Singapore developer 'cheeky' for selling unapproved Melbourne CBD high-rise project off the plan: Lord mayor

Singapore developer 'cheeky' for selling unapproved Melbourne CBD high-rise project off the plan: Lord mayor
Singapore developer 'cheeky' for selling unapproved Melbourne CBD high-rise project off the plan: Lord mayor

A Singapore developer has been called “a bit cheeky” and "a little bit arrogant" by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle for selling apartments in proposed CBD skyscraper Melbourne Tower to Asian investors, despite not yet receiving planning approval from Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

CEL Australia, a subsidiary of Singapore-based developer Chip Eng Seng Corporation, is still awaiting a permit to build the 68-storey, 220-metre tower on the corner of Queen and Bourke streets.

Sydney developers have a greater reputation for the pre-approval sale practice, with half of the apartments in the Ceerose's Harbour Mill selling ahead of an expected approval in May. But NSW has a staged development process, and developers have pre-sold apartments with a fair degree of confidence of having the project approved.

Observers have noted that a 68-storey tower in the heart of the Melbourne CBD is another matter entirely.

The planning permit for the Melbourne Tower application features 581 apartments, 12 storeys of office space as well as retail and food services on the lower levels.

The skyscraper has been designed by local architects Elenberg Fraser, featuring thin undulating glass construction and would be just shorter than the iconic blue glass Rialto Tower, which rises to 250 metres at the Southern Cross station end of Collins Steet. The Eureka Tower on South Bank is Melbourne's tallest tower, rising to 297 metres.

According to Fairfax, the apartments in the building are being “heavily marketed to Asian investors, particularly a newly wealthy generation of Chinese entrepreneurs and business people”.

The application for Melbourne Tower was submitted on March 29 and is currently listed as “under assessment”.

The site at 150 Queen Street currently houses the 1960s-built 14-level office building known as the Prudential Building, which was purchased for $25.5 million in September last year following a joint Savills and Colliers International campaign. It was sold by Charter Hall, which bought it for $32 million in September 2007, just before the commercial property market peaked.

Its development is opposed by the Melbourne City Council, with Doyle, currently in an election battle, labelling it “too big”.

“In the core of our city we do have tall buildings, but we don’t want canyons, and we need to think about the culture of the city.

“At the footpath level it needs to be something that is active and adds to culture of Melbourne,” he told the Ten Network.

Doyle called the move to sell apartments prior to approval as “not only a bit cheeky” but also "a little bit arrogant" though there is nothing illegal about doing it either in Singapore or Melbourne.

“I understand this is still at [Victorian planning] minister [Matthew Guy’s] desk.

“He has not said yes or no.”

If Guy does say yes, Doyle said he could not fight the decision, as it is a ministerial decision.

Guy himself has also labelled the move to sell apartments in Melbourne Tower as "very cheeky".

''And that's very much an understatement – of someone to be selling off the plan to people on a tower that isn't approved," Guy told ABC Radio.

In a statement, CEL Australia said it has been “cooperating with the Department of Planning and Community Development in relation to the development approval for Tower Melbourne”.

CEL Australia corrected an earlier media release, which said it was co-operating directly with the minister's office.

Doyle says high-rise buildings need “human scale”.

“When you get mega-buildings you have to look at the context as a whole."

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer


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