500 Swanston Street off to VCAT - City of Melbourne provides conditional support

A 17-storey student housing building at 500 Swanston Street is off to VCAT after the applicant, Journal Property Limited, decided to appeal the matter after City of Melbourne council failed to make a decision within the requisite 60 statutory days.

During its meeting on Tuesday night, the City of Melbourne's Future Melbourne (Planning) Committee resolved that it would have issued a permit subject to conditions, had the appeal to VCAT not been made.

These conditions would have included a reduction in height of two levels taking the overall height down to 15-storeys or approximately 51.5m, which according to Council planners would provide a better transition between Upper House to the north (17-storeys), Arrow on Swanston Street to the south (12-storeys) and The Eminence (15-storeys) to the north-east.

Amended Swanston Street elevation with reduced height (March 2018). Image: Metier3 Town Planning documentation

This would reinforce Upper House's prominence on the corner and ensure that the proposed tower is not as prominent when viewed from Swanston Street, argues Council. Additionally, Council would have required levels 11 and above to be reconfigured to increase the setbacks from the southern boundary reducing their dominance and bulk further.

Increasing the setbacks will also improve internal amenity for student accommodation modules and improve the external amenity impacts by creating a greater separation from surrounding residential properties.

Council's planners provided their appraisal based on plans prepared by Metier3 in November 2017, which were subsequently amended in March 2018 with the following changes:

  • Deletion of levels 15 and 16 to reduce the overall building height by two levels to 15 storeys;
  • Increased setback of Building D upper levels (11-14) from the south boundary to provide a 9m setback from the Arrow building, as well as reducing the overhang to allow more natural daylight to lower levels of accommodation;
  • Introduction of light wells to Building D upper levels (11-14) to allow for improved natural light and ventilation to hallways on levels 11 to 14;
  • The removal of rooms to allow for two additional windows per level to improve natural light and ventilation to hallways in Upper Mezzanine to level 10;
  • Deletion of all 13 rooms in the lower mezzanine to remove all rooms with restricted daylight access. Part office and communal areas relocated to this space allowing for the deletion of basement.
  • Introduction of four rooms to ground floor. Two twin share rooms added to ground floor made possible as result of the consolidated office space spread across two levels. Rooms were introduced to offset 13 rooms deleted from lower mezzanine below as these four rooms have adequate access to natural daylight;
  • Deletion of basement;
  • Deletion of east-west facing windows on northern boundary;
  • Rationalised internal communal space to levels 10 and 11 to allow for additional rooms;
  • Relocation of bike store to ground floor to enable direct access off building entry/street level;
  • Overall reduction in number of beds from 710 to 587;

The original plans included three building elements providing 710 student accommodation units via a mix of studio, two-bed, three-bed, four-bed and five-bed units.

A food and drink, and two retail tenancies are located at the ground level, while the basement would contain a laundry, workshop, storage for 80 bicycles, and building services.

The lower ground will largely accommodate communal student areas including two landscaped courtyards, lounge, communal and private study areas, kitchen and dining area, entertainment, well-being and gym areas and gaming room.

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