Walking the Walk > 386-412 William Street, Melbourne

386 William Street Hero shot © Elenberg Fraser
Laurence DragomirNovember 26, 20140 min read

First covered by Urban.com.au nearly a year ago, the City of Melbourne's Future Melbourne Committee has resolved to provide conditional support for the revised scheme at 386-412 William Street, currently being considered by DTPLI.

The main driver behind the amended proposal was to address concerns raised by City of Melbourne and DTPLI relating to the initial design of the scheme and overshadowing of Flagstaff Gardens. Architect Elenberg Fraser's revised submission shows a complete overhaul of the scheme, including a substantial reduction in the height and scale of the proposed towers.

The revised scheme is comprised of two towers: 18-storeys and 38-storeys rising to a heights of 57m and 120m respectively. The existing C-grade building on site will be retained as per previous plans with sills proposed to be lowered to accommodate. The 18-storey tower will be positioned on the north-western corner of the site along the William Street and Franklin Street frontages whilst the 38-storey tower which features a sweeping curvature is proposed towards the rear of the site and occupies the full width.

Both towers sit above the existing two storey heritage façade before separating above level 3 atop their respective podiums.

Solar access

As previously mentioned one of the key drivers behind the revised application was maintaining solar access to Flagstaff Gardens during the Equinoxes. Given the towers will occupy a prominent corner site City of Melbourne considers an increase in height above that stipulated in DDO14 (60m) is an appropriate response if the architecture is of a "high/exemplary standard" and that there is no overshadowing to the Flagstaff Gardens between 11am to 2pm on 22nd March and 22nd September Equinox.

Clause 22.02 (Sunlight to Public Spaces) requires the following for new developments:

Development should not reduce the amenity of public spaces by casting any additional shadows on public parks and gardens, public squares, major pedestrian routes including streets and lanes (including all streets within the retail core of the Capital City Zone), and privately owned plazas accessible to the public between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm on 22 September.

Walking the Walk > 386-412 William Street, Melbourne
Solar diagram and Central Park precedent. © Elenberg Fraser

While our northern cousins bemoan the solar plane's application to their skyscrapers and the limitations that are inflicted height-wise, Elenberg Fraser's application to the scheme has resulted in a far more architecturally interesting outcome that isn't a typical extrusion or repeated pancake. The above image, provided to Urban.com.au by Elenberg Fraser with Central Park as the precedent illustrates how tall towers can sit adjacent to parks while still maintaining a high level of amenity so long as they are designed with solar access in mind.

Development summary

  • Two towers at 18-storeys, 57m and 38-storeys, 120m.
  • 410 apartments and 210 hotel rooms.
  • 1,053 sqm of retail including a café and a 24/7 restaurant on level 3.
  • 2 x 10-storey podiums above heritage building setback 500mm from facade.
  • 145 basement level parking spaces: 125 resident and 20 hotel.
  • 32 motorcycle spaces.
  • 576 bicycle spaces: 502 resident, 50 visitor, 24 hotel staff.
Walking the Walk > 386-412 William Street, Melbourne
Development Summary axonometric. © Elenberg Fraser

Heritage and Streetscape

The subject site is affected by the planning scheme Amendment C198 City North Heritage Review which recommends that the site be included in the Heritage Overlay and be given a ‘C’ grading in City of Melbourne’s Heritage Places Inventory 2008.​One of the conditions of approval recommended by the City of Melbourne's Urban Design and Heritage advisors is that the taller tower is required to be setback 3m from the original façade along William and Franklin Streets.

At street level reduced sill levels are intended provide a more permeable street level interface with a considerable amount of retail proposed to activate William and Franklin Streets. Above both buildings feature a 2.7m rebate or 'shadow line' to separate the new interventions from the heritage fabric.

Achieving a 3m setback for building 2 (18 storeys) from both street frontages could be more problematic given the smaller size and scale of this building. It appears that if a 3m setback is proposed from both street frontages this may render the development unviable as the setback is required all the way up to level 12. Setting back the entire tower 3m from both street frontages may result in a ‘shifting’ of the form rather than a reduction in the building footprint which would result in a lesser tower separation between Towers 1 and 2. This is not considered to be a good urban design outcome.

Building 2 has a 2.7m setback on level 2 which is reduced from levels 3 to 12 where only a 0.5m setback is proposed. Discussions undertaken with the manager of City of Melbourne’s Urban Design Department suggests that an option to address both heritage and urban design issues could be to achieve the 2.7m setback on level 3 and then a 1m setback from levels 4 to 12. This will not require a significant reconfiguration of the proposed layout and will ensure the development is viable.

City of Melbourne
Walking the Walk > 386-412 William Street, Melbourne
386 William Street street interface. © Elenberg Fraser


386 William Street is an interesting case study for an application of planning controls that allows for flexibility to developers and their architects while still achieving the goals set out under planning provisions. Here the development has benefited from an architectural perspective resulting in a dynamic form on the Melbourne skyline while maintaining solar access to Flagstaff Gardens and contributing to the activation and regeneration of the northern end of the CBD around the Queen Victoria Market Precinct.

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.
Elenberg Fraser
Melbourne CBD
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