City of Melbourne endorses “precinct-transforming” $750 million plans for historic Goods Shed
Despite opposition from Heritage Victoria, revitalisation plans for the 1889-built Goods Shed have been strongly endorsed by the City of Melbourne.
Plans for twin 41-storey towers above a revamped Goods Shed have been approved by City of Melbourne councillors and hailed as one of the most significant investments ever in Docklands.
The $750 million proposal by developer Walker Corporation would see the 134-year-old shed revitalised to feature a large market hall and event spaces, flanked by two new office buildings.
Councillors’ support comes just two months after Heritage Victoria opposed the plans, a decision now subject to an appeal, on the basis that it would “permanently, irreversibly and further diminish” what was “Victoria’s longest and most substantial goods shed”.
However, councillors said the plans would “open up” views to the historic sheds and enliven a currently underwhelming Village St and Aurora Lane either side of the historic shed.
“This application is one of the most significant development applications I think the City of Melbourne has seen in Docklands for approaching two decades,” Planning chair and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said.
This development has the potential to be a real game-changer for Docklands … a precinct-transforming development.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the proposal was a tick of approval for both Docklands and the city.
“As we come out of a pretty tough three years, every sign of confidence in our city is welcome and this is a sign in fluorescent lights big and bold to have the Walker Group investing at this scale,” she said.
At present, the building is occupied by privatised workplaces with separate tenancies, the council assessed that this “limited the experience” of the historic shed, and that “the public was not able to experience its unique heritage character”.
Constructed in 1889, the Goods Shed once spanned 380 metres and was the longest building in the Southern Hemisphere.
A connected shed until 2003, construction of the Collins St extension saw it separated into two, however the proposal included plans to reconnect the sheds to feature three new “zones”.
The southern-most section would remain as an education centre featuring pod offices, while the currently disconnected central section would feature new cultural and event spaces, and the northern section would host a market hall and retail spaces.
“The proposal is to really open up views to the Goods Shed so that it can be connected to Collins St so people are aware it’s there, and they’ll be invited to actually experience what currently has a low amount of foot traffic and public view,” City of Melbourne Head of Statutory Planning Marjorie Kennedy said at the March 7 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
Walker Corporation purchased the southern shed (or “No.2” shed) in 2010, before acquiring its northern counterpart a decade later in 2020.
The group’s Head of Commercial Development Jessica Jordan told councillors they had always seen potential in the sheds.
“[They] represent a missed opportunity,” she said.
“You can’t see the sheds from Collins St, the internals of the sheds are filled with modern infrastructure leaving very little ability for us to really appreciate the heritage value that exists. And along Village St the streets are inactive with no public accessibility — and we feel that they’re quite unfriendly.”
Ms Jordan said a broader aim was clear in regard to the local area: “We want people to enjoy Docklands, we want people to visit Docklands and we want people to stay in Docklands.”
Original plans for the project included one larger commercial building, however this was reduced by nine storeys to ensure both towers sat at the same level at 188 metres high.
There was also pushback from council officers to avoid the revamped shed “looking like a museum” in which it appeared “glassed in”.
This was a suggestion that architects Bates Smart were reportedly receptive to, and director Cian Davis was encouraged by what the project could mean for the precinct.
“The potential of the balanced towers really talk to a gateway to Collins St, and a celebration of that connection between the CBD and Docklands is a major opportunity,” he said.
Cr Reece said the development could “unlock the full potential of Village St” which would “rival some of the great heritage laneway precincts of Melbourne”.
“The fabric is there, it just now needs the imagination and the investment to unlock it,” he said, adding that the importance of the proposal to Docklands was not lost on anyone.
“It’s been really tragic to see the loss of some key hospitality and entertainment infrastructure in Docklands in recent years, most notably Central Pier. But with this particular development we have the potential to bring that sort of activation back into Docklands in a really exciting way.”
Cr Reece was, however, disappointed that plans included the demolition of the Lantern Building on Collins St, built just 15 years ago, given the council’s aims of preventing large-scale demolitions.
Ms Kennedy said although far from ideal, it was a necessary step to ensure the development could proceed.
According to consultant Urbis, the site would have the potential to host almost 13,000 permanent employees in a “premium-grade, fully electric building”.
The council’s support is a key step before the Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny makes a final judgement on the development plans.
Urbis director Sarah Horsfield confirmed that their client (Walker) had appealed the Heritage Victoria refusal, but had not requested that the Planning Minister “call in” the matter to make an overriding decision. •
Captions: An artist impression of the proposed new Goods Shed, the proposal includes plans to revitalise Village St, new event and cultural space, and a wider look at the proposed plans.