Progressive development or cultural vandalism?

Proponents have said little publicly while opponents suggest that Hosier Lane's internationally renowned arts culture is in jeopardy.

Regarding the proposed rejuvenation of the Forum Theatre at 150-162 Flinders Street and adjoining high-rise hotel, local community association Hosier Inc maintains that "Fundamentally the development proposal in its current form will adversely affect the social & organic processes developing in the precinct." Further, "The proposed streetscape clearly compromises the current street culture & fabric. The notoriety of this area with its current tourist trade & affiliated businesses will surely be adversely affected."

According to Hosier Inc, the following points of contention were discussed during a community meeting last week:

  • The Heritage overlay that encompasses the area has a discretionary height limit of 40m, but the proposed development proposes to reach 106m.
  • The proposed demolition of the historic Russell St theatre will remove the last remaining Robin Boyd structure in the CBD.
  • This proposal will deliver sheer faces on all four sides, breaking the longstanding convention of ‘podium and tower’ style buildings and setting a very bad precedent for future developments.
  • The traffic report within the proposal does not adequately explain how pedestrian & emergency services access and ingress will be managed in Hosier Lane, and proposes all loading for the hotel, commercial and residential activities will take place from a loading ‘dock’ adjacent to the new building in Hosier Lane.
  • Hosier Lane has an internationally respected art culture — using the current lane way for marketing for the new hotel is not going to be sustainable and it is anticipated that the new hotel will impact adversely on the nature and vibrancy of the culture of the area.
  • Combining the proposals for the purpose of side-lining the council is not acceptable.
  • The proposed hotel development has the potential to change the amenity of the area and will influence the activities that will be possible in adjoining properties.
  • The proposed development will significantly impact the surrounding heritage properties, vibration from plant, overwhelming visual impact and encroaching on airspace.
  • The interface between the new building and Hosier Lane is not consistent with or sympathetic with the current conditions and use of the space.
  • The space would be better suited to a development that addresses the real needs of the local area.
  • What is this development creating as precedent for the future of Melbourne and are we selling our heritage out by allowing such ordinary purpose for this unique area
  • The complete overshadowing of the Atrium will impact significantly on this ‘Winter Garden’ that is integral to the design of Fed Square.

Having traversed the area often enough over the last year and watching how individuals and groups interact and flow through the precinct, it's understandable that local interest groups such as Hosier Inc have raised concerns. Augmenting one of Melbourne's heavily trafficked cultural, physical and emotional icons is nothing new of late (read Windsor Hotel or Palace Theatre), and runs the risk of producing a far from satisfactory result according to objectors.

Within the coming week Laurence Dragomir will provide a thorough rundown of the 150-162 Flinders Street planning application, certainly one of the more intriguing planning applications currently before State planning body DTPLI.

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