Room for one more? 478-488 Elizabeth Street in the spotlight

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne will be required to make a call on one of the CBD's taller proposals after Melbourne City Council chose to reject the scheme.

Lodged during mid 2015 prior to amended planning rules being implemented, proponents for 478-488 Elizabeth Street are seeking approval for a skyscraper that hopes to slot in between two of Melbourne's tallest residential buildings. Melbourne City Council chose last week to show no support for the tower based in part upon inadequate setbacks and equitable development rights for the adjoining site.

Elenberg Fraser have designed the tower for a development team comprising entities L1-2013 Pty Ltd, L2-2013 Pty Ltd and G2-2013 Pty Ltd, with private apartments set above the lower curvaceous levels which have been reserved for a hotel operator in order to manage 198 guest suites.

478-488 Elizabeth Street planning application summary

As rendered with under construction towers surrounding the proposal. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser
  • 1,168sqm site currently utilised as a showroom and office
  • Proposed 68 level tower at 208.4 metres in height
  • Included are 198 hotel suites
  • 383 apartments: 149 x 1BR, 222 x 2BR, 12 x 3BR
  • 88 vehicle and 243 bicycle spaces
  • 193sqm cafe at ground level
  • Hotel and residential amenities over three levels
  • GFA: 44,628sqm
  • Estimated project value: $140 million

From the ground up

A cafe and dual purpose lobbies front Elizabeth Street whilst hotel and residential facilities account for much of the remainder of the podium structure; included within the podium is an all-day restaurant, function spaces and 1,036sqm of communal facilities over level 6 featuring an outdoor terrace.

Hotel suites absorb the initial ten floors above the podium where the tower form is at its widest and concave in shape.

Thereafter nine floors are dedicated to low-rise residential units where the towers form transitions to an altogether more typical rectangular shape. Subsequent floors are dedicated to high-rise apartments whilst the crown is slated for four levels of penthouse living.

Externally the tower begins with a solid complexion at ground level which progressively morphs into a translucent mid section and eventually a glazed crown. Accordingly terrazzo panels are dominant lower levels, rolling into translucent and then silver facade panes. Stainless steel and bronze perforated metal sheeting are also present over the exterior.

A setback setback

Below are passages taken from the Report to the Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee which was tabled last week. Key points of discontent with 478-488 Elizabeth Street from Melbourne City Council's perspective include:

  • The appropriateness of the built form including front, side and rear setbacks
  • The proposed tower setback to Elizabeth Street is between 1.6 metres and 4.5 metres. This will result in a dominant built form that overwhelms the street and will compound the undesirable outcome of the nearby towers with limited/no setback to Elizabeth Street..
  • The proposal relies upon the neighbouring undeveloped sites to achieve an acceptable tower separation. In the absence of acquired air/light rights over these properties, the tower should provide greater setbacks on its own site in order to guarantee ongoing acceptable internal amenity and to ensure that it does not restrict the development potential of neighbouring sites.
  • The proposed rear setback will have a negative impact on the laneway and the existing amenity and development potential of the site to the east.

Last week's report also notes that similar issues were raised during a pre-application meeting between the development team and DELWP, yet the development team seem to have a degree of confidence in the tower passing through planning given there has been no fundamental change to the design since its submission.

Existing and proposed built form conditions. Image courtesy Elenberg Fraser


The development team could argue that their proposal is the shortest of three substantial towers on this particular block and that they employ similar if not greater setbacks than either 452 Elizabeth Street or 500 Elizabeth Street; two buildings which in theory were judged under the same planning criteria as 478-488 Elizabeth Street and could therefore act as a precedent.

Melbourne City Council on the other hand have been consistent in recent years regarding their opposition to developments with what they deem as maintaining inadequate setbacks. That similar issues were raised by both DELWP and Melbourne City Council points towards fundamental inadequacies with the design of 478-488 Elizabeth Street.

Six and half on the face of it… and an interesting decision looming for this particular planning application.

478-488 Elizabeth Street project team

  • Developer: L1-2013 Pty Ltd
  • Architect: Elenberg Fraser
  • Town Planning & Landscape Architect: Urbis
  • EDS Consultant: ARK Resources
  • Wind & Acoustic Engineer: ViPAC
  • Waste Consultant: Leigh Design
  • Land Surveyor: Bosco Jonson
  • Building Surveyor: PLP
  • Structural Engineer: Robert Bird Group
  • Services Engineer: Murchie
  • 3D Visualisation: Pointilism


johnproctor's picture

the second image above (render of this tower with approved towers surrounding) really shows the failure of the system in recent years (under both Madden and Guy) and the importance of the renewed focus on setbacks and plot ratios.

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elev8's picture

I really hope that council put this much consideration and thought into their recommendations for Brady's Vision Tower.

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3000's picture

How Vision managed to slip through the cracks (88 podium and all) is anyone's guess. I would prefer this not be approved. Surely we have enough Resi towers in the North End already?

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Mark Baljak's picture

It's never question of do we have enough, it's a question of whether the proposal for the specific site is appropriate.

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SYmlb's picture

That render showing three 200m+ towers on one single block with minimum setbacks is atrocious, there is no way this proposal is acceptable for this location on any grounds. That's the main reason these new planning regulations were introduced by Wynne, to stop these ridiculous proposals and canyon effects occuring.

Now if only they could prevent 200m blank walls from being approved as well they wouldn't need to build towers right up next to eachother.

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3000's picture

Mark, I would say this proposal is totally inappropriate for the site. Given a) the multiple towers in close proximity and b) the poor setbacks I think this is the epitome of overdevelopment for this small stretch of Eliz.
I have never doubted the need for high-rise living and will always be a proponent of it, but this is just developers (and all others involved) cramming as many towers into this part of the Hoddle as possible without any thought to area as a whole.

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