The chronology and evolution of A'Beckett Street

A'Beckett Street is arguably the best example of any inner city locale when considering the rapid change that has befallen inner Melbourne in recent years. With 2010 as a starting point, no less than 16 separate projects have or are seeking to maintain a frontage to A'Beckett Street, radically altering its feel and composition.

Apartments projects have been the most popular pursuit, with education-based builds and serviced apartment projects also represented. Moreover, the eastern end of the street, at the intersection with Swanston Street, will bear witness to the 'City North' station as part of the Melbourne Metro which according to available public domain information, will be located directly under Swanston Street between Franklin and La Trobe Streets.

For so long an almost 'sleepy' part of Melbourne's CBD with low-rise buildings lining either side, the new built form along A'Beckett Street has radically altered the streetscape with an overabundance of tall, slim towers with little to no setbacks.

A chronology of A'Beckett Street's evolution since 2010 is as follows:

A'Beckett Apartments, A'Beckett Tower and City Tempo

The very modest A'Beckett Apartments was first to reach completion during 2010, followed closely by the altogether mediocre City Tempo serviced apartment development on A'Beckett and Queen. Some Elenberg Fraser-inspired style resulted in the colourful A'Beckett Tower; what essentially became Pan Urban's swansong project with a 2011 completion and the 2011 Dulux Colour Award to boot.

Swanston Academic Building and 206 A'Beckett Street

Arguably A'Beckett Street's greatest new built form arrived during 2012 with RMIT's Swanston Academic Building taking its place opposite A'Beckett Tower, with both combining to provide the Swanston Street panorama with an exemplary splash of colour and design dare.

2012 also ushered in the Pegasus Apart'Hotel at 206 A'Beckett Street, a Doig Architecture creation delivered by Merkon Constructions.

MY80, Istana and Fulton Lane

2014 and 2015 saw A'Beckett Street change evolve further, this time at the hands of Malaysian-based developers.

MY80 in many ways set the pace and scale for what would and still continuing to be the building boom in the northern reaches of Melbourne's CBD. Mammoth Empire's success with MY80 was replicated with Magna Prima's Istana and SP Setia's Fulton Lane; Asian developer-backed super-sized projects had arrived on A'Beckett Street!

avant, Empire and EQ Tower

At present three substantial residential towers are under construction with all being backed by Asian-affiliated developers.

EQ Tower is well into construction as is Empire on Elizabeth and A'Beckett, while avant Tower is the most recent start with Probuild tasked with delivering the 57-level tower which will be cloaked in a distinctive hue of pink upon completion.

Queens Place will bring a new vigour to A'Brckett Street

What shapes to be the biggest build also promises much by way of street level activation. Queens Place is dominated by two hulking residential towers yet it will be at street level where it's hoped the project will shine.

Cox Architecture and Fender Katsalidis have created a highly articulated podium for the project that is very accommodating at street level; should the project live up to the renders it will be a clear winner on a public realm level and may well put its other A'Beckett Street contemporaries to shame.

111-125 A’Beckett, 183-189 A'Beckett, 48-50 A'Beckett and 24-46 A'Beckett

Four substantial projects are still at planning, headed by Tong Eng Group's 111-125 A’Beckett Street. While it has support from City of Melbourne, another contemporary at 183-189 A’Beckett Street has fallen short of City of Melbourne's expectations. Having said that, the final decision lies with the Minister for Planning.

What was briefly marketed as Uni Tower at 48-50 A'Beckett went back to planning and duly received the green light during December 2015 while the latest entrant to A'Beckett Street is RMIT's fresh proposal for a mixed-use tower opposite their Swanston Academic Building. This is the subject of a separate article.

A'Beckett Street has been transformed in a remarkably short period of time and with a number of ripe development sites tagged for development its evolution from quite CBD street to a prime apartment tower hot spot looks set to continue.


Bilby's picture

This is a "chronology" of a street with no past, Mark. It is as if the street didn't exist before these recent towers went up. How about some reference to change in the more historical sense of the word - A'Beckett Street has gone from .......... (what?) to a street packed with resi-towers in 5 years.

You mention "low-rise" and "ripe" development sites without mentioning that parts of A'Beckett were highly intact heritage areas. Photos of all of those sites still exist on the i-heritage database at City of Melbourne, and on Google Street View (back to 2007). The red brick warehouses owned by Abaris Printing, the more intact laneway frontages (e.g. Literature Lane) and rare turn of the century auto-garage between Swanston and Elizabeth deserve special mention. All could have easily been retained at street level, but developers have systematically chosen to demolish and replace them with aluminium framed glass lobbies.

How about some photos of each tower site before and after? As it stands, this is more of a chronology of the airspace above A'Beckett street - not of A'Beckett street itself.

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Riddlz's picture

^^How about you go write your own article about a'beckett street instead of whinging about the things you believe this one failed to include.

Is there any more info on 48-50 A'beckett street, I though it was rendered dead by the new planning rules?

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Bilby's picture

How many articles have you written for Urban Melbourne, Riddlz? You seem to complain an awful lot about my commentary - perhaps you could set me straight about the merits of fine grain development in cities ...

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Michael Berquez's picture

Fantastic, informative article, and what a transformation it's been. As I've said before, a few years ago, I, like many others had never even heard of A'Beckett Street, so nice that it's started to take it's postion as one of the CBD's highest density streets. Thank you.

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Bilby's picture

Well, I guess it was worth ripping out all the heritage buildings so people like yourself could hear about it, Michael. Unfortunately, the recent development of A'Beckett Street is now widely derided on this website, and in other forums, as an example of what not to do, with tower after tower jammed up next to each other with 6 metre clearances from just above podium level and up. So parts of the street are dense, yes, but they are also the parts that triggered the emergency action on plot ratios by the government, and which have attracted the greatest criticism of urbanists and planners across the state.

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3000's picture

This is the section of AB street I think represents everything wrong with this boom. MY80, I can live it. But Avant right next door? No. Empire is looking to be an ugly sister to MY80. And with the basketball court going this street will be more dead than ever. It could've had the potential to be a student paradise but now with uni tower given the green light I think it's about time the powers that be assess what damage they are doing.

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Michael Berquez's picture

It's just how I feel Bilby....I didn't even mention you in my post....why do you just simply refuse to accept that other feels diiferently to you?

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Mateusz Gwozdz's picture

Bilby, too long, didn't read.

Meanwhile, good article documenting the incredible amount of development this area has experienced in the last six years.

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Bilby's picture

Yes, Mateusz, a good article - but is it just documenting the "incredible amount of development this area has experienced" or documenting the incredible amount of good development this area has experienced in the last six years. If it's the former, then the article is little more than a development "score card" with little in the way of evaluation of the effects of this tranche of development activity.

Maybe that's a "good" article ... or maybe not. After all, you can just walk down A'Beckett Street any day of the week and see for yourself what the last six years have produced in terms of a liveable, exciting urban space.

But then, I guess you didn't get this far, because ... reading.

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johnproctor's picture

Bilby as Riddlez said. if you want an article on the full history of A'Beckett write it yourself.

The article states the following items that are of passing interest to the comments you've made. I don't think Mark has sugar coated the development in this area.

"With 2010 as a starting point" (Hint in first paragraph its about recent events!)

"radically altering its feel and composition" (first paragraph identifies significant change is afoot)

"with an overabundance of tall, slim towers with little to no setbacks" (third paragraph not the most positive assessment of the changes)

"followed closely by the altogether mediocre City Tempo" (not just a development cheerleader in paragraph 4)

"should the project live up to the renders it will be a clear winner on a public realm level and may well put its other A'Beckett Street contemporaries to shame" (further along identifies the new development hasn't done much at street level - hopefully Queens Place will!)

"A'Beckett Street has been transformed in a remarkably short period of time and with a number of ripe development sites tagged for development its evolution from quite CBD street to a prime apartment tower hot spot looks set to continue." (in closing - This is a factual statement of the apartment market on this street - it is not necessarily a statement of support or otherwise of that situation.)

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3000's picture

Bilby, the article is just as critical of the development happening here as you and others. There needs to be a major rethink about what the future of this street is. MY80 (I do like the tower) has a questionable podium that doesn't do much of anything to liven the place up other than the bare minimum.
It has become, as Bilby has said, an example of what happens when development runs amok, and partly the reason why the stifling rules are now in place. While I wont harp on about the lost heritage here as what's done is done, I will say that maybe at the very least some consideration for street level and integration of structures would've been nice as opposed to just building to get the Chinese near RMIT. But at least they're tall right?

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

how is this a 'good' article in regards to i'ts aims as a chronology of the street? it gives no actual history of the evolution of built form in the street prior to the curernt boom, nor does it provide any paticular commentary on the crop of current buildings, it just recycles facts about various buildings built around here in the past decade. we can surely to better on a forum dedicated to urban issues, and as such criticism is warranted

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3000's picture

Also I thought the "Uni Tower" proposal got knocked back/developer backed out given how shit it was.

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Adrian's picture

Bilby your extremist anti highrise anti development views are getting really tiresome.

If you had a balanced and fair view of development in this city people might take you more seriously instead your just showing yourself up to be a Michael Buxton mouthpiece - perhaps it's your multi ?

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Bilby's picture

I have no idea what you are talking about, Adrian.

When have I ever expressed what could be described as an "anti-highrise" or "anti-development" view? (Quotes to support your rant please).

What I have argued above is:

1. The article presents itself as "a chronology and evolution of A'Beckett Street" with barely any reference to the specific ways in which the street has changed, apart from the obvious (there are now towers and development sites appearing).
2. The heritage buildings lost in the last few years on A'Beckett Street could easily have been integrated with new development - high-rise or otherwise.
3. The fact that developers chose not to do this has incurred an uncessary opportunity cost on the city. In other words, the street has lost something important, in planning and urbanism terms, that could have been retained had other (better) decisions been made.

What is tiresome is the doe-eyed, uncritical, congratulatory rhetoric of some commentators on this site every time mention is made of how many towers developers have managed to pack into a CBD precinct or streetscape.Tall buildings are neither good nor bad in themselves - the design and planning of such imposing structures can be critiqued meaningfully, however.

So, I'll say it again - I have no problem with high rise buildings, and no problem with development of cities that actually has merit against certain civic and good design criteria. I do have a problem with the poverty of public discourse around these issues in Australia right now.

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SYmlb's picture

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the article. I also remember when A'Beckett was an unknown street, amazing to see how it has changed.

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3000's picture

I would actually like to see Bilby write an article for UM. You're obviously well researched in heritage and the history of Melbourne. Perhaps it would be a good opportunity to clear the air regarding your views on development in Melbourne once and for all.

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