Evolving Port

Port Melbourne and Fishermans Bend change. Houses are changed or demolished and new forms of housing take their place. Port Houses records some of these changes.

Monday, February 15, 2021

7 - 23 Spencer St, Melbourne

September 2020

Mirvac submitted a revised proposal for this site to the Future Melbourne Committee for a 20 level office tower and a build to rent offering of 472 apartments over 32 levels. The hotel component has been removed.

The proposal does not result in any additional overshadowing of the Yarra River beyond that approved in the earlier proposal.

The development retains the 20 affordable housing units. 

The City of Melbourne supported the proposal with updated conditions.

(Ref: City of Melbourne Future Melbourne Committee September 2020)

May 2020

Mirvac purchased the site on 24 December 2019 for $200m from a Chinese backed joint venture between China Century Group and Exhibition and Travel Group. (source: Simon Johanson, The Age 16 May 2020)

Architects: Fender Katsalidis

September 2018

7-23 Spencer St is the address of part of the former Melbourne Convention Centre, demolished over several months in 2016. There was no fight to save the building, no petitions taken up. Yet every architect and building style has its adherents, and Urban Light captured some of the textures of a building many of us have passed by. The architect, John Andrews, was ‘arguably the most internationally significant Australian architect of the past half-century’.2
 
shrouded during demolition in 2015

Massive projects like these have long histories. The market changes. Owners change, architects change, and sometimes planning schemes change to reflect community values that have come to the fore.

The site, formerly owned by Riverlee, is now owned by the Century Group. Architects Elenberg Fraser designed the first scheme, and the new scheme is by Fender Katsalidis, also the architects for North Bank Goods Shed (now Seafarers), just a bit further downriver.

A planning permit for the site had already been granted by the Planning Minister in 2016 but an amendment to it was sought. The amendment changes the mix of the development, reducing the number of apartments from 1,060 to 621 and including a Regis Hotel. The scheme also included 20 affordable housing units, negotiated by passionate housing advocate Robert Pradolin who argued at the Council meeting that ‘lack of affordable housing is a long term cost to our economy and society’.

The amended scheme increased the amount of overshadowing of the Yarra River on 22nd June, the winter solstice.

All Councillors were effusive in their praise for the design and the contribution it would make to this dead end of the city.

But Deputy Mayor Arron Wood was not persuaded that this should be an either or situation. He said “it’s a little bit galling to say it’s a choice between overshadowing and affordable housing. We’re better than this. We can do the affordable housing and comply.” He argued that it broke the rules, set a precedent and that open spaces become even more important as the city continues to densify.

After a most civil and respectful debate, the Council voted to advise the Minister that, while it supported the development, it did not support the overshadowing of the Yarra.

The Minister issued a permit. He argued that “though the proposed amended building height will slightly increase overshadowing to the Yarra River, the impact is considered to be limited and offset by the public benefits of new affordable housing and public space.”

The marketing for Flinders Bank claims the River, even though it is not actually on the riverfront.

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