City of Melbourne releases draft guidelines and buys Munro site

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City of Melbourne releases draft guidelines and buys Munro site
Block Plan - Therry, Elizabeth, Franklin and Queen Streets.

City of Melbourne recently released a development control document consisting of a series of design guidelines for the site bound by Therry, Elizabeth, Franklin and Queen Streets. This precedes the release of the draft masterplan for the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal due for community engagement in May 2015.

In part the guidelines were drafted to help inform future development of the block, but with a focus on what is known as the 'Munro site'. The 6,462 square metre site is defined by of a series of old red-brick buildings housing a supermarket, cafes, antique shops and even a Mr Burger. This morning, the City of Melbourne announced that it was the successful bidder for the Munro site paying $76,000,000 (plus transaction costs) with settlement on July 1, 2015. Savills City Sales & Investments directors Clinton Baxter and Nick Peden facilitated the deal.

The site is illustrated below within its context.

City of Melbourne releases draft guidelines and buys Munro site
'Munro site' highlighted as part of the greater site. © City of Melbourne

The block bounded by Therry, Franklin, Elizabeth and Queen streets has always played an important part in the Queen Victoria Market precinct.

This parcel of land is currently for sale. The City of Melbourne believes it is of major strategic importance for the city and the future of the market precinct as we embark on a suite of renewal projects for the market and its surrounds.

The City of Melbourne has drafted development guidelines for developers and decision makers who may have an interest in purchasing or developing the site.

The purpose of these development guidelines is to support a best practice approach for the development of the site, consistent with the principles underpinning the renewal of the precinct.

Council has resolved to provide the guidelines to the real estate agent managing the sale of the site, for the attention of those submitting an Expression of Interest to purchase and also to make the guidelines publically available.

Council also resolved that a request be made to the vendor and the real estate agent for the EOI period to be extended to ensure any interested parties have time to consider the guidelines.

City of Melbourne

Key themes and desired outcomes

The document is structured into four sections consisting of key themes or desired outcomes which are supplemented by a series of preferred outcomes accompanied by an outlining rationale for each point.

Building envelope

  • Munro Site currently for sale
  • Heritage Overlays affecting the block
  • Retain and restore key buildings: Avoid tabula rasa development
  • Mandatory Max. and Min. Podium: Heights to street frontages
  • Central Zone: Set at least 10m back from street frontages

Access and precinct car park

  • Create Mid-Block Pedestrian Link: to promote access for all
  • Existing Crossovers Required: but minimise traffic in QVM Heart
  • Accommodate QVM Parking: one of multiple sites

Streetscape and frontages

  • Wrap Inactive Uses : carparking in usable building space
  • Activate Pedestrian Mid-Block Link

Sustainability and architectural design quality

  • Sustainability and Architectural Design Quality

Other preferences

The guidelines set out a preferred minimum 20 metre and maximum 30 metre podium height similar to nearby Melbourne Terrace, with any height greater than 20m to be setback from streets by 10m. This would provide an active wrap to the potential relocation of 400 public car spaces onsite from the current QVM carpark.

Council also wishes to avoid a 'tabula rasa' development scenario where the site is essentially treated as a clean slate, thus avoiding demolition of significant structures. Instead a more integrated development approach is encouraged which promotes cross site links for pedestrians between Therry and Franklin Street's as it is one of very few blocks in the CBD lacking any form of continuous north-south mid-block public pedestrian links.

Purchase Announcement

Prolific tweeter Cr. Stephen Mayne this morning made the following comments about the purchase by Melbourne City Council.


It is refreshing to see a council get on the front foot and set a series of parameters for a key site within the city. Charting out the type of development that council expects for the site which if adhered could see a rather smooth planning and approvals process whilst also providing developers and the public with some level of certainty surrounding the site. Even more refreshing is when council considers the site to be of enough significance to warrant purchasing the site themselves as has been observed this morning to facilitate renewal of another key city asset in the Queen Victoria Market.

It would be a beneficial exercise for similar guidelines to be drafted by councils around metropolitan Melbourne on other key sites that come up for sale, but I feel where the guidelines are somewhat lacking is in the best practice and benchmarking which sees the lack any examples/exemplary projects, but without necessarily being too prescriptive. Keeping in mind that while the concept of 'good' design may be a rather subjective notion, it is one that should be encouraged, pursued and fostered.

The inclusion of a requirement for the design of any proposed development to be reviewed during various stages of the design process by the Office of the Victorian Architect Design Review Panel is a step in the right direction as well.

On September 30th City of Melbourne resolved to approve the guidelines and with their purchase of the site are now to be implemented. The outcome will be quite interesting and it may set a template for future development of consolidated sites.

The full development guidelines document and Council's recommendation relating to the adoption of the guidelines are available from the City of Melbourne website.

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Discussion (15 comments)

Alastair Taylor's picture

One wonders if a) any residential component will be included now that CoM will take ownership and b) if they'll try something different with affordable housing components?

Interesting times ahead.

Bilby's picture

This site has existing height controls and a heritage overlay (HO7) - it appears that council will now use as justification the excuse that it made it's intentions clear before buying, and that it will now remove those height controls and flatten most of the existing low-rise heritage buildings, including the intact lane way frontages within the site. This is a cynical exercise from CofM - Meburnians deserve an explanation if the established heritage value of this site is to be compromised in such an ad hoc way. Keeping the Mercat Cross, but destroying the rest of the intact row of historic shops it is part of makes no sense - after all, the upper levels only became a hotel in the '80s. Prior to that, it was just the bookend shop to the whole red brick row. What justifies keeping it as a remnant section and then flattening the rest? Let's hope we can expect more of a community focused adaptive reuse of this site, rather than more podium and tower developments here. At present, given the comments from council (an in particular, councillor Mayne), the signs don't look good.

Mark Baljak's picture

Hope you're not suggesting another affordable housing block. CoM were responsible for approving this monstrosity over the road on a gateway site into the CBD - shameful design!

Aussie Steve's picture

I agree Mark, that disaster of a development at the old Drill Hall is shameful!

Bilby's picture

Of course, the fact that it is affordable housing should have nothing to do with the fact that it is ugly / badly designed. A decent architect could have addressed the design issues well, even with a tight budget. I hadn't seen the interiors before - they actually look pretty good, but yes, what a terrible design externally! There is no reason why public / affordable housing can't be well designed / beautiful to look at. As described in the link, the "iconic" heritage building that has been "redeveloped" has also suffered rather badly as a result of the additions on top of the Drill Hall - it hardly reads as iconic now, does it? Let's hope CofM has something much, much better in mind when dealing with the Munro site.

Rohan Storey's picture

I would have thought with the parameters not having a final height limit, and the Mayor previously talking about 50 storeys, and the price they paid, that whatever goes there would have to have a pretty high return. Council will probably join up with a developer, who will develop the site to the max to make more $ themselves, and promise to maximise pay back to Council. Hopefully some affordable housing will be built in, or perhaps even family friendly accommodation instead of tiny one bedders, that is something that Council is in a position to do. In fact there should be lots more than that, it should be full of public facilities, maybe subsidised artists studios (im always going on about that!), and retail complementary to the market, not in competition.

But really I dont get what exactly the Council thinks is the problem with the market in the first place, except that the carpark is ugly, and the (food) traders need better facilities for their stalls (and to be open more often). And I dont see why a park is the best option on the carpark site, when theres a large park across the street ! Its all about not touching the bones, but even creating a park will disturb bones, they're not very deep. I would like to see a market-related public space or even a european style glass shed with more fresh food / specialist food retailers on the site. I dont see why everyone is so squeamish, why not dig up the bones and re-bury them deeper, or place in an underground vault, happens all the time in Europe - i head that this would be 'too expensive', but they have just now spent $76mill which they may or may not get back....

And what does this mean for the other 50 storey tower council was talking about for the south end of the site ? Which by the way would overshadow the Flagstaff Gardens in the winter.

Rant over.


Riccardo's picture

Over here in a provincial part of Japan, it is clear Australia have no fcukimg clue how to build and run a market.

QVM Is vastly overrated, by Melbourne boosters who completely disregard real gems like Barcelona or Lyon or even little old rural Japan, where i had about fifty separate stalls selling absolutely exquisite seafood which you buy and then take to a grill room and grill it yourself over hot charcoal and downed with several tapped beers.

Any condition i would put on the market is strict performance criteria for any market stall, get rid of the junk, and the food section must meet judging criteria from a European or Asian market specialist.

Aussie Steve's picture

I wouldn't be crying over the loss of any buildings on this site. The red brick facades are not contributing a great deal to the street scape and this is coming from a heritage advocate. Mind you, I don't know what the lanes are like, but if we only kept facades and got rid of the rest, I wouldn't be upset. There are more important disasters we should have/need to prevented/prevent.

Bilby's picture

You present us with a classic 'false dilemma', Aussie Steve - i.e. we can either have council-driven destruction of the site's heritage, or we can tackle "more important disasters" (assume you mean the likes of world poverty, climate change, etc?). Actually, we can do both - develop the city responsibly for the good of the Melbourne community, and tackle these big picture issues. And lastly, I'm not sure what you mean when you say that "the red brick facades are not contributing a great deal to the streetscape" in a heritage sense? They are the heritage streetscape in Therry Street - not all heritage buildings are important because of their grandeur. Some of the most important parts of historic Melbourne are important because they are humble examples of functional / utilitarian buildings from an earlier age. Your level of "upset" or whether you experience an emotional response to the loss of these buildings or not is not the issue here - it is whether or not Melbourne as a city can hold on to its remaining heritage in a meaningful way. This historic block is an almost perfectly intact example of a heritage precinct that demonstrates the uses, buildings styles and low-rise dense urban "feel" associated with the old market precinct - it would be idiocy to knock it over in 2014 after it has survived this long. We should creatively reinterpret the uses for these structures and activate the historic red brick and bluestone fronted lane ways as Melbourne has so successfully done in the recent past.

johnproctor's picture

I tend to agree bilby.

its going to be very hard for City of Melbourne to argue against other heritage overlay demolitions etc if they allow broad acre demolition on this site.

its quite a big site but an awkward enough site that you might only get 3 towers on it where as for the same area in a square you could get 4 towers.

so... if you're only building three towers there is some potential to 'save' more of the site than you might otherwise have done...

but given the awkward layout and the clear intent to put a great big carpark on the site the carpark is likely to be on the Therry Street fronatge and that is where the half decent buildings are. the last few buildings fronting Queen past hte hotel don't appear ot have much heritage about them (eg. that glass atrium facade area).

Bilby's picture

Fair enough, Riccardo - but would knocking over most the heritage buildings for an above ground carpark and residential towers next to the Vic Market add to or diminish its potential as a great market site?

Riccardo's picture

Bilby I'm not sure it matters either way. Hachinohe markets look ti be mid 80s, of no special architectural merit yet do the job well.

When I look south along William St i see a cluster of 80s mid rise offices of no special look. Along Franklin and north Queen all sorts of odds and sods. More consistent heritage along Dudley or Victoria. On Peel all sorts of forgettable 80s low rise. If you were looking for a full heritage precinct, this ain,t it.

Which brings me to my pet topic for heritage enthusiasts. Paris, and to some extent London, were able to completely quarantine whole slabs of these cities from random ad hoc low quality modernism, but Melbourne did not. Why?

Docklands shut down in the 60s when containers came in yet sat idle till the 90s. Why? You could have like Paris, confined the glass curtain walls to there.

Re markets, Melbourne labours under the burden of believing it needs multiple 'iconic' (i hate this word) markets at Qvm, prahran, south melb etc. one good one would be better. They don't even specialise. Melb never got the idea of a fish market right and fit for retail like Sydney.

Bilby's picture

Yes, we could have 'quarantined' the world's last great intact Victorian city - but we didn't. So my attitude now is to protect and adaptively reuse the heritage built form that remains. A good analogy would be the renovation of an old Victorian terrace house. Do you go in, gut it and remove all the original cast iron fireplaces, cornices, remaining existing plaster and brickwork, and replace with plasterboard, sparkly downlights and concrete floors? Or do you carefully retain and repair what is there and extend the building in a contemporary but sensitive manner? The best renovations just about always reuse and repair important heritage elements. We should do the same with Melbourne and the Munro site next to the Queen Victoria Market.

Nicholas Harrison's picture

Should we ban the demolition of any building left in Melbourne from before a certain date, say 1960?

Bilby's picture

The issue you raise, I would see it more in terms of percentages, Nicholas. Once we lose a certain percentage of heritage building stock from a particular era (say the 1960s, as you suggest as an end date), then yes, it would be prudent to consider listing what remains, because pretty soon we will have no significant buildings represented from that particular era in the Melbourne CBD. Matthew Guy says he doesn't want to see Melbourne 'awash' with them, but how many actually remain. Can you name any? And as a percentage of Victorian Melbourne, what remains is likewise very low - so yes, I think we should retain and creatively adapt every last Victorian era building still standing in the Melbourne CBD. Why not?

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