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Residents react to NewQuay plan

27 Sep 2011

Residents react to NewQuay plan Image

By Shane Scanlan

NewQuay residents are holding an open-air protest on October 6 against MAB Corporation’s plans to build a 15-storey hotel in the Waterfront City Piazza.

Residents are upset on a range of issues including building heights and loss of view lines, but the central issue is the perceived loss of public open space.

MAB revealed its plans to redevelop the former ING Real Estate precinct on August 31 and was immediately attacked over its intention to build on the front of the piazza.

The developer held a number of consultations with local residents and businesses last month, but this was largely a formality as the public has no say in the Docklands planning process. MAB already has the support of VicUrban, the City of Melbourne and the Department of Planning and Community Development.

These authorities have been meeting with both MAB and ING for more than a year working out a deal between them.  They call this the “workshop” model of planning.

Developers defend the model as it is imperative to protect commercial aspects of the negotiation.  They say that to announce their plans before they have approval would empower their business rivals.

MAB has been surprised by the negative reaction from some residents.  They believe their plan to build 90,000sqm of mostly residential development spread across five buildings is so much better than what is existing that it should be applauded.

And on the issue of public realm, they say that their plan actually results in a net gain of public open space.

VicUrban agrees.  Acting Docklands general manager Simon Wilson says the public will be better off by 700sqm under the MAB plan.

“VicUrban’s indicative assessment of MAB’s development plan, suggests that the proposed hotel building has an approximate footprint of 1643sqm, which includes a privatised drop off area. In comparison, the “showcase building” as approved within the current development plan has an indicative footprint of 2345sqm,” he said.

The previous owner ING Real Estate had permission to build what has been known as the “showcase building” but it failed to commercialise the opportunity.

“The indicative figures therefore show that the proposed development plan will actually increase the amount of public realm available,” Mr Wilson said.  “Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that the quality of the proposed public space will be improved dramatically.”

MAB and the authorities claim that the provision of “green space” on the northern side of the hotel is in response to Second Decade of Docklands (D2) consultations which revealed community desire for better open space.

In introducing his development update segment to the September 8 Docklands Co-ordination Committee meeting, Mr Wilson said the major criticisms of Docklands revealed in the D2 consultations were lack of wind protection and poor quality public open space.

“MAB is trying to address both of these aspects in this development,” Mr Wilson said. “To upgrade the public realm, something needs to be done down there.”

When launching the plan on August 31, MAB managing director Andrew Buxton said the Waterfront City Piazza had failed and MAB planned to “fix” the area.  “It’s an opportunity to reverse the trend,” he said.

He envisaged 300,000 visitors a year accessing the precinct from the waterfront under the revised plan.

But Docklands public space advocate, Arkley owners’ corporation chair and president of the Docklands Community Association, Roger Gardner, objects to the siting of the hotel in the piazza.

Mr Gardner says with more residential development, there will be even more need for the facilities currently available on the harbour side of the piazza – the stage, large TV screens, seating and (synthetic) grassed areas.

“It is used for band recitals, team games, ethnic festivals, markets, vehicle and other displays,” he said.

“A weak defence MAB uses is it will provide a windbreak, but we know that the high-rise buildings increase wind tunnels, not reduce them.”

Mr Gardner said the issue was not confined to NewQuay residents.  He said all Docklands residents should be concerned about defending the public realm.

Mr Gardner encouraged residents to attend the public protest meeting in the piazza at 7.30pm on October 6.

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  • Rose M at 4:29pm on 26/10/11

    Oh yuck! Even I can see that having two wing buildings will push wind down the side of the middle hotel building. Why can't we bring imagination to Docklands, as it was originally intended? Missing an opportunity of turning our area into a modern showcase to the world. Open area and more green space needed. Please people, think!!!!

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