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Crown’s tower back in the spotlight

05 Feb 2020

Crown’s tower back in the spotlight Image

A Channel 7 interview with Crown Resorts boss James Packer last month has brought the company’s ambition to redevelop 1 Queensbridge St in Southbank back into the public domain.

It comes after the state government’s decision last year to refuse an extension to Crown and then-development partner Schiavello’s two-billion-dollar approved plans to build what would have become Australia’s tallest building on the site.

Given planning exemption in 2017 as a “state significant” project, the original plans bypassed normal planning process based on its economic contribution to the state and promises to upgrade Queensbridge Square and Sandridge Bridge.

A condition of its permit had required it to start construction within two years of approval. However, financing issues meant that never happened and Minister for Planning Richard Wynne refused its bid for an extension.

Following the news, Crown Resorts announced that it had bought Schiavello’s 50 per cent stake in the site and hadn’t yet revealed any further information until Mr Packer’s public outing last month.

Much like its previous plan, Mr Packer said that Crown wanted approval by the end of the year to create a new hotel, residential and commercial space, along with the footbridge linking the skyscraper to the casino. He also wants to transform Queensbridge Square.

“We envision it being one of Australia’s best buildings,” he said.

Having called the developer’s previous plan “an unmitigated disaster”, Member for Albert Park Martin Foley was keen to assure the community last month that any new plan from Crown would face proper planning scrutiny.

“Any development application In Southbank is subject to the normal process of public scrutiny and review and assessment of its merits,” he said.

“This applies as equally to any possible Queensbridge St application by Crown as it does to for any other application. This will allow community, industry and council interests to be heard and considered.”

Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna said he was excited to see that project was “back in the limelight.”

“Something needs to happen with that space,” he said. “However, we’re hopeful that when they relook at these plans that they will consider the community’s needs that were overlooked with their previous plans.”

“Let’s hope they will have a lot more respect for the C270 planning scheme and they will try and comply with that. Certainly, they must consider the community amenity, where their contribution is going to go to and be fair with their contribution.”

The former Queensbridge Hotel, which still sits on the site along with a series of empty buildings, received a heritage overlay under a City of Melbourne heritage review of Southbank in 2018.

Retrospective to Crown and Schiavello’s original approval, the government’s decision to refuse an extension means that Crown would have to consider the building as part of its next proposal.

“Those buildings are an eyesore and it is exciting to know the heritage of the Queensbridge Hotel will be protected because there is an overlay now active,” Mr Penna said •

 

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