Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street

Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street
Mark BaljakDecember 11, 2014

One of 2014's largest planning applications has had its turn before the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee, with the associated report on the intended mixed-use tower raising a number of concerns.

Championed by Singaporean tycoon Koh Wee Meng via his property development arm Fragrance Group, the tower seeks to stand at 284 metres above Spencer Street on what was/is the Savoy Tavern. Having paid $44.5 million for the site during June, Fragrance Group submitted initial plans during August, with a refined amendment put forward during September 2014 in response to a request for further information sought by State body DPTLI.

134-160 Spencer Street, Melbourne summary

Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street
Artist's impressions of the proposed tower. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser
  • 134-160 Spencer Street joins 555 Collins Street as Fragrance Group's Melbourne projects.
  • Architect: Elenberg Fraser.
  • Current 1,833sqm site use: Savoy Tavern bar/kitchen/pub.
  • Revised application submitted September 2014.
  • Proposed: 89 level residential tower at 284 metres to roof.
  • 990 apartments and 280 hotel suites.
  • Likely hotel operator: Parc Sovereign.
  • 10 retail spaces between 35sqm and 47sqm.
  • ​Basement catering for 164 car parking spaces and 229 bicycles.
  • GFA: 90,739 sq.m.

Shake, rattle and roll

While the top and bottom form of 134-160 Spencer Street's tower component remains constant, the indicative floor plan below demonstrates the sizeable floor plate shift designed into the midriff. Beyond level 15 to 85 floor plates slink every second level, essentially producing 35 separate, undulating floor plates which from a distance creates a sensuous form.

General arrangements sees the hotel component located over floors 6 to 15 with 28 suites over each floor ranging between 20sqm and 39sqm. Perhaps the limited size of the hotel suites points toward affordable hotel chain Parc Sovereign expanding into Melbourne; a brand also controlled by Koh Wee Meng.

Level 5 will host indoor/outdoor communal facilities with strata offices, a restaurant, conference centre and function room plus fitness centre and gymnasium located through the podium. Level 87 will also carry residential recreation facilities. The balance of the tower is dedicated to the 990 apartments of one, two and three bedrooms. For the lucky few, the top floor of residential living at level 86 will carry a majority of one bedroom apartments, allowing for impeccable views without the penthouse price.

Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street
Expected level 86 floor plan. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser

A question of height

As mentioned a handful of concerns were raised, generally regarding matters surrounding access and vehicle parking. While the report to Future Melbourne considered these issues rectifiable, a more pressing concern regarding height has been raised:

The shadow diagrams submitted with the application indicate that the proposed building will overshadow Batman Park and the north bank of the Yarra. Buildings to the north of this park are generally modelled to ensure that shadows cast do not extend within 15 m of the north bank of the river between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm on 22 June. This being the case, the height of the building is considered excessive and will detract from or diminish the leisure and recreational purpose of Batman Park and Northbank promenade.

A condition is therefore recommended requiring the height of the building to be reduced so that there is no additional overshadowing of the Northbank Promenade by the proposed building. This might equate to a reduction of approximately 11 levels.

Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee
Future Melbourne and 134-160 Spencer Street
The expected shadow as seen within the Future Melbourne report


134-160 Spencer Street along with a handful of other key large-scale projects within inner Melbourne will act as a litmus test of sorts for the new State Government with Richard Wynne (assuming full health) set to define his tenure with a number of key planning decisions early in the new year. Will 134-160 Spencer Street remain unchanged or will the the recommendations to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee be adopted at a state level which would see the tower essentially lopped to approximately 250 metres in height?

Much can be drawn from the eventual decision laid down by the State Government.

Machinations aside 134-160 Spencer Street is a true statement delivered by Elenberg Fraser worthy of such a prominent position with Melbourne's skyline. I'd be delighted if the design were to remain as is although I suspect the State Government will take a stance in line with that of City of Melbourne's recommendations for height reduction.

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak was a co-founder of Urban.com.au. 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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