Last Thursday Urban Melbourne glossed over 16 separate residential projects within close proximity to, or located on Smith Street which bisects Collingwood and Fitzroy. Later that day we received a press release from the Smith Street Action Group entitled "Rear Window becomes Next Window as Inappropriate Density Invades."
A full copy of the media release is available for reading.
SSAG's release is worth reading and carries some valid points. "Appropriate gentrification is good, considering that living spaces do allow people to live well" is their overall stance, however the approved 237 Smith Street development has raised the group's level of discontent.
I'll play the devil's advocate today in order to further explore the issues at hand by posing a series of questions.
A 6 level building, proposed to sit atop the hugely popular Messina Gelato, 237 Smith Street is an example of the new micro and highly dense apartment building that will soon populate Melbourne’s inner suburbs.
Are apartment buyers/investors required to purchase micro and highly dense apartments? Last I checked, no. 33 square metre apartments are insanely small, yet if the developer sees fit to cater for (perceived) demand by adding micro apartments to their development profile, good luck to them. The market will dictate whether this is an act of frivolity or otherwise.
“The building has sight lines directly into my apartment, not only does it completely cancel my northside view, but what I will be serving for dinner will be clearly visible to my neighbours, they will be able to count the peas on my plate.” Owen Harris
What can I say? To lessen confusion, 231 Moor Street and 231 Smith Street occupy the same buildings - Panama House on the intersection of Smith & Moor. Directly north of the recently completed Panama House apartment conversion at 231 Smith Street will sit 237 Smith Street.
One obscured light well (material 9 in image below) and one 700mm high glazed southeast corner window are the only non precast/metal areas to the southern boundary. Unless Inspector Gadget is counting your peas, overlooking is a moot point. Having said that the prospect of being greeted by a blank wall every day is somewhat depressing.
231 Moor Street developers Neometro were given written notice for 237 Smith Street proposal as early as September 2012 and the 229 Smith Street development as early as March 2013 and did not inform their purchasers.
What place for Caveat emptor? I was always under the impression that developers had no requirement to inform buyers of proposed neighbouring developments, rather the onus was on the individual - after all the burden rests with the individual buying the property to consider and essentially accept that at some point in the future, a development may encroach upon their amenity and views. "Views are a privilege, not a right."
Why attempt to hold Neometro to account when the rest of the industry does not operate to that standard.
Is this an acceptable development? One that escaped attention in last week's article is the conversion of the most magnificent Patersons Building from a general arts/office space into private apartments. The redeveloped apartments will be positively spacious compared to what is proposed for 237 Smith Street yet will prospective buyers for The Patersons consider that airspace surrounding their complex may be lost in years to come...unlikely.
Ultimately as much as action groups serve their purpose and highlight poor outcomes in both planning and development, from a buyer's perspective future disputes and disappointments can be for the most avoided by genuinely considering the dynamics of the location of your intended purchase both now and into the future. Sometimes that's easier said than done.
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