Goods Shed saved after two-tower proposal is refused
The historic Goods Shed in Docklands has been saved from the wrecking ball after Heritage Victoria knocked back a controversial two-tower development proposal.
The 1889-90 built No.2 Goods Shed on Bourke St is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as one of the oldest surviving railway goods buildings in Victoria.
The development proposal would have included demolition, as well as dismantling and partial reconstruction to allow for the construction of two towers on either side of Collins St. Conservation and reconstruction works were also proposed.
However, Heritage Victoria rejected the application on January 5, stating it would have caused “substantial visual and physical harm to the cultural heritage significance of the place”.
“It would permanently, irreversibly and further diminish the understanding of the place as Victoria’s longest and most substantial goods shed,” Heritage Victoria found.
“The scale and bulk of the proposed new towers would overwhelm and dominate the No.2 Goods Shed and obscure views to the north and south sections from Collins St.”
“The reasons provided to justify demolition of these elements are not based on a sound heritage approach, but on the commercial development of the place.”
The Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the National Trust also opposed the application, which is believed to have been lodged by Walker Corporation, the company behind Collins Square.
“We applaud Heritage Victoria’s decision to refuse the application to demolish more of the No. 2 Goods shed and erect two massive towers that would have overhung a substantial proportion of the shed,” the society’s heritage committee deputy chair Ian Wight said.
“The towers would have also overwhelmed and dominated those parts of the shed that remained open to the sky.”
Mr Wight noted just under 20 per cent of the Goods Shed was lost when the extension of Collins St bisected it, adding “this proposed development would have exacerbated this damage by demolishing the outer wings of the building”.
“This would have had a direct serious impact on a further 36 per cent of the building’s length thus raising the cumulative impact on the original building to 45 per cent of its length.
The developers have proposed more active uses for the shed and this would indeed be welcome but not at the cost of such a significant loss of fabric and such a serious reduction in the quality of the building’s setting.
Batman’s Hill resident and Docklands News columnist Tim Martin said the No 2 Goods Shed was the “most significant heritage structure left in Docklands”.
“Docklands has retained a disappointingly small number of heritage structures. That legacy will diminish even further when Central Pier is demolished,” he said.
“The Heritage Victoria decision is a good one, however from a more Batman’s Hill-centric point of view the knock-back will preserve the already limited amount of sunlight that makes its way down to the southern part of Village St.”
Mr Martin said the precinct was at risk of becoming a “claustrophobic, dark canyon”, thanks to the surrounding high rise office towers “which already dwarf and diminish the Goods Shed”.
The proposed towers would “simply seal the deal” by further blocking the sun, he said.
“Thanks to the Goods Shed, particularly the southern end, Village St has the potential to become a vibrant hub of activity if the shed could be creatively activated with suitable tenants.”
The applicant, which Heritage Victoria said it could not disclose, may request a review of Heritage Victoria’s decision to refuse a permit.
Walker Corporation was contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline.
The Goods Shed is significant as the “largest and most architecturally elaborate 19th century railway goods building in Victoria”. It is originally measured 385 metres in length until the extension of Collins St in the early 2000s required the removal of nine central bays.
“The massive scale and grand style of the building demonstrates the importance of railways in the economic development and population growth of Victoria in the late nineteenth century,” according to the state’s heritage register. •