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Build-to-rent towers next to stadium get council backing

David Schout

By David Schout

A proposal for dual build-to-rent towers next to Marvel Stadium has been endorsed by the City of Melbourne.

The 28- and 30-storey developments on a dormant La Trobe St site would bring a “much-needed diversity of accommodation to our city,” according to Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

If approved by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, development on the 676-apartment project could even start later in 2021.

Cr Capp said the project could have huge benefits for the city and Docklands.

“In our surveys we know that renters in Melbourne are among the most stressed cohort within our population, and this brings much-needed diversity of accommodation to our city,” she said.

“Build-to-rent accommodation will help change the accommodation offered here in Melbourne to something that is more diverse, more engaging, and certainly helps create community.”

Unlike most apartment buildings where units are sold to prospective buyers, “build-to-rent” refers to a residential development in which dwellings are retained by the developer and leased out.

Proponents have said the system can mitigate issues with housing supply, affordability and the private rental sector, while being a win for prospective tenants.

“When we talk about build-to-rent, what we focus on is the making of communities,” Cox Architecture director Phillip Rowe said at a June 15 Future Melbourne Committee meeting. “The business itself of build-to-rent is about providing better quality and a richer amenity for the precinct.”

Urbis director Jamie Govenlock, speaking on behalf of the proposal’s applicant, said the development created “a housing option not currently provided in Docklands”.

“There is a strong commitment to start the development and ensure the asset creates value not only for the client, but also for the future and surrounding emerging community,” he said.

“We are serious about getting on with this project.”

Mr Govenlock said the proposal would also activate a 77-metre frontage on La Trobe St.

“The proposal will develop what has been a bomb site in La Trobe St, basically for the past 20 years. It will also assist in fulfilling a long-held planning objective of linking the city with the water … [it] will create a quality pedestrian environment with the Marvel Stadium precinct, particularly with the eastern laneway. This is a proposal that will create activity well beyond game days.”

The site at 685-691 La Trobe St, immediately north of Marvel Stadium, already holds planning approval for mixed-use towers 23 and 21 storeys high, and 99 fewer overall dwellings.

Councillors were however happy to support the height increase of the amended proposal given the change in plans for the site.

“You would think in some circumstances that would therefore be an application which some councillors might find challenging,” the council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece said.

“However, in this case I think it’s an example of what good design can achieve because I think this is an application which does indeed provide an improved built form response.”

Mr Govenlock said the project had a rough value of $400 million and would create around 1000 jobs.

Prior to COVID-19, the AFL had a multi-million-dollar deposit on the La Trobe St site it had earmarked for green-space as part of a stadium redevelopment.

But the league backed out of the deal when the pandemic struck and offloaded the site to shore up its financial position after suffering a significant hit to operations.

It is believed the AFL could still become a tenant at the new development and could utilise the “large function space” proposed for the lower levels •

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