Are 200 metre residential towers the new norm for Melbourne?
There is indeed a certain measure of prestige or stature when a tower of any description reaches 200 metres or above in height. Physically inconsequential yet impressive within the psyche, tall towers evoke a sense of grandeur. To that end Melbourne had up until this year six towers that measured to roof (not concerning ourselves with pesky spires) 200 metres or more in height. Impressive yes but only a shadow of what is in store for this fair city. Compiled below is a list of current 200 metre plus towers that intend to make their mark on the Melbourne skyline.
While there is a solitary office tower approved at 272 Queen Street, from planning to currently under construction there are a staggering 14 residential skyscrapers of 200 metres or more in the pipeline. Add the initial information available on a number of other sites and that number may swell to a staggering 19. How is this remarkable number possible? It's essentially a combination of the continuing shift toward apartment living coupled with a booming population, amended planning policy/decision making and in part the constant flow of Asian property developers into the local market; all of which culminate to produce the 200 metre plus towers highlighted below.
See below a tabulated (left to right) description of the 14 towers that are currently in or have progressed through the official planning channels.
|568 Collins Street||218m||Stamoulis Property Group||Bruce Henderson||Under Construction||588|
|Tower Melbourne - 150 Queen Street||226m||CEL Australia||Elenberg Fraser||Site demolition||581|
|Prima Pearl - 31 Queensbridge Street||254m||PDG Corporation||Disegno Australia||Under Construction||667|
|Vision - 500 Elizabeth Street||226m||Brady Group||Peddle Thorp||Under Construction||524|
|127 A'Beckett Street||203m||ICD Property Group||Elenberg Freser||Planning||632|
|Victoria Tower - 452 Elizabeth Street||241m||Golden Age||Elenberg Fraser||Planning||622|
|1 Queensbridge Street||276m||PDG Corporation||Bates Smart||Planning||604|
|25 Queensbridge Street||236m||Suleman Group||Bruce Henderson||Approved, site for sale||586|
|54 Clarke Street||238m||Baracon||BKK Architects||Registration of Interest||270|
|Australia 108||300m approx||Fender Katsalidis||Fender Katsalidis||Registration of Interest||500 approx|
|250 Spencer Street T1||295-300m||Far East Consortium||Cottee Parker||Planning||750|
|250 Spencer Street T2||235-240m||Far East Consortium||Cottee Parker||Planning||805|
|250 Spencer Street T3||205-210m||Far East Consortium||Cottee Parker||Planning||520|
|250 Spencer Street T4||225-230m||Far East Consortium||Cottee Parker||Planning||778|
Additional towers on the horizon
Only last week Malaysian-based property conglomerate UEM Sunrise announced Elenberg Fraser as the winner of an architecture design competition for the prized 224-252 LaTrobe St site, currently a multi level car park. Yet to be lodged with state government body DTPLI for approval, the star-shaped tower is expected to reach 78 levels, equating to roughly a 250 metre tower directly opposite Melbourne Central. With over 500 residential apartments, the tower is slated to commence its sales campaign during 2014 according to Malaysian property website propertyguru.com.my.
Not content with Tower Melbourne, Singapore-backed CEL Australia are in the process of creating another substantial tower on the portion of the former CUB site on Victoria Street which they purchased earlier this year from Grocon. Having used Elenberg Fraser for their two previous Melbourne projects, it's a fair assumption the architecture firm will be employed again. Documents within another planning application currently before DTPLI indicate Elenberg Fraser are creating a 66 level, 226 metre residential complex as one of two expected towers for the site.
Elsewhere Singaporean firm Hiap Hoe has also enlisted Elenberg Fraser to create a scheme for their recently acquired site at 380 Lonsdale Street, also a multi level car park. With towers of up to 60 levels anticipated this development may also nudge the 200 metre threshold, bringing considerable bulk to the CBD centre in the process. Expectations are also high with a Singaporean developer securing 38 Freshwater Place after Australand recently divested itself of the prime Southbank site. The recent sales campaign called for a minimum 70 level (equating to 210m) tower with in excess of 640 apartments possible. Another to watch for in the medium term is AXF Group's planned 60 plus level tower at Total House on Russell Street, creating a gateway to China Town.
There are of course additional projects not yet in the public eye.
The Asian influence
Many articles have been written of late via mainstream media covering the surge of Asian based property outfits into the Melbourne market. Seven towers listed above are backed by Asian developers, swelling by potentially another five if you count those on the horizon. Urban Melbourne won't delve into the mechanics of this new wave of investment yet certain factors are worth mentioning.
The majority of these Asian developers proposing 200 metre plus developments within Melbourne are well established within their domestic markets, covering a number of countries within Asia. As such each have an established yet diversified customer base which are currently very willing to purchase offshore properties due to a number of factors such as prohibitive domestic ownership and long term investment horizons. Also worth considering are the differing sources and methods in which these firms can source funding for their Melbourne projects; generally sourced within Asia, lending criteria are not as stringent as in Australia.
Add a wealth of experience with overseas developments and the assertion is that many if not all major towers proposed by Asian developers will proceed as they are essentially independent of both Australian sales and Australian capital in order to proceed. This is of course a luxury most Australian-based property developers do not hold.
Local architects lead the way
Whether it be geographic isolation or domestic expertise, all the architects chosen to design Melbourne's growing crop of 200 metre plus towers are Australian firms, with only Cottee Parker based outside of Melbourne. Considering the mass of overseas work on the books for many Melbourne and Australian architecture firms, particularly into China, it's a safe assumption that local firms were chosen due to the high quality of their works and excellent local knowledge of what can and cannot be achieved in the environment in which they operate.
All towers for the most carry glazed curtain walls and are externally aesthetically pleasant. Offering my opinion 127 A'Beckett Street by Elenberg Fraser and 54 Clarke Street via BKK Architects are true imperious designs that would slot into any skyline worldwide. Defined by their transitional yet flowing lines and these two scions of Melbourne's development landscape will be well worth the wait.
Finding a balance
Are 200 metre towers the new norm for Melbourne? Arguments could be made either way with a myriad of factors such as vacancy rates, investor expectations, overseas student numbers, domestic and international economic conditions, capital lending criteria, population growth and government policy all playing their part.
Clearly a trend is appearing though and for those out there who correlate a city's success and grandeur to the height and breadth of its skyline, a golden era is in store for Melbourne.