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Heritage topped with hotel in new City Rd plans

09 Sep 2020

Heritage topped with hotel in new City Rd plans Image

By Sean Car

A 104-year-old heritage-listed warehouse would be topped by a 28-storey hotel if plans for a new City Rd development proposal are approved.

IMG Investments Australia has lodged a planning application for a new Elenberg Fraser-designed tower at 292-300 City Rd, where the two-storey warehouse is currently sitting unused and vandalised.

The development includes a 380-room residential hotel and ground floor retail in an area of Southbank in which locals say street activation is sorely lacking.

Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna said heritage and street activation should be the main priorities in assessing the proposed development.

“In short it’s great to see a plan to develop the site, it needs to be developed,” he said.

“It looks exciting, it looks good, as long as they can deal with the heritage properly and activating the street is critical.”

“There’s a real lack of ground level amenities on this part of City Rd and we need the street activated. It needs to be commercial space, we can’t dictate what type but too much of these buildings use their ground floor only as a foyer – we need shops, restaurants, and so on.”

“The building is heritage-listed and we acknowledge the developer has considered that in their proposal but for detailed consideration we will have to wait to hear from council officers, who are the experts, to give their opinion.”

The development proposal outlines ground level retail for the development. The existing heritage-listed building, currently covered in graffiti, would be partially demolished and restored and the heritage-graded façade retained to a depth of five-metres.

The warehouse at 300 City Rd is subject to an individual heritage overlay and a precinct overlay. It was built in 1916 for poultry and bird food supplier White & Hancock.

Its heritage significance was included in the development application: “White & Hancock’s warehouse is significant historically for its representation of the extensive industrial and distribution development that existed at Southbank over a long period, aided by good railway and shipping access, and its long association with the firm White & Hancock, who were well-known in the poultry industry; and aesthetically for the ornate Edwardian classicism of the façade, particularly the entry bays, judged within Edwardian-era warehouse and manufacturing structures.”

Robin Grow, president of the Art Deco & Modernism Society of Australia, said the proposal seemed to meet technical requirements but raised subjective questions about heritage retention.

“The proposal seems to meet the objectives and requirements of the relevant planning schemes,” he said.

“A number of other nearby buildings – notably Bank Apartments, on the southern corner of City Rd and Clarke St – have been subject to a similar treatment, and the height of the proposed building is consistent with the area.”

Mr Grow said the heritage retention was an example of facadism, with the demolition of the building beyond the depth of the “structural bay”, a controversial development strategy where heritage was concerned.

“It raises the questions of, firstly, whether facadism is acceptable in the City of Melbourne and, secondly, what other options exist for the current usage of the space proposed to be demolished if this proposal does not proceed,” he said.

“The existing buildings at 292-300 are currently in a state of disrepair. While they could, and arguably should, be retained fully and restored for other functions, there may not be an economic argument for this treatment, and the buildings may continue to deteriorate.”

In February, heritage policies in the City of Melbourne were updated and a contemporary heritage category system was introduced under Planning Scheme Amendment C258, which approved by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne in July.

Following the changes, chair of the council’s heritage portfolio Cr Rohan Leppert said the new policies would better protect heritage buildings and discourage facadism, where only the façade of a heritage building was preserved, while the rest of the building was replaced.

It was yet to be confirmed when the application would be presented to councillors for consideration at a Future Melbourne Committee (FMC) meeting by the Southbank News September edition deadline •

 

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