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.
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.
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.