Melbourne's development march claims another victim

Melbourne's development march claims another victim
Melbourne's development march claims another victim

Melbourne Heritage Action is less than impressed that a proposed student accommodation tower located at 42-50 La Trobe Street has been given the nod by City of Melbourne councillors, further eroding the limited heritage value that this particular stretch of La Trobe Street has managed to cling to.

Indeed, City of Melbourne resolved to issue a Notice of Decision to Grant Permit last Thursday evening for the project. In its most recent form which saw it land before City of Melbourne during April, 9 objectors were noted against the development which has a nominal value of $75 million.

Brisbane-based Blue Sky Funds is championing the project which would further add to the strong number of student accommodation projects currently in the Melbourne pipeline.

Melbourne's development march claims another victim
Melbourne Heritage Action's take on the project

Melbourne Heritage Action's response to the decision was blunt:

It’s arguably Melbourne City Council’s most shameful heritage failure in recent memory.

Councillors have variously sat on their own hands, ignored the advice of their own heritage experts, and ignored the pleas of their own constituents in allowing the demolition of the former Burton’s Livery building at 50 La Trobe Street, a gorgeous, recognised, C-graded 1868 Victorian former carriageworks, in a relatively unique (for the CBD) Italianate style.

The building was left unprotected when in 2011, Council decided to ignore the advice of THEIR OWN HERITAGE EXPERTS in allowing the demolition of its twin building at 40 La Trobe St for an apartment tower, and ignoring contemporaneous recommendations to protect the rest of the streetscape.

Melbourne Heritage Action

Appearing first on Urban.com.au during 2015, 42-50 La Trobe Street was in the hands of DELWP. Subsequent redesigns to the project landed it below the 25,000sqm threshold, placing the project solely with City of Melbourne for the approvals process.

Melbourne's development march claims another victim
Hayball's depiction of a new La Trobe Street frontage

With a number of levels removed, the current scheme sees a tower of equal height to the nearby Conservatory apartment development; both will terminate at approximately 130 metres. 42-50 La Trobe Street is designed to accommodate 783 student beds in a number of configurations over 43 levels, with extensive amenities in tow.

Perhaps most salient to the article is the revamped ground level which is set to replace the 1868-era structure currently onsite.

Architects Hayball have sought to connect La Trobe Street with Bell Place which runs along the northern border of the site. The bluestone-paved laneway will be lined with active retail frontages and extensive external seating, catering for both students and the expanding population in the immediate area.

Melbourne's development march claims another victim
ADCO's Deakin Burwood student accommodation build

The apparent approval of 42-50 La Trobe Street adds to the already robust student accommodation development sector which is experiencing heightened activity at the moment.

On the back of recent completions at RMIT Bundoora, VUT Footscray and Monash Clayton, further builds are in progress within Melbourne's CBD and at Deakin Burwood. Additionally, GSA Group are at the tail end of the construction tender process for 205-223 Pelham Street which is set to commence shortly.

Most recently South Africa-based Redefine secured 16-32 Leicester Street on the doorstep of the CBD with intentions of bowling over the multi-level car park for another 700-bed student housing development.

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Student accommodation Heritage City of Melbourne

Comments (11)

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What would you like to say about this project?
bilby
The idea that property owners have the right to "do whatever they want" with their property is an overly convenient fiction, however. There has never been such a situation in Australia, even in colonial times, controls such as prohibitions on quarrying within town boundaries, certain types of trade and other uses have existed over most subdivisions ever since the land first was regulated by the crown in the 18th and 19th centuries. It should therefore not come as a surprise that property continues to be regulated in these ways today, despite the fact that the powerful still find ways to influence the authorities to leverage additional speculative value from their property, at the expense of the wider community.
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tayser
^ It'd be interesting to see how this property rights has evolved since the Magna Carta - just doing a little bit of reading on the background of MC and found that there are still 3 parts of the MC that are a part of English law and most other sections have been superseded by other laws.

But around 1788, it'd be interesting to see how the law on property rights was written (and how it was interpreted) and transported to NSW.

I know there's a fair few property lawyers on here/viewing the site - there's going to be a chain (of statutes - Vic/AU/English) that we could be able to trace back to the MC, no?
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theboynoodle's picture
[quote]And once again this TOTALLY BIZARRE attitude that purchasing a piece of property comes with some sort of default right to build on it. Where when and how has that principle ever become established?[/quote]

Well we can get deeply into legal philosophy if you like, but Australia broadly works along the anglo-saxon principle that everything is legal until legislated otherwise. So the default position is that if you own a piece of property then you can do whatever the damn hell you like with it.

When it comes to development, however, all sorts of restrictions are placed on landowners which, when combined, for broad parameters within which the landowner can, again, do whatever the damn hell he likes.

I totally dispute the idea that this right to build on your own property is 'bizarre'. I think it's natural and proper.. but perhaps we occupy opposite sides of a philosophical debate on that point. I think it's the job of the law to place such restrictions on the rights of landowners so as to maintain order, represent the interests of those impacted, and deal with the externalities of development.

This case isn't a failure of the core principles of planning law, it's a failure of the application of those potential frameworks to the site in question.

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bilby
Agreed, that is also a significant issue in Melbourne, John Proctor. There is a key difference, however - in the first case, heritage implies a kind of civic ownership. Once it has become evident that a place has high heritage value (as was established by council's own advisory in this case), then there is a moral (or perhaps we could just say, civic) imperative to safeguard the aspect of the site that corresponds to this heritage. Council failed in this respect.

In the case you mention, where a developer seeks to have the rules changed in their favour, what is "lost", in civic terms, is less tangible. If more floors are added to a site than would otherwise have been the case, there may be amenity impacts, which do affect certain civic "goods" (e.g. sunlight penetration or wind effects, for example), but these can sometimes be mitigated or traded against. In the case of heritage, what is lost is not merely site specific, but cultural. The demolition of a building like Burton's Livery and Stables not only reduces urban amenity, but permanently removes a piece of the mosaic of Melbourne's cultural heritage.

Sure, we can still view photographs and talk about the age of the horse and cart in Melbourne's history in an academic way, but that built or embodied urban connection to that past will now be irrevocably cut off from the public consciousness.

Soon, it may be possible to imagine the presence of this past world in Melbourne - but it will be an impoverished, sidelined kind of imagination, lacking the impact and presence of the physical site that exists currently. As such the story of these places is diminished in civic memory.

Imagine if instead of the bland "laneway" development at the base of the student apartments, we had retained Burton's Coach Builders as a student lounge, or cafe as a permanent, physical reminder of this aspect of life and commerce in the 19th century? Many of those students would no doubt be from overseas, and just by virtue of the unique identity of this space, would gain an immediate insight into Melbourne's past, it's history of development as a colony and its place in the industrial revolution. But as it is, they will arrive at their dormitory spaces in 2018 to find nothing more than a contemporary streetscape of glass and aluminium that says little more about the place they are studying in than the airport terminal through which they entered the country. This is the opportunity cost of heritage lost.
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johnproctor
In considering the planning permit application the City of Melbourne had no basis to consider heritage, period. Without a heritage overlay demolition of the building was not in question.

In your world they could have rejected the application and just had it appealed to VCAT for approval - wouldn't that be a waste of money. The sort of money they haven't been investing Heritage Reviews for the last 30 years.

I don't care if you don't like that Adam Ford but it is a fact.


Bilby - I agree with your point. Heritage overlays are always placed on land that someone owns. What would be unusual with an interim heritage protection order is for the application for permit to trigger the response by Council. It happened recently with the Palace Theatre at the top of Bourke but generally not something that occurs.

While the position I've taken here appears to support development I'm equally (more) concerned about 'changing the rules' in favour of developers when they request it to increase yield. Eg. buy land in a height limited area or whatever and seek a site specific amendment (or a Ministerial call in) to reap more profit from a site.
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