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Southbank Residents Association

09 Mar 2017

Where’s the community benefit?

Despite being the shortest month of the year, February was jam-packed . Of particular note - and surprise - was the sudden announcement of the Crown development at 1 Queensbridge Street. I can’t talk in any detail on this development, as the elusive detail is still unavailable to the public.

Cr Rohan Leppert had a Future Melbourne Committee motion to make this information public, however the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s team was conflicted owing to a private donation to their election campaign from Crown Director Harold Mitchell and the quorum was subsequently lost.

This application was referred to the City of Melbourne for their input, as is the normal process for ministerial applications in the City of Melbourne. Yet before the deadline Council had to make its submission, the application was ‘suspiciously’ approved. This is an application that contravenes nearly every aspect of the new planning scheme the Planning Minister Richard Wynne introduced only three months ago. Read into that as you will, but I can’t help being incredibly skeptical. However, it is still early days for this development. In the meantime, what has conveniently been spruiked by the Premier and Minister is the so-called ‘community benefit’. Following on from my column last month, owing to this approval, I felt it was timely to have another closer discussion about ‘community benefit’, which is sometimes referred to as ‘public benefit’.

As mentioned last month, built into the new Amendment C270 – Built Form Controls is an allowance for a developer to exceed the 18:1 plot ratio (18 metres of floor space for every metre on the ground) if they provide some ‘community benefit’. In my last column I spoke of the benefit that was being provided from the development at 51-65 Clarke Street being commercial space. In particular, that while commercial space was considered community benefit; I felt the community benefit received from commercial space to be questionable.

On the flipside, while the new 1 Queensbridge Tower development is not asking for special consideration for an offset offering of commercial space, (which is contrary to what I speculated would likely become the norm with applications that exceed the 18:1 plot ratio), this development would have no direct immediate benefit to commercial space. In this instance, all the ‘community benefit’, in my opinion, is designed for the benefit of one, being Crown and its Queensbridge Tower. The Premier and Minister have spruiked $100 million in community benefit being $25 million to improve Queensbridge Square, which includes two new cafes, $15 million for improvements to Southbank promenade and the river end of Southbank Boulevard, $22 million for Queensbridge street flood mitigation and Sandridge rail bridge upgrades and finally a massive $35 million ‘sky lounge’ for a publicly accessible ‘free’ viewing deck on the 90th platform. It would seem this is all it takes to almost triple the legislated plot ratio of 18:1 to 56:1.

My overarching question now is whether any of this $100 million of ‘community benefit’ is going to benefit the Southbank community, apart from the immediate interests of Crown and its patrons. This application has now made a complete mockery of the community benefit provision in the Minister’s new planning rules, and disregards the entire intent of the community benefit provision. This is only the second Southbank application to be considered under these new rules.

So, should the Southbank community ever expect to receive any community benefit from these ginormous developments? Only time will tell, but if the last two applications are anything to go by, it doesn’t look promising.

Oh, and did I mention the 1 Queensbridge Street development will be 323 metres high? A 90-storey tower!

Tony Penna


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