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What’s behind the lights?

Boyd building proposal reignites local anger

06 Oct 2020

Boyd building proposal reignites local anger Image

By Sean Car

While the submission of a planning application last month for a 42-storey development at the western edge of Boyd Park has been expected for some time, it has renewed some fierce opposition within the local community.

Last year, the City of Melbourne sold the 1843 sqm portion of land currently occupied by a basketball court and pop-up orchard to developer PDG for $16.5 million, who as part of the deal, agreed to deliver a range of community benefits in its proposal.

On July 4 last year, Lord Mayor Sally Capp appeared with PDG managing director Vince Giuliano and Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna to unveil the long-awaited ending to the saga that has been the council’s Boyd dealings.

Following a series of failed attempts to develop the site with previous developer Mackie since 2011 in order to fund Boyd Park, the Lord Mayor and Mr Giuliano announced a new deal for a 110-metre mixed-use building last year.

This was despite the council ultimately funding and building the park itself in spite of its failed attempts to get a deal over the line with Mackie following pressure from the local community, which had called for the entire site to become a park.

But having purchased the entire site, formerly home to JH Boyd Girls School, back in 2007 and delivering the Boyd Community Hub at 207 City Rd, the council has insisted that selling off a section of the site was necessary.

Due to a council policy dating back to 2014, all profits generated from both the previous and current sales of the site are directed to funding the renewal of Queen Victoria Market (QVM); a continued topic of angst within the community, according to Mr Penna.

PDG’s development, which was 27 metres higher than Mackie’s previous proposal for the site, was allowed additional height under an agreement by the developer to include 1000 sqm of council-run community facilities over the first two levels of the building.

But the application submitted to planning authorities last month by PDG has returned with a higher tower at 138.7 metres and 920 sqm of council facilities facing the City Rd end of the development nearest the Boyd Community Hub.

PDG development director Sebastian Mahoney said that the current height of the proposal was consistent with the planning scheme and that it had delivered more community space than what the council had requested.

“The City of Melbourne’s original tender called for 550 sqm of council facilities and PDG reached an agreement with the City of Melbourne to include a minimum of 920 sqm of council facilities at ground and level one,” he said.

“The community facilities will adjoin the new park and will be a fantastic asset for the local Southbank community.”

The DKO Architecture-designed tower also includes 394 residential apartments, 40 affordable housing units, retail, bicycle facilities and 104 car parks over podium levels designed to be retrofitted to future commercial office space pending a reduction in demand for car parking.

Mr Mahoney said that it hadn’t ruled out a build-to-rent component in its project and would be testing the market’s interest over the coming months.

With its planned Southbank Community Day and opening of Boyd Park in March having been postponed due to COVID-19, the SRA said it was disappointed about the timing of the application.

The SRA encouraged locals to make submissions to the council and Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, while one local has even launched an online petition opposing the proposal titled “Save Boyd Community Park”.

“This year has highlighted how green spaces such as Boyd Park are crucial for apartment dwellers for regular sunlight, outdoor activity and a place to connect with locals,” SRA wrote in a Facebook post last month.

“We are still waiting to officially open the park with our Southbank Community Day cancelled and in the short time that the park has been opened, it has become a much loved and needed community asset. Other areas promised to Southbank haven’t been finished or finalised such as Southbank Boulevard, [which was] due for completion in 2019.”

Many locals have already made submissions to oppose the development and express their frustration in the City of Melbourne’s decision to sell the land, with one local Craig Elphick describing it as “another blow to the inner city”.

“Council should be doing their utmost to make the area an attractive place to live, this is doing the exact opposite,” he said.

Another local John Anderson said that the development was a “horrific” mistake by the council.

“The Boyd Community Park took far too long to build, but once it was finally open, it became a welcome and necessary part in many people’s daily lives,” he said. “To build yet another glass and concrete private high rise in the area would be a horrific mistake on the behalf of the council, and one that cannot be readily undone.”

The Southbank Sustainability Group, which operates a pop-up orchard on the site proposed for redevelopment, has also expressed its strong opposition to the application.

But in what Lord Mayor Sally Capp described last year as a “win-win” for the community, the council has previously said that locals would be consulted on how the 920 sqm of community space in the building would be maximised.

Mr Mahoney said PDG remained “extremely excited and motivated” about realising an “outstanding outcome at this precinct shaping development” and that it was working with authorities with the view of achieving an approval by the end of 2020.

“PDG’s vision for Boyd Village is to fully utilise the abundance of green open space to create a true mixed-use vertical village on the park – high-quality residences, first-class amenities, affordable housing, fine-grain retail and community facilities,” he said •

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