Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Mark BaljakJuly 12, 2015 can reveal Singaporean firm Figtree Holdings Limited's proposal for what was formerly the Duke of Kent hotel on La Trobe Street. Better known as a builder of commercial and industrial facilities throughout east Asia, the group will press into Melbourne's high-rise residential sector via its subsidiary Figtree La Trobe Pty Ltd.

Securing the Duke of Kent for $14.08 million during 2014, Figtree subsequently added the adjoining 301-303 La Trobe Street in order to amalgamate both sites in the hope of gaining approval for a 213 metre residential tower.

Responsible for the preliminary development scheme devised for the Duke of Kent's sales campaign, DKO Architecture were also engaged in order to conceive the scheme for approval, with the application currently before the State Government. If successfully approved, 293-303 La Trobe Street would see 370 apartments delivered, consisting of one, two and three bedroom dwellings.

293-303 La Trobe Street application summary

Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Facing demolition. Image courtesy DKO Architecture
  • Planning application lodged April 2015
  • Site area: 667sqm with the Duke of Kent to be demolished
  • 66 level tower at 213m above ground (OLS ceiling)
  • Total GFA sought: 34,353sqm
  • ​370 apartments: 1/2/3 bedroom options
  • Podium parking for 61 vehicles and basement allowances for 168 bicycles
  • 50.2sqm of ground floor retail tenancy space
  • Level 1 amenities area and level 13/44 communal spaces

Ground level greatness?

DKO Architecture have employed a visually unique and highly interesting ground level interface to the site's three frontages, namely La Trobe Street, Sutherland Street and Flanigan Lane. To avoid creating a 'choke point' of sorts by building to the site's boundaries, the lower levels has been arched inwards so as to improve the pedestrian experience to both Sutherland Street and Flanigan Lane.

Framed by perforated golden metallic screens, a new plaza to the eastern perimeter will open up Sutherland Street in particular while also allowing for enhanced solar penetration.

According to the town planning report, the proposed urban realm will not only allow for increased pedestrian movement north and south along Sutherland Street, but also create a space where pedestrians can relax and congregate. Landscape consultancy T.C.L have envisaged bluestone public seating and Bower Vines climbing the metallic screens as a means of softening the space.

Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Street level interface. Image courtesy DKO Architecture

Tight site, tight fit

The tower is architectural resolved in a cylindrical shape with convex ends east and west which make a tower form unique to Melbourne. The use of dark blue glazing to the façade, interspersed with gold-colour glass, complements the perforated gold metal of the ground level plaza to create a building that will be an iconic building within the CBD.

The proposed built form has been sensitively designed to offer improved public amenity at ground level and excellent internal amenity, while also responding to the surrounding built (existing and approved / under construction).

Urbis, town planning report

The tight nature of the site has led to minimal setbacks to La Trobe Street and Flanigan Lane, although there is precedence in the area with current towers under construction also maintaining minor setbacks to all frontages. The design's intended setback to La Trobe Street ranges between 0 and 2.3 metres over levels 14 to 43, while the west boundary is setback between 4 and 5.57 metres in anticipation of a possible redevelopment of the adjoining property into the future.

Beyond level 44 the tower's form bulges, resulting in decreased east and west setbacks. It is noted within the planning documents that although 293-303 La Trobe Street's setbacks are minimal, recent projects in the area such as Victoria One and Brady Group's completed Melbourne Star & Sky employ little if any setbacks.

The tall and the short of it

As per many other pockets of inner Melbourne, the southern footpath of La Trobe Street between Elizabeth Street and Queen Street is in the grips of mass development with five residential towers at various stages of the development process. Eporo Tower, La Trobe Tower and The Carlson are all under construction, with another 48 level residential development approved atop the Celtic Club.

The above projects border the Guildford Lane Heritage Precinct which is a prime example of early twentieth century low-rise industrial and warehousing buildings, and quite a unique aspect of Melbourne's CBD. With limited blocks fronting La Trobe Street available for development, 293-303 La Trobe Street shapes as one of the last sizeable residential towers that will front both La Trobe Street and the heritage precinct.

Only in the last year has the scale of La Trobe Street as depicted below begun to change immensely; it remains to be seen how Figtree's proposal along with the aforementioned towers slot into the streetscape and what effect, if any, they have upon the adjoining Guildford Lane Heritage Precinct.

Figtree's Melbourne foray: 293-303 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
The Duke of Kent in times gone by. Image courtesy

293-303 La Trobe Street development team

  • Developer: Figtree La Trobe Pty Ltd
  • Architect: DKO Architecture
  • Town Planner: Urbis
  • Structural: Webber Design
  • Services & ESD: ADP Consulting
  • Building Surveyor: SW Partners
  • Traffic: GTA Consultants
  • Waste: Leigh Design
  • Land Surveyor: Bosco Johnson
  • Wind: MEL Consultants
  • Landscape Consultant: T.C.L

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak was a co-founder of He passed away on Thursday 8th of November 2018 after a battle with cancer. He was 37. Mark was a keen traveller, having visited all six permanently-inhabited continents and had a love of craft beer. One of his biggest passions was observing the change that has occurred in Melbourne over the past two decades. In that time he built an enormous library of photos, all taken by him, which tracked the progress of construction on building sites from across metropolitan Melbourne.

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