An unconventional opportunity for 7-23 Spencer Street

7-23 Spencer Street Development Plan. © Elenberg Fraser
7-23 Spencer Street Development Plan. © Elenberg Fraser

With the first details of Asset1's four-tower residential development appearing in recent weeks and demolition of the former Convention Centre underway, it seems the perfect time to consider some opportunities the site presents. I primarily have stronger pedestrian connections to the Yarra in mind.

The recently submitted planning application for 7-23 Spencer Street sees 1,321 square metres of retail space across two podiums, yet the development is limited in terms of scope and ambition by the well-worn 13-storey Crowne Plaza hotel to the south abutting the Yarra. This is a relic of time gone by where tall built form could meet the edge of the Yarra and no one would bat an eyelid.

While not included in the development plan for the Elenberg Fraser-designed scheme, Crowne Plaza could - through a staged development - be relocated to one of the four towers, allowing for future demolition of the existing structure. This scenario is depicted in the image below, dramatically opening up the river vista with views through to the Yarra's Edge towers beyond.

An unconventional opportunity for 7-23 Spencer Street
Mock-up of relocated Crowne Plaza and demolition of existing structure.

The removal would also allow for the provision of yet another public open space or park, bringing together the various elements along the Yarra's Northbank. Together with Seafarer's Rest and Batman Park, this would provide a green buffer between the glass and steel of the CBD's high-rises and the tranquility of the Yarra.

An unconventional opportunity for 7-23 Spencer Street
Indicative aerial showing riverfront park in-lieu.

Such a proposal however, is not without its drawbacks and would pose some issues such as the amount of solar access provided to any form of open space, and would no doubt inform the type of space that could potentially be built there.

Secondly most developers wouldn't really entertain the idea of losing a built asset that provides a steady income for an open space whose control would be transferred to the City of Melbourne, particularly when any development of similar scale and proximity, with the odd exception at Docklands would likely never be supported.

Removing Crowne Plaza is ultimately just a pipe dream, but I think it provides some food for thought. Urban Melbourne will provide an in-depth look at the site's development plan in due course.

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir

Laurence Dragomir is one of the co-founders of Urban Melbourne. Laurence has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in both the private and public sector specialising in architecture, urban design and planning. He also has a keen interest in the built environment, cities and Star Wars.

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bilby
Why not just refit the old brutalist beast? The lower levels are poorly designed in terms of their openness to the river, but they could be refitted to correct this problem, with a larger deck area built over the Yarra to the first pylon of the bridge (which wouldn't interfere with the boating channel as the side area is quite rocky and shallow). Mind you, I may be biased - this used to be my favourite fishing spot in the Melbourne area - many good memories of the hours spent at old World Trade!
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Cityscape
Great idea Laurence. I never thought of that scenario but it does make perfect sense.
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Purple Dawn's picture
The Crowne Plaza must either go or get made-over. It's so bad it's hard to look away from - like the proverbial car crash.
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