QVM precinct lead

Development scenarios: Munro site and Queen Victoria Market

With the recent announcement of a final shortlist for the Munro site development within the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) precinct, it is an opportune time to revisit the development potential of both sites and how they fit within the larger scope of development within CBD North one year after the City of Melbourne purchased the site.

Melbourne-based developer PDG Group has emerged as the final short-listed bidder vying for the right to develop a 200m-high apartment tower on a site in the Queen Victoria Market precinct of the Melbourne CBD. The City of Melbourne council last month announced it had short-listed five parties to tender for the development rights on the 6000sqm site in the heart of the city. The names of bidding parties were kept confidential.

The four other parties bidding for the QVM project are Cbus Property, Grocon, Mirvac and Lang Walker’s Walker Corporation.

The Australian, 21 October 2015

Here is my take on what can be achieved for both the Munro site and the associated Franklin Street development site, which to this point has been expected to occupy two new towers.

The site

The diagram below highlights the key development areas of the QVM precinct, including the Munro site and the current at grade car park that will eventually be bisected by a realigned Franklin Street, allowing for a public open space and creation of a new development site. City of Melbourne acquired the 6,500sqm Munro site for $76 million in October of 2014 and proceeded to incorporate it into the scope of the Queen Victoria Market Masterplan.

Existing site diagram.

Preferred outcomes: Munro site

Guideline for heritage. Courtesy of City of Melbourne

City of Melbourne's preferred outcomes for the Munro site:

  • Develop new building(s) (except at the Mercat Cross Hotel) to create a podium or ‘street wall’ along the frontages to Therry and Queen Street, not less than 20 metres high and not more than 30 metres high.
  • Create a pedestrian link between Franklin and Therry Streets by extending the existing laneway between 104-106 and 108 Franklin Street. This must provide for: a) Universal 24/7 public access. b) A high level of amenity including natural daylight and at least double-storey ceiling heights.
  • Set back all building forms higher than 20 metres at least 10 metres from the street frontages, inclusive of any balconies or architectural features.
  • Limit overall building heights so that there is no overshadowing of the proposed new open space (the existing QVM car park) after 11am-2pm, beyond whatever shadowing may result from a 30 metre high podium built to the street frontage.

Taking cues from the Munro site guidelines coupled with key elements of the QVM Masterplan, a scenario for development of the ground plane and a series of networks and connections is established. This carves up what would otherwise be large consolidated sites into smaller volumes of mass, responding more to the finer grain of the precinct; this is illustrated in the diagram below whereby the pink arrows define the new pedestrian network and the blue vehicular.

Networks and connections.

As my earlier article suggests, the site is likely to accommodate a 200 metre residential tower. I have decided to go with a 30 metre podium with a 171 metre tower sitting atop it, setback 10 metres from all boundaries. The existing facades of the buildings which form the streetscapes would remain.

The Mercat Hotel is retained in its entirety as well as Fancy Hank's, which is a personal favourite venue of mine.

With solar access to the new public open space and wind mitigation key considerations and requirements for a comfortable walking environment a curved, tapering tower was developed with a deep recess running up its full height to allow the northern sun to penetrate through to the north-south public laneway.

The curved form addresses wind forces and provides a contrast to the rigid and rectilinear envelopes of the northern most towers under construction within the area, whilst also maximising views and natural light.

Munro site development.

Franklin Street development site

I consider this in tandem with the new public open space to be the centrepiece of the QVM Market precinct and the key focal point of CBD North, as such it has been conceived as dual shards which have been carved by the sun allowing for solar access to Flagstaff Gardens, supplemented by a 9-storey apartment building that responds, complements and acts as a bookend to Melbourne Terrace apartments.

Both towers are setback from their podia 15 metres, allowing for generous separation between both. The tallest and most slender tower rises 90-storeys and 300 metres while the shorter of the two rises 64-storeys and 215 metres, with a deep recess to the north to break down the mass while allowing natural light deep into its floorplate.

The tapering nature allows for outdoor terraces and winter gardens for apartments and unique roof silhouettes on the Melbourne skyline.

Franklin Street towers.

The crystalline forms are in contrast to the curved form of the Munro development, with the likelihood that two different developers or consortia will develop either.

What the final outcome might be for both sites will not be known for some time with the successful proponent for the Munro site due to be announced mid-next year. Either way hopefully this article provided some food for thought and impetus in design originality; the QVM redevelopment provides the perfect opportunity for it.


Nicholas Harrison's picture

Draft planning scheme amendment C245 contains more details on the proposed design requirements:

- Towers fronting new Franklin Street must be setback at least 10 metres behind the northern masonry facades of the existing sheds; new buildings may cantilever over the rear half of the existing sheds.
ƒ- Towers must be set back a minimum of 6 metres from podiums along the former alignment of Franklin Street and a minimum of 10 metres from podiums along all other streets.
- Towers should be set back a minimum of 24 metres from an existing or likely future tower on an adjoining site(s) and 10 metres from side and rear boundaries. The minimum setback between towers must be 10 metres.

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Rohan Storey's picture

Laurence, the best thing about your diagram is you've shown all the current and future towers in the area - what a crowd! But to be realistic, you should put in a few more, one on 'site B', and one replacing the carparks the corner of Franklin and Queen, both highly likely.

Meanwhile, the site at the south end of the market, with all the required setbacks, can it really support three towers like that?

Poor old market, once set in a low scale precinct, will instead have edges that are where the super dense tower cluster of the North end of the CBD abruptly stops.


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Adam Ford's picture

What's really disappointing for mine is that the City of Melbourne were only able to identify ten buildings in that Therry St block that they wanted to retain. The whole Therry Street streetscape is worthy of retention ahead of the flipping Mercat Cross, and it wouldn't be too difficult to achieve that with a small modicum of imagination.

Lawrence, would your proposal actually be EVEN BETTER if it proposed retention of ALL the facades and small-scale retail spaces along Therry Street, assuming you were able to do so and create an effective thoroughfare?

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

Rohan there are 15m setbacks applied to from the boundaries of all podia for the two towers on Franklin St, this is more than what C245 requires.

Adam - yes it is definitely possible. The first diagram for the Munro site tower has a dark grey - color over the ground level indicating the retention or re-adaption of the existing buildings. I was supposed to go back and make it lighter and more obvious but forgot.

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pecosbill's picture

Hi Laurence -

I'm intrigued by the ideas around the Munro site and like your approach to developing some conceptual ideas for towers here.

Is there anyway you can share the 3D model you're using? I'd love to play around with some ideas if you don't mind sharing.

Would that be possible?


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