A few weeks ago Urban Melbourne briefly touched on the proposed redevelopment of the former Congress Centre; today we focus on the site master plan. Prepared by Elenberg Fraser on behalf of joint venture clients, the master plan provides an overarching framework for the development of the 4,500sqm site.
All in all four tapering crystalline residential towers ranging in height from 20-29 storeys sitting atop two 4-storey podiums. The proposal seeks to provide better connections to South Wharf and Southbank from the surrounding areas to the north of the Yarra River, including the western edge of the CBD, Docklands and Southern Cross Station.
In doing so a new southern gateway into the CBD for both pedestrians and vehicles is envisaged.
Total apartments available: 1162
The indicative concept shows 1,321sqm of ground level retail space available, split between 770sqm through the North Podium and 551sqm in the South Podium. Seven retail tenancies are expected with 461 car parking spaces contained above within the podium levels.
The four towers are 'carved' to allow adequate separation between one another in order to minimise overlooking and provide a high degree of natural light and ventilation. The sloped/terracing roof forms are the result of extrapolating the shadow cast by the existing Crown Plaza hotel during 2pm on the winter solstice to form a solar plane that dictates the maximum height of each tower. This has led to the crystal-like forms suggested in the planning documents.
Each tower represents part of a four-stage phasing process that has informed the numerical designation of each tower i.e. Tower 01 represents stage 01 of the project and so on. Tower 04 acts as a bridging element that unites both podiums and forms a weather protected undercroft to Siddeley Street.
The master plan seeks to set the built form envelope, height and street interface of the proposed podium development. Key principles of the master plan include:
The proposal follows the blueprint of other large scale multi-tower developments in the city: a master plan is developed with a series of guiding principles that help to define a certain series of parameters to inform the future development of a site. It provides some degree of certainty to local government but also allows developers the flexibility to alter their plans for projects that span several years.
The base information is there but the detail is the element lacking. This has led to some developers selling entire sites upon gaining approval or carving sites up and selling them as individual parcels. Recent examples of this master planning approach include 250 Spencer Street, Swanston Square, Village Docklands/Collins Square and Batman's Hill on Collins.
What will ultimately become of the site remains to be seen but one can't help but feel the change in strategy from developing two-commercial towers (and failed bids for Victoria Police and KPMG) to a residential driven master plan hints at an opportunity to offload the site once approval is obtained. A permit for a series of residential towers is a far more attractive proposition to prospective developers.
It will be interesting to see how each tower ultimately manifests; it is critical that there is a level of articulation that is varied and distinguishes each tower from the next. The danger is that they read as one uniform and singular mass, which visually would not be a desirable outcome.