The reaction from some Melburnians with regards to the marketing campaign by Hong Kong-based developer Far East Consortium, comparing its apartment development on the corner of Spencer and Lonsdale Streets to New York is genuinely one of amusement.
There is hardly the need for any in depth research to convince most Melburnians the comparison is rather silly. However the comment piece ‘Developers' tall tales are all pie in the sky’ by ABC Producer Daniel Ziffer and published in The Age yesterday seeks to attach a greater importance to the comparison beyond that of just a property marketer's strategy.
The main thrust of the article is the form of high density development currently underway in Melbourne will have “unknown consequences for the area” and result in “dense and grim neighbourhoods where skyscrapers block light and life from the streets” like Hong Kong compared to that amazing place called New York where “more than half the housing stock … is in small to medium developments, often ''walk-ups'' without lifts.” And the “avenues are wider than Melbourne's street grid, and apartment buildings are set back from the street to allow sunlight to hit the ground.”
As the author was a one time resident and frequent visitor it would be assumed he might have seen one of the more than 70 apartment towers in New York taller than the tallest building in the Upper West Side development on Spencer Street. But maybe the views of these giants were blocked by the 4869 apartment towers over 10 storeys in height in New York City. I guess it would also be easier to miss the avenues in New York are generally 100 feet wide, exactly the same width as streets in Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid like Lonsdale Street.
Any recent visit to New York would also reveal the developing trend towards larger and taller apartment buildings in Manhattan. The latest example of this is the tower currently under construction at 432 Park Avenue which at 426 metres high will be taller than the former World Trade Centre twin towers.
The author has an issue with a developer utilising a New York inspired marketing strategy to sell some apartments but he has no qualms in comparing the same development on Spencer Street to Caroline Springs which is an even more ridiculous comparison.
This comment piece is just another in the ongoing campaign against the development of tall buildings in Melbourne by The Age newspaper. It is disappointing the same newspaper which has campaigned vigorously in the past against the environmental and social impact of urban sprawl, embodied in places such as Caroline Springs, now breaks with its previous consistency and publishes 3rd party commentary deriding the redevelopment of disused industrial sites in the CBD as an alterative to urban sprawl.
Nicholas Harrison is an urban planner with over 10 years experience.