Flinders Street West set for further change

Laurence DragomirMay 25, 20170 min read

With Victoria Police vacating 637 Flinders Street in 2019 to relocate to shiny new digs at Cbus Property's 311 Spencer Street, Sydney-based owners Anton Capital are seeking to offload the site a mere two years after initially acquiring it. 

The site has strong potential as a development site for high-rise residential or office space, however marketing material from CBRE suggests a push for residential use. This is a clear shift away from its current use as a commercial building which forms part of the World Trade Centre Complex and one wonders what will become of the complex's identity should new owners pursue a residential scheme such as that depicted below.

The sale of 637 Flinders Street follows the sale earlier in the year of the three river facing buildings of the World Trade Centre by Asset1 to "private interests with connections to Malaysia" according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Whatever the sites' final fate, one thing is for certain, it would appear change is imminent. Already there is an application to demolish the pedestrian overpass over Flinders St, which has been closed off since construction started on Melbourne Quarter. It will be removed in the coming months if the City of Melbourne agrees.

According to Docklands News "the $870,000 project will remove the pedestrian bridge, make good of the WTC facade and install a new window to the opening of the facade after the bridge has been demolished."

Flinders Street West set for further change
Indicative concept for 637 Flinders Street. Image: CBRE

For years the World Trade Centre (WTC) stood alone at the periphery of Flinders Street save for the Mission to Seafarers and the disused docks and in a way remains a relic of an era when for the most part Melbourne turned its back to the Yarra.

The Docklands redevelopment zone changed all that as it sought to extend Melbourne's CBD down to the water, although it could be argued some buildings didn't learn from the Trade Centre but that's a topic of discussion for another day. 

The area surrounding the WTC has seen minor infill development with only Flinders Wharf apartments and a refurbishment of the complex's river frontage being undertaken. More recently the demolition of the former World Congress Centre has opened the door to redevelopment with approval in place for a three tower residential scheme. 

Previous concepts such as those depicted below suggested a desire to retain the WTC Complex as a hub of commerce but with new development to renew the site, including over site development on the Sidderley Street car park.

Though the likelihood of a tower of that scale seems fanciful in the current planning climate, it did act as a catalyst for improvements to the rest of the precinct shifting the focus away from the vehicle to the pedestrian.

The tower was aimed at luring KPMG, who eventually settled on its HQ just around the corner, occupying Collins Square's tallest building. 

Flinders Street West set for further change
Proposal for KPMG's new HQ and further commercial buildings at the WTC.

Another commercial scheme for the former convention centre site was approved in October 2012 and included two COX designed A-Grade commercial office towers of 26 and 20 storeys providing 88,325 sqm of office space and 377 car parking spaces.

This never proceeded after failing to attract an anchor tenant and was at one stage pitched at Victoria Police. 

Flinders Street West set for further change
COX scheme for two towers on the former World Congress Centre site. Image: Planning Report

Despite a few failed attempts and while 637 Flinders Street awaits a new owner to draft up a concrete proposal, there are a number of projects in the pipeline likely to get underway in the next year or so that will go some way to transforming the area. These are listed below;

Crowne Plaza

Flinders Street West set for further change
Crowne Plaza set to undergo a $20+ million dollar refurb.

There is currently a $20-30m tender out for an overhaul of Crowne Plaza Melbourne which adjoins the World Trade Centre. The exact nature of these works is yet to be confirmed but further improvements to the riverside and street level experience would be a good start.

731-739 Flinders Street

Flinders Street West set for further change
731-739 Flinders Street, Docklands. Image: Riverlee

The latest proposal for Riverlee's site at 731-739 Flinders Street is currently at planning awaiting a decision from Planning Minister Richard Wynne, following the submission of a revised mixed-use scheme prepared by Fender Katsalidis Architects which superseded an earlier approved commercial building.

The 13,200sqm Northbank site includes the historic Goods Shed 5 and will comprise a mix of residential, hotel and retail uses.

The proposal includes extensive public works, refurbishment of the wharf, restoration of the historic crane and delivery of a new public park. The development will be sympathetic to the Shed's industrial past, while adding significant amenity to the area for the community.

The leasehold was secured in 2011, and the freehold was purchased in 2015 from State Government. The project is currently in the planning stage; planning approval has been granted for the previous scheme - a commercial mid-rise 25,000sqm building.

- Riverlee

You can read about the initial scheme in greater detail here.

614-666 Flinders Street, Melbourne Quarter

Flinders Street West set for further change
Melbourne Quarter's Residential neighbourhood to Flinders Street on the left. Image: Lendlease

A project which has had a lot of air time on Urban.com.au in the last 12 months. Lendlease's Melbourne Quarter features a residential neighbourhood of with frontages along Flinders Street that will accommodate 3,000 future residents in approximately 1,690 dwellings across three towers.

The three apartment towers have been designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects with the first building, known as East Tower currently at sales.

Located at 628 Flinders Street, the 40-storey (136m) development will feature hanging gardens climbing the full height of the building.  A second tower, West Tower will rise a similar height while a shorter 58m building will be built adjacent to the Batman’s Garden park.

Already the first stage of restoration works have been undertaken to the heritage listed red brick and bluestone wall along Flinders Street which also acts as the primary entry into the site from the south.

Flinders Street West set for further change
New entry aperture through heritage wall into Melbourne Quarter. Image: Lendlease

7-23 Spencer Street

Flinders Street West set for further change
Approved development plan for 7-23 Spencer Street. Image: Elenberg Fraser

Elenberg Fraser initially developed a master plan comprising four towers for the redevelopment of the site for owners Riverlee who cleared and on sold the site with permit for three towers to Nuway Wy for around  $100m.  The master plan development concept proposes three towers that will accommodate:

  • A total of 1060 apartments;
  • 1340sqm of ground level retail space (787sqm in the north podium and 553sqm in the south podium)
  • 51 car parking spaces in the podium
  • 160 bicycle parking spaces
  • Total Gross Floor Area of 84,098sqm
  • The plot ratio is 9.9:1, based on a site area of 8486 sqm.
  • Tower 1 and 2 will be located to the south of Siddeley Street and will rise 27-storeys (RL 88.8m max.) accommodating 245 and 208 apartments respectively. 
  • Tower 3 will be located to the north of Siddeley Street and will rise 43-storeys (maximum RL 110.1m max) accommodating 487 apartments

Following the demolition of the existing structure, the site has been turned into a temporary park until such time as the site is ready to be developed. Each tower will be subject to separate planning applications once designs have been resolved.

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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