Elizabeth Street's squeezy scraper returns to planning

In the truest sense it may not be a skyscraper yet a revised proposal located at 696-708 Elizabeth Street most definitely fulfills the 'squeezy' criteria.

Previously covered by Urban Melbourne in its initial guise, the proposed residential building was and remains remarkable for its proximity to a neighbouring residential building currently under construction. Whilst the initial version fell short of both Council and VCAT's expectations, a revised design by ARM Architecture is seeking planning approval.

Located on a gateway site fronting Haymarket roundabout with sight lines directly down Flemington Road, ARM Architecture's response to the initial ruling has been to refine the building's exterior with the intention of creating a landmark project.

696-708 Elizabeth Street application summary

Artist's impression of 696-708 Elizabeth. Planning image: ARM Architecture
  • Current use: two storey heritage building utilised as commercial space spread over a 380sqm site
  • Proposed: 22 level residential tower at 75 metres
  • Restoration of 708 Elizabeth 
  • 80 apartments: 61 x 1BR, 19 x 2BR
  • Ground: 48sqm café & 148sqm office space
  • Zero car parking and provision for 25 bicycles
  • Anticipated project value: $15 million

VCAT provides hope

In its ruling on the initial design which was submitted during September 2014 for prospective developer Jobs Australia Pty Ltd, VCAT did leave the door ajar for site development acknowledging 696-708 Elizabeth Street as “a unique opportunity to make a valuable contribution to one of Melbourne’s gateways, building on the role played by the heritage building and the emerging built form character.”

According to VCAT two key factors led to the rejection of the application:

  • The integration of the proposed tower building with the retained sections of the bank did not produce an acceptable heritage outcome
  • The relationship between the proposed development and the Royal Elizabeth apartment building was not an acceptable urban design response as the two buildings “appear to be attached.”

Conversely, VCAT in its ruling made reference to the growing number of projects within the ‘City North’ precinct, citing 696-708 Elizabeth Street as a site capable of development whilst enhancing the heritage elements of the current structure onsite.

The tyranny of distance. Planning image: ARM Architecture

Design highlights

With a revised planning application currently under consideration, projects highlights as defined within planning documents include:

  • Architecturally designed wind amelioration structure to skirt the bottom of level 5 of the building, above a heritage setting.
  • The podium levels have an active presence to Elizabeth Street and Pelham Street with office space and retail 
  • The façade of the existing heritage building will be retained and restored, with a significant ‘gap’ between the heritage building ensuring that the tower form is separated from the heritage building element
  • Services have been located within the roof of the building which will ensure no adverse impacts on the streetscape. 

Externally the building would see a metal diagrid weave employed over a curved tower form, designed to mimic the form of the nearby Haymarket roundabout.

Heritage considerations

Revised plans for the project have sought to better amplify the presence of the existing Commercial Bank of Australia heritage building relative to the initial development proposal.

A more pronounced difference between the existing and proposed built form appears by way of an apron set above the existing building. The form of the proposed tower is also setback further in order to aid in visual separation.

"The proposal seeks to reinforce the prominence of this 19th century corner building which is an important part of the overall design response. The design has sought to locate the residential lobby towards Elizabeth Street, effectively opening up the building to this main street and surrounding public spaces." 

Along with a revised tower shape and external appearance, the development team hopes to gain a different planning outcome on their second attempt.

696-708 Elizabeth Street development team

  • Developer: Jobs Australia Pty Ltd
  • Architect: ARM Architecture
  • Waste Management Plan: Wastech
  • Wind Assessment: Vipac Engineers & Scientists
  • Environmentally Sustainable Design: Simpson Kotzman
  • Traffic Engineering Assessment: Traffix Group
  • Heritage Advice: Bryce Raworth
  • Environmental Site Assessment: Kleinfelder


3000's picture

Am I not the only one who sees this as a greedy overdevelopment of the site?

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Michael Berquez's picture

If it was two 40-50 storey blocks then yes...as it is, I really don't think 20 levels is an overdevelopment.

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Bilby's picture

Melbourne's own squeezy baddie.

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theboynoodle's picture

My only real problem with this is the impact on the neighboring development. Were this the broad outline of a single redevelopment, with both parts planned accordingly, I'd rate it as one of the better outcomes for a heritage site that I've seen (putting aside simply not allowing development).

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3000's picture

I'm not a fan, the "hat" seems a bit ridiculous but it'll hopefully look alright and I'll be proven wrong.

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Rohan Storey's picture

O dear, a skirt from a tower above sticking out over the old bank - really the days of treating heritage buildings with respect have been completely dumped in favour of treating them as objects to be 'celebrated' or in this case literally peeling back the far more dominant tower to show that its still there, sort of peeking out from under. Plus, using what should be seen as a site that is occupied by a heritage building as a site where only a couple of facades need be retained, and otherwise empty, as if it isn't really there.


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