Abbotsford riverfront project seeks community connection

Abbotsford riverfront project seeks community connection
Abbotsford riverfront project seeks community connection

Austere Melbourne apartment blocks separated from the street and surrounding suburb by imposing podium bases and parking lots are being replaced by developments that engage with their surroundings and create “village hall” community spaces.

Such an approach has been adopted in the design of the Abbotsford riverfront project on the banks of the Yarra River, a three stage mixed-use residential project by Melbourne-based developer Hamton and designed by architects Rothelowman.

The project, with the first two stages Eden and Haven currently under construction, has deliberately created a public thoroughfare to the Yarra River, incorporating the shops, restaurants and cafes as well as pedestrianised pathways around the site.

As explained by Rothelowman, the design seeks to magnify the experience of transitioning from “grey urban environment to the green river’s edge” and “develops the idea that the architecture and landscape can function as an emulsifier between the fast, frenetic nature of Victoria Street and the calm, tranquil environment of the Yarra River”.

One of the key features of the development is a publicly accessible “pedestrian line between Victoria Street and the Yarra River trail” with the aim of “bringing the tranquillity of the river corridor up to Victoria Street”.

The pedestrian street acts as a place for both the public and residents to meet as well as being the main point of access to each residential lobby.

“Cyclists will also be able to access the Yarra River trail via this street, using bicycle gutters to navigate stairs.”

The project dates back to 2008 and according to Chris Hayton, principle at Rothelowman, included an extensive design process lasting 16 months prior to lodgement of the plans and which sought to collaborate with the local council.

“The council said they would consider allowing the development rise to a greater height in exchange for public amenity,” Hayton tells Property Observer.

He says the idea was to create a new link between Victoria Street and the Yarra River, which included the design of a public space even though it is on private title.

The space has been naturally designed to make visitors or residents want to head down to the river or stay and make use of it during their lunch time.


Hayton says the idea was to create a “spine” with different uses coming off it including restaurants, small cafes, waterfront and offices for lease and purchase with the architectural expression changing to public-use.

No residential is included above this space.

Hayton says design is based around the concept of the “village hall” – a community hub provided by the developer that can be used by the community as they wish.

“We want people from the outside to come in and for the development to interact with the street.

“We don’t want walls of car parking as you get in developments in Southbank.

“The evolution of Melbourne is demanding it. The population is more sophisticated. If they buy or invest they are looking for a place where people will want to go and live, where they are able to walk downstairs to get their milk and where they don’t have to get into their car to kick the footy around.”

He calls it the “milk bar resurgence” and adds that the lessons can be learnt from some of the well-known failings of mixed-use developments at Docklands.

“If you buy an apartment, it’s not a bad idea to live above shops and offices. It creates a sense of place.”

Hayton says it’s something that’s happening in other cities that are more mature in their development than Melbourne.

“It’s an interesting development time for cities like Melbourne.

“We can’t just expand, growth must occur in different way, without sacrificing quality of life.

“Too often, it may be good pieces of architecture but it is not integrated within the greater context of its immediate site and surroundings,” he says.

The first stage, Eden featuring 214 apartments all of which are sold, is due for completion in 2013.

The second stage, Haven featuring 194 is currently being marketed with apartments currently under construction.

The third stage, due to feature 180 apartments is at the town planning phase ahead of marketing.

The project is being developed by Melbourne developer Hamton with the first two stages being built by LU Simon.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer


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