VU reworks its Queen Street Precinct tower plans

Victoria University is once more pushing to consolidate its CBD presence into a single precinct, although not via the expected source.

Heritage Victoria is assessing a current proposal to restore and refurbish the former Land Titles Office (LTO) and Strong Room, with a new vertical campus tower at 247-283 Queen Street expected. The institution did hold approval for a separate mixed-use tower on the adjoining block, mere metres from the current proposal, which was also to have seen its CBD presence consolidated.

John Wardle Architects have conceived the current 17-level tower which would rise from behind the restored LTO building.

247-283 Queen Street development summary

Street level perspective. Image: John Wardle Architects
  • LTO Building vacant for three years, requires an internal refurbishment
  • Proposed 87.5 metre tower
  • Total Net Lettable Area for the project is 23,263 square metres
  • 27% of space dedicated to formal teaching and learning use
  • Osteo and Dermal Clinic, Entrepreneurial Hub, VU College and social spaces also included
  • Single basement level
  • New pedestrian link at ground level between LTO Building and proposed tower, with canopy above

Heritage considerations

The former Land Titles Office is included in the Victorian Heritage Register for being a property is of architectural, technical and historical significance to Victoria. It was built in three stages between 1874 and 1877, with the Strong Room completed over 1884-1885.

John Wardle Architects' scheme is noted as being less intrusive on the historic structures than a 2014 permit for works to the LTO building. Under those plans demolition, refurbishment and new building works would have been undertaken to create a new tower for Victoria University above the Strong Room.

Similarly, under current plans "the support structure for the tower is to be placed around the Strong Room, and does not impact on the original enclosing walls of the building. The vertical campus core will be located in the south-west corner of the Strong Room, requiring demolition of the existing built-in shelving units and structure above and below.

The original northern section of the Strong Room will be retained and restored."

A photographic essay of the two historic structures can be found here.

Former LTO - Strong Room. Image: Hin Lim Photography

John Wardle Architects design notes

  • The success of this new vertical campus for Victoria University amongst other criteria and measures is the project’s response to the Heritage aspects of the site, it’s accordance with Planning requirements and the development of the Tower form and floor plate that creates a flexible framework for new teaching and learning activities within a new city campus.
  • This building takes stock of the expanding means by which people learn and communicate today, and transposes them into a tower form.
  • While many advances in communication and learning have evolved independent of developments in the physical environment, the notion of a campus still holds considerable sway. The enduring nature of a campus is couched in its ability to bring creative and progressive minds together in physical space - providing a platform for their sustained interaction.
  • Rather than an autonomous essay on the future of learning, the VU Tower acknowledges that Melbourne’s civic history can be found in buildings that are monumental – or through time, have become mute.
  • The space between the Land Titles Office and the Strong Room has the potential to perform multiple roles by establishing a sense of Terra Firma for the project. Through a series of interventions that uncover its latent qualities, we propose an internal street that is at once a transitional moment between city and campus, and a key opportunity to set the tone for architectural and pedagogical values that follow.
Level five student area. Image: John Wardle Architects

First to fall?

Victoria University did hold approval for a more substantial mixed-use development across 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street, diagonally opposite the Queen Street tower proposal.

The permit has not been acted upon for a number of years, which would call into question the institution's intentions for the dual Little Lonsdale Street sites.

"Planning approval is in place for redevelopment of these sites for a new multi-storey educational facility. This facility was designed to accommodate an expanded educational programme for the central city campus, including health and business faculties.

On more recent review of this approved development Victoria University has determined that the modest area of the floor plates, combined with lifting (vertical movement) requirements, makes the viability of this development questionable."

Lovell Chen

Spanning 135 metres and designed by Jackson Architecture, the Little Lonsdale Street tower was designed to include academic and support services space, plush 11,350 square metres of leasable office space.

Time will tell if Victoria University pursues the Little Lonsdale Street tower in an altered form such as student accommodation or consigns it to history.

A dated render of the approved VU Tower. Image: Jackson Architecture

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