and coach house.

Billilla was used as a backdrop in the Australian 1980 Channel 10 miniseries adaptation of Sumner Locke Elliott’s “Water Under the Bridge”. It was used at the Sydney harbourside home of Luigi, Honor and Carrie Mazzini.

“Westbourne” a Late Victorian House – Rucker’s Hill, Westgarth

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“Westbourne” is a large late Victorian solid double red brick and stone house built on Rucker’s Hill in the Melbourne suburb of Westgarth in 1889.

Named after Westbourne Grove, the street in which the house was built, “Westbourne” (number 95.) was owned by Mrs. Catherine Oliver, a well known local abbattoir owner. Catherine Oliver purchased the corner site at 95 Westbourne Grove (then in the suburb of Northcote Hill), in 1889 and built the two storey solid brick residence, using red face brickwork and stucco dressings. She lived there until the late 1920s.

Today the house has been sympathetically subdivided into a number of smart luxury townhouses.

Westbourne Grove was created with the subdivision of William Rucker’s estate on Rucker’s Hill. The Union Bank created a number of roads across the former estate including Westbourne Grove, Hawthorn Road, Bastings Street and Mitchell Streets.

The land in Westbourne Grove was further subdivided in 1884 with the creation of the Bellevue Park Estate. Westbourne Grove became a popular address with prosperous local business people including timber merchant Alex Munro who lived at No. 92. – a neighbour to Mrs. Oliver.

Chastelton – Toorak

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“Chastelton” is an immaculately restored two storey Victorian Italianate mansion nestled away in a quiet beech tree lined street in the exclusive Melbourne suburb of Toorak.

Symmetrical in design with large bay windows either side of a colonnade entranceway with a patterned entablature, “Chastelton” has a wonderful tower which provides impressive views of the surrounding suburbs, the Yarra River and the Melbourne city skyline. “Chastelton” sits amid lush grounds of manicured lawns surrounded by European species of plants and many well established trees. The entrance is approached by way of a semi-circular gravel driveway.

“Chastelton” is a boom period mansion and was completed in the late 1880s.

“Park Lodge” a Victorian Mansion – Moonee Ponds

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Built in the 1880s, “Park Lodge” is a very grand asymmetrical Victorian mansion situated in the finest section of the inner northern Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds.

Built of polychromatic bricks, “Park Lodge” has a wonderful verandah and balcony adorned with elegant cast iron lacework. The roof is made of slate tiles with metal capping. The brown and yellow bricks are constructed in a profusion of geometric designs, which even make the wall treatment a great feature. Even the chimney is built of polychromatic bricks. Perhaps its most outstanding features are the distinctive French inspired Second Empire mansard roofed central tower which bears “Park Lodge’s” name in a cartouche over the upper floor windows. This feature makes the property stand out for miles around.

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Sadly, the original grounds of “Park Lodge” have been lost in the years since it was built, no doubt a victim to the Melbourne property bust of the 1890s. The widening of the road onto which it faces has also encroached upon its boundaries as has the widened railway line. Nevertheless, the current owners have made the most of the space they do have, planting a formal Victorian style garden in keeping with the house’s age. It features a range of topiaries and small hedges. The whole garden is enclosed by an ornate wrought iron fence.

Call now on 0418 341 443 for a free, no-obligation site consultation. Or leave your details here

It’s time to enjoy the best of the past with exceptional modern comfort. Balance Architecture – protect your valuable investment.

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

The Maribyrnong – Melbourne’s best kept secret. Green or Greed?

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Saltwater River was the name given to the City of Melbourne’s ‘western’ river until 1913. It was an industrial nightmare. And it was the place to store explosives. From 1876 ‘Jacks Magazine’ – not far from present day Highpoint West Shopping Centre – stored a massive quantity of Gunpowder and Dynamite. These were the base materials driving the Gold Rush and were stored in solid Bluestone Vaults. These vaults were strategically placed in a natural amphitheatre below an escarpment. As time went by the vaults were then used to store highly explosive munitions from the factory on the hilltop and then the new complex situated further up the river.

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With the new Edgewater development adjacent, with its myriad townhouses and apartments these unique buildings constructed from bluestone quarried on the site have been unoccupied and remained somewhat inaccessible. What’s more very few people these days even know of their existence.

Now, the government-appointed heritage body (Working Heritage) wants to find a use for the six-hectare site.

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It consists of two gunpowder storage buildings surrounded by huge earth mound blast walls, tunnels, small tram lines once used to move explosives, a large ammunitions storage hall, a disused loading dock and even a canal – it’s blocked from the Maribyrnong but could be reconnected.

The catch is the land can’t be used for housing, and it has the highest level of state listing – meaning it is protected and can’t be altered without the Victorian Heritage Council’s approval.

“There’s a growing population in the area and Jack’s could be a really significant local amenity, completely different to the Highpoint shopping experience,” says the acting executive officer of Working Heritage, Ross Turnbull.

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Working Heritage – until this week known as The Mint Inc, as a result of its role as the public manager of the leased Royal Mint in Williams Street – has commissioned planners Tract Consultants to oversee a process to consider what might happen with the old buildings.

The state-backed manager of treasured publicly-owned heritage buildings is responsible for properties across Victoria ranging from the old Mint to courthouses in country towns. The places the body manages are no longer needed for their original purpose, and Working Heritage tries to devise ways of adapting the buildings to suit contemporary needs.

It isn’t easy to think of what Jack’s Magazine – named after its former foreman and keeper Wally Jack, who served at the site from WW1 to 1943 – could be rebirthed as today.

“We want to see the place open – we want to see it become a place that’s known and treasured,” says Mr Turnbull. “It’s definitely not going to be a gunpowder store and it definitely won’t be housing, but other than that were not putting any limit to what it could be.”

Source: theage.com.au

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Earlier this month the 12 hectare was advertised by the Commercial Real Estate Company Fitzroy’s. Fitzroy’s are seeking registrations of interest for the compound. It consists of 13 buildings on the site. As explained, the State Government organisation ‘Working Heritage’ currently manages the site. Up until 1993 it was a Department of Defence facility. After decommissioning it was returned to the State Government.

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Most of the buildings were constructed between 1875 and 1878, and used for gunpowder magazine and ammunitions storage.

Among them is a loading dock shed, cordite store and examining room – all positioned amongst tramways, tunnels and earth blast mounds throughout the parkland.

The search is on for operators in retail, education, tourism, hospitality, creative industries and accommodation to bring life to the unique space – with lease terms of up to 65 years available for successful applicants.

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Fitzroys is offering weekly tours of the site for potential vendors, and Working Heritage will look at all of the interested parties proposals to work out a cohesive game plan. Registrations of interest close December 15.

Fitzroys director Rick Berry said the site was one of the most unusual property he had handled – but it’s getting attention from the hospitality industry.

“We’ve had interest from restaurants, for wine storage, even a distillery and as a function centre. Everybody is looking for something that’s a little different.”

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Rather than asking for a complicated proposal, the registration is a one page document (with supporting material), so people can put up their ideas without going to a lot of cost or effort.

“We want to cast the net as wide as possible, so people feel welcome to put something up.” Mr Berry said. “I’m hoping we get an outcome, because I think it will be a really interesting place to visit when the whole project is up and running.”

Working Heritage executive officer Ross Turnbull said the organisation, appointed managers of the property in 2015, was trying not to preempt the registration process.

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“Our expertise is in heritage conservation, and we’re trying to stick to our knitting and look to the market to tell us what people think might work there,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said they were open to new buildings being constructed to complement the existing structures – and have approached heritage consultant and architectural experts Lovell Chen for assistance.

“We think there are opportunities to enhance and complement the existing fabric through the right architectural intervention,” he said.

Working Heritage has given local artists and makers short-term, low-rent licences in some of the buildings.

“Our thinking there was that if we can get people in there and doing things, they can give us feedback on issues or problems and benefits of working in that place,” he said.

Imagination will be the best tool for the successful candidates but Mr Berry and Mr Turnbull said the site was geared towards hospitality ventures.

“We want businesses or organisations that will generate visitation to the site,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to have the magazine and its buildings used and active seven days a week.”

Source: domain.com.au

This area of Melbourne has long been utilised for the storage and production of Munitions. In 1873 on the West Bank of the Maribyrnong River (or Saltwater River as it was then known) stood a Naval Battery. The site was used to test fire torpedos in the 1870s. It lay opposite a Government Ship Building Site on the other side of the river. It stood between ‘Henderson’s Piggery’ and the Ship Inn.

In 1888 the Colonial Ammunition Factory opened in Gordon St Footscray. The site sits above the river and looks east to the Melbourne CBD. It was access to the river from Jack’s Canal mentioned earlier that made this site desirable.

The factory provided the bulk of Australia’s arsenal in World War 1. More than two million rounds of .303 rifle ammunition was made annually during the war period.

A bigger facility was added in 1908. It was Australia’s largest at the time. Privately owned until 1927 it was transferred to the Department of Defence in 1927. During World War 2, the factories employed 20,000 men and women. There was a great fear that the Japanese would attack the facility and Melbourne’s Western Suburbs.

The factories were huge and spaced well apart to prevent chain reaction explosions. Most have since been demolished to make way for housing developments. Only one remains.

The State Government had through its Development Victoria arm earmarked a 3300 dwelling development plan for the site.

However, the current Federal Government announced in this year’s budget a plan to develop a 6000 dwelling development. It intends to sell the site to the highest bidder.

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The site is heavily polluted with asbestos and other chemicals. The clean-up, it is estimated, will cost up to $300 million, with $580 million budgeted.

Currently the favoured bidder is – wait for it – a Chinese Property Developer – Zhongren. This group plan on building between 4000 and 6000 homes on the site. Their plan includes two new bridges, apartment blocks and office blocks. It would ‘incorporate Heritage Buildings, a military museum and a public beach and swimming pool’ – and a new canal through the land to provide more ‘Maribyrnong River frontage.’

Suffice to say the Heritage report produced by Heritage Consultants, Godden Mackay Logan is 147 pages long – not including appendices. We would suggest there may well be further due diligence required by Zhongren if it is to meet the State Government requirements.

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The Maribyrnong has been locked up for over a century. With the Edgewater Project having been developed on the old Humes Pipes site and the old Footscray Abattoirs site and Flemington Saleyards also developed as intensive housing, the question is what of the green corridor this land represents. Is it to disappear without trace in a sea of townhouses, apartments and office blocks?

There is the possibility of a relaxed and meandering green ribbon winding through the western suburbs from Footscray Rd through to Avondale Heights. Flemington Racetrack and Footscray Park meet Edgewater and flow through along the Essendon Boulevard. It is the development planned beyond the housing across the river in current Maribyrnong that raises real questions.

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Is there a linked plan? It seems there are strong conflicting interests at play here. With clever planning, intelligent architecture and an eye for open space, this former industrial no-go area could become a delightful and hidden gem of Melbourne living. A continuous river boulevard with great recreational attributes for all.

But not without planning, co-operation, vision and foresight. Who is going to pick up the pace and demonstrate some common sense? This is a golden opportunity. Let’s not waste it. It’s time for the proposed development plans right along the river to be synchronised with an eye to the future and deference to the past. Surely it’s realistic to at least present the vision to the public as was done by Development Victoria and the Victorian Government over 10 years ago.

At this stage, we think we can probably sit on that ‘virtual’ (at this stage) Beach and simply wait for a documented Masterplan – sometime soon please.

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