Tea for two: Southbank's historic Tea House up for a towering addition

Tea for two: Southbank's historic Tea House up for a towering addition
Tea for two: Southbank's historic Tea House up for a towering addition

Historic buildings on Southbank are as rare as proverbial hen's teeth. Yet one of the few that has not been subject to development thus far is in line for a major new addition, with plans afoot for a hotel and high-end apartments.

The Robur Tea Building or Tea House at 28 Clarendon Street is included on the Victorian Heritage Register for its scientific, historical and architectural significance, and dates back to 1887. Developer RJ International hopes that in addition to bringing the Tea House back to its past glory, the State Government will find their plans for a 39 storey tower satisfactory.

Geelong-based architecture firm CLWA and heritage architects Lovell Chen have undertaken design work on the the elliptical tower. 

In addition to pre-application discussions with various governing bodies, the project team have also met with the Department of Justice, which owns the adjoining Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and CitiPower who maintain a caveat affecting the site; both have given in-principle support for the redevelopment.

28 Clarendon Street application summary

Tea for two: Southbank's historic Tea House up for a towering addition
Rendered perspective of the tower's podium . Image: OCD
  • 2,948sqm site occupied in part by the Tea House
  • Proposed 39 level tower at 145m
  • Gross Floor Area: 35,035sqm including the Tea House
  • Floor Area Ratio: 1:11.9
  • 312 hotel suites across levels 1-23
  • 38 apartments: 30 x 3BR, 6 x 4BR, 2 x 5BR
  • Provision for 105 car parking bays and 23 bicycle bays
  • 1 retail space at ground level facing Clarendon Street: 100sqm
  • Amenities include a restaurant, gym, pool, conference and function centre

Tea House modifications

In addition to the tower, the intended development will include a refurbishment of the Tea House, with the southern lift core to be demolished and the original facade reinstated. The refurbishment will also see Tea House altered from a commercial building to a multi-purpose structure, encapsulating a retail space to Clarendon Street, hotel lobby, restaurant, function centre and hotel suites within the existing structure.

The intended tower abuts a section of the Tea House's southern facade, in order to provide passage between old and new structures. The tower's ground level is set back 13m to 20m from Clarendon Street, with a landscaped forecourt accounting for the remaining space. The existing northern car park will be reworked but maintained for the hotel's principal drop-off zone.

The tower's lower levels will be predominantly clad in tessellated and perforated masonry and concrete screening, effectively shrouding vehicle parking within the podium structure. Amenities crown the podium with further hotel suites and apartments behind black curtain glazing thereafter.

Tea for two: Southbank's historic Tea House up for a towering addition
Tea House's southern addition will receive the chop. Image: Victorian Heritage Database

 Clarendon Street on a hotel hot streak

Melbourne's appetite for further hotel and serviced apartment suites is on show along Clarendon Street.

In addition to 28 Clarendon Street's 312 hotel suites, Yang Clarendon Pty Ltd has a mixed-use tower at 56 Clarendon Street under planning consideration. Along with hundreds of new apartments within the 48 storey mixed-use tower, 128 serviced apartment suites have been included over the design's lower levels.

64-68 Clarendon Street is also in the pipeline, with construction nearing commencement for a new Peppers Southbank hotel which is approved to yield a further 165 rooms over a 412sqm site.

28 Clarendon Street development team

  • Developer: RJ International (Aust) Pty Ltd
  • Architect: CLWA
  • Urban Context Report: The OCD
  • Transport Impact Assessment: GTA Consultants
  • Wind Assessment: MEL Consultants
  • ESD Statement: Murchie Consulting
  • Waste Management Plan: Leigh Design 
  • Structural Considerations and Design: Robert Bird Group
  • Building Regulations Compliance Report: PLP Building Surveyors & Consultants
  • DDA Compliance Statement: Before Compliance 
  • Geotechnical Report: Black Geotechnical Pty Ltd

Mark Baljak

Mark Baljak

Tags: 
Southbank Skyscrapers Hotels CLWA OCD

Comments (13)

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rohan storey
Just got a letter from HV - they said NO ! Most unexpected. "..the construction of the 24 storey tower ...would have a substantial detrimental impact on the cultural heritage significance of the place and on the setting and views of the Robur Tea Building." "..the refusal would not prevent the reasonable or economic use of the place; also the viable economic use of the place does not require teh level of change proposed."
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bilby
This whole plan just needs to be refused. This building is already a Melbourne icon, like Flinders Street Station - would we add a tower behind the dome there? No? Well then don't do it here either.
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Rohan Storey's picture
The images clearly shows that the new development would be butted up against the south face of the building, completely obscuring it, and the tower appears to cantilever little over it as well. I cant see how they would be joined together at all as a single without a number of knock throughs, at least as many as the current not beautiful but not offensive attached lift core. And the original building would become, like so many others, a footnote at the base of much larger development. This one is so surprising because it occupies what looks like pretty small area left over from the intersection works, not a spot that screams out as a 'development site' at all.

Lookingupatbuildings

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George D
The setbacks are from the road, but they need to be setback from the building as well. That would mean a much smaller floorplate, and a lower height. Remove the slip-lane and it all becomes a lot easier!
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bilby
It is iconic, Zenith, but not merely because it is "old". Unsurprisingly, "old" is not one of the rigorous criteria for inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register. Here are some of the reasons, quoted from the VHR listing: "Why is it significant? The Robur Tea Building is of scientific (technical) significance because of several innovative techniques employed in its construction. The most notable feature of the building is the solution to the problem of foundations. The building was erected on a swampy site and initial advice to the owners was that a building of the size proposed was not feasible. The engineer John Grainger was engaged and he devised a system of 450 ironbark piles and concrete rafts to support the six storey structure. It was a remarkable solution and no directly comparable buildings exist because such difficult foundations were not tackled again until after WWI. Another innovation was the use of steel beams supporting the floors, one of the earliest uses of such technology in Victoria. These innovations are a tribute to John Grainger, architect and engineer, who, in partnership with several reputed architects, contributed to such noted structures as Princes Bridge, the swing bridge over the La Trobe River at Sale, the administration block of the Melbourne Town Hall, Elizabeth House and Collins House and the conversion of Cliveden Mansions, East Melbourne. The Robur Tea Building is of architectural significance as one of the finest and most prominent examples of a 19th century warehouse in Melbourne. It was for many years one of the tallest buildings outside the CBD, its height and freestanding character making it a South Melbourne landmark even today. The functional requirements of a warehouse are clearly evident in its simple box-like shape, but a certain amount of pride is expressed in the restrained decoration of the eastern facade. The Robur Tea Building is of architectural significance as a noted work of Nahum Barnet. Barnet was a most prominent architect in the four decades that saw Melbourne emerge from the 1890s depression and flourish during the Edwardian period. Certain architectural details indicate that this building was seminal in Barnet's development as an architect. In particular the central arched motif links the six storeys of the facade, a detail that became a major element in his central city buildings. Buildings such as the Auditorium Building, Paton Building and the Davison Building at the corner of Collins Street and Elizabeth Street are typical of his city buildings. Barnet's practice was extensive, however, and included such buildings as the Villa Chandos in East Melbourne, the Florida Mansions in St Kilda and the Toorak Road Synagogue. The Robur Tea Building is of historical significance as a reminder of the character and location of 19th century commerce in Melbourne. The Tea building is one of the few remaining traces of the industrial and warehousing establishments that until the 1970s and 1980s dominated the south bank of the Yarra, in an area where swampy land made substantial building difficult and residential development unattractive. These older uses have now been 'swamped' in their turn by leisure and luxury apartment developments. While the building has been known for some time as the Tea House, it is worth remembering that it was originally constructed as a stationer's warehouse and factory, and is now one of the few remaining factory buildings in the centre of the city. Its later use as a tea warehouse also serves as a reminder that this part of the river bank was once a thriving wharf area, before bigger ships and changed cargo handling methods led to the construction of larger capacity port facilities further towards the mouth of the Yarra." Interestingly, it has been granted a permit exemption for alterations in the past: "Permit Exemptions The introduction of or alteration to office partitioning provided that such works are not attached to any original fabric, except where the attachment occurs through structurally sound mortar joints." One would think that building a giant tower over one side of the building would require some degree of "attachment" to original fabric beyond the mortar joints, no? And even if it was entirely free standing, the concealment of the facade and total overwhelming of the warehouse are reasons enough for refusal. Good luck then getting a permit for such an alteration that so demonstrably damages the heritage values of the site. [img]http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/vhd-images/places/000/078/645.jpg[/img]
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