Plans for old Convention Centre site move forward
By Meg Hill
A revision of Mirvac’s major development plans for the former Melbourne Convention Centre site has been unanimously endorsed by City of Melbourne councillors, but the developer wasn’t given everything it wanted.
The amended master plan, which the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne will have the final say on, seeks to consolidate the approved residential towers 1 and 3 into a single commercial office tower, while increasing the number of dwellings in tower 2 by removing the hotel.
The new $220 million designed by Fender Katsalidis now includes two towers – a commercial office tower and a residential tower with 472 build-to-rent apartments, including 20 affordable housing apartments.
But in its assessment of the proposal, the City of Melbourne’s planning officers recommended a compromised 10-metre setback at the Siddeley St edge of the commercial tower, which Mirvac was hoping to get approval for at just over five metres.
Mirvac’s national manager of development told councillors at the Future Melbourne Meeting (FMC) on September 15 that the setback would endanger the site’s “pre-commit tenants”.
“The key to driving this interest has been our point of difference in that we’re able to offer large floor plates with efficient and continuous zones,” he said.
“We find ourselves in a very competitive, uncertain and suppressed market due to COVID-19 and we feel that losing our point of difference will put at risk this commercial building and its commencement.”
“One of the key concerns we have with the proposed conditions is the enforcement of a 10-metre setback to the north elevation of the commercial building.”
Craig Baudin from Fender Katsalidis added that the setback meant a “less flexible floorplate” and was significantly compromising to the project.
The council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece said even with the setback the building would still have some of the biggest floor plates in the city in what he described as a “handsome” development.
“The key item is the setback, and this goes to the point about this being a really liveable and fantastic precinct of the city,” he said.
Cr Reece praised other aspects of the project, including the move from residential to office and the inclusion of build-to-rent in the remaining residential tower.
“There’s a lot to like about this Mirvac project,” he said.
“The retention of the 20 affordable housing units is also very much to be welcomed.”
“More broadly I do think this quarter of Melbourne is one of the most exciting in terms of the changes we’re currently seeing.”
“It obviously starts with the new Seafarers Park … of course, there’s also the Seafarers Place that’s down by the crane, there’s also the Sky Farm, the Flinders Wharf apartments, the redevelopment of the former Victoria Police Centre and Crown Plaza.”
“When you put that all together this is a corner of Melbourne which is really going through a dramatic transformation and a really positive transformation.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp welcomed the build-to-rent component of Mirvac’s plans.
“It [build-to-rent] speaks to our reactivation strategies in the city. This asset class has been a difficult area to overcome in Australia,” Cr Capp said.
“I also want to acknowledge the confidence that Mirvac has shown in the Melbourne market. I acknowledge the impact that the setbacks will have but it sounds like a good compromise has been reached.” •