Is this Melbourne's best new residential development?

Is this Melbourne's best new residential development?
Mark BaljakMarch 30, 2013

7 Florence St, aka The Commons is a development of 24 apartments over five levels abutting Anstey Station, Brunswick. Designed by Brunswick firm Breathe Architects for developer Small Giants, it carries a list of ESD features as long as it is impressive, they include:

  • An incredible 8-star energy rating.
  • Solar power & solar hot water.
  • Hydronic heating system.
  • Rooftop garden and communal vegetable patch, acting as insulation for the building.
  • Natural ventilation (no airconditioners installed).
  • Extensive use of recycled building products, including recycled timber floors.
  • First zero-car residential development outside the CBD, GoGet Car Share available.
  • Yearly Myki card included.
  • Vertical vegetation over northern facade, acting as sun shade.
  • Double-glazed windows.
  • Shared laundry room to minimise space and waste.
  • Chrome and aluminium replaced by copper, brass and mild steel, providing a better enviornmental outcome.
  • Use of cafe by residents as a communal area after business hours.
  • Extensive bike parking located internally & externally, including parking within the ground floor cafe.
Is this Melbourne's best new residential development?
The Commons, front and rear. Image courtesy Eco Citizen Australia
Is this Melbourne's best new residential development?
Vegetable garden. Image courtesy Eco Citizen Australia

Incorrect skyline graphic aside, the rooftop area (above) is designed to be more than a typical communal area that are generally underutilised areas in far too many apartment buildings. Seemingly designed to be functional rather than elegant, the communal vegetable garden in particular should lead to this area being a well used, rather than wasted space.

Currently Kubic Construction are well along the path to completion. Salvaged brickwork from the factory which used to stand on site is due to be making an appearance throughout the ground level soon. Held onsite, these bricks represent increased efficiency while lowering waste. Those readers who understand the area will know that many of these bricks as with many others in the area are sporting extensive street art and graffiti tags, so when reconstructed the brick walls should carry an ecclectic colour pattern, adding visual interest.

Is this Melbourne's best new residential development?
The Commons - construction progressing nicely

Upon completion Dead Man Espresso will move into the cafe space, this being their third Melbourne outlet following those in South Melbourne and Seddon. At that point they will where possible source produce from the rooftop garden, enforcing the notion of a self-sustaining building while residents can access the street via a stair well entry inside Dead Man Espresso fostering the notion of a communal hub. Also included throughout the ground floor will be three artist spaces.

So there you have it, an apartment building that's ideally situated and sized, ticks all the ESD boxes, is visually enjoyable and symapthtic to its history and surrounds - a strong enough case to make the most ardent higher density living / apartment critic sit up and take note. What becomes more difficult is scaleability, that being taking the ethos and features of a building such as The Commons and applying them to a 50 level apartment tower, not an easy prospect. Something else to consider, why don't more apartment buildings of similar size to The Commons carry similar ESD features? A question for planning authorities and responsible legislative bodies I suspect.

To answer my initial question, is this Melbourne's best new residential development? I say absolutely!

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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