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St Johns Southgate

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Montague Community Alliance

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What’s behind the lights?

New Southgate vision revealed

09 Jun 2020

New Southgate vision revealed Image

By Sean Car

The owner of the iconic Southbank office and retail precinct Southgate has submitted its long-awaited $800 million transformation plans to the state government for approval.

Following more than two years of “master planning investigations”, ARA Australia last month lodged a development application with the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne as it seeks to reinvigorate Southbank’s original shopping and dining destination.

As it no doubt looks to capitalise on the state government’s fast-tracking of building permits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ARA’s proposal would deliver a new 21-storey office tower and more than 10,000 sqm of new-look retail space across four levels.

With the redevelopment seeking to “better connect the site to its Southbank neighbours”, the Fender Katsalidis-designed project would also provide a new 2000 sqm elevated park, as well as a further 4000 sqm of additional open space throughout the development.

Opened in 1992 and having long outgrown its original design, ARA Australia CEO David Blight said Southgate deserved to be “repositioned”.

“It’s our responsibility as asset owners and property managers to ensure Southgate fulfils its potential for our tenants, onsite workforce and local and international visitors alike,” he said.

“The redevelopment will mark the welcome return of a Melbourne icon and arrival of a striking new architectural statement in the form of a boldly-designed office tower and re-imagined dining, entertainment and services precinct.”

“Our plans will re-establish Southgate as a truly landmark destination and reinstate the precinct as a place all Melburnians can be proud of.”

Currently including the two Herald Weekly Times (HWT) and IBM office towers, a three-level retail and hospitality plaza and a basement carpark, the Singaporean-listed ARA Australia purchased Southgate from Dexus in 2016 and assumed management in 2018.

Speculation regarding its planned redevelopment heightened recently following concerns raised by a number of its current tenants as to whether their businesses would be incorporated in the new plans, as reported in the March edition of Southbank News.

ARA’s head of asset management Rohan Neville said it would be accepting expressions of interest from all parties, including its existing tenants, as it sought to create an “all-day lifestyle destination.”

“ARA Australia is committed to maintaining open, two-way communication with all tenants and community stakeholders throughout this process,” he said.

“Our tenants have been aware of the master planning investigations for some time and each tenant has been contacted by an ARA representative via phone to inform them of our intention to lodge the application. Moving forward we’ll be providing regular updates and sharing new information as it becomes available.”

“We are currently exploring a range of options in relation to Southgate’s retail and dining offering, to enhance the overall customer experience for everyone who visits the precinct.”

Mr Neville said its vision incorporated a range of casual and formal dining options, onsite conveniences such as a medical centre, food hall and supermarket, as well as everyday essentials and business event and exhibition spaces.

As a central hub connecting the Arts Precinct, St Johns Southgate and major hotels Quay West and The Langham to the Yarra River, the new plans will also feed directly into the City of Melbourne’s future upgrade of Southbank Promenade.

While the two-level structure that sits in front of The Langham housing restaurants such as Waterfront and Hophaus will stay, it will undergo interior remodelling.

“In a first for Melbourne, the new Southgate will create a unique opportunity to connect with nature alongside and overlooking the river – an opportunity lost up to this point in time,” Mr Neville said.

“Fender Katsalidis has delivered on our vision to create an inviting environment, with the inclusion of outdoor parkland across the new podium building fronting Southbank Promenade, which will enable people to relax and enjoy our unrivalled riverside vista.”

“We want Southgate to become synonymous with celebration – a place that people love working and playing in, and want to return to time and again.”

“We look forward to working with both the State Government and City of Melbourne in assessing the application and the opportunity to deliver a great outcome for the city.”

Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) president John Forman welcomed the news, but said he hoped existing tenants would be supported through the redevelopment.

“ It’s an exciting transformation of a space that is now 30 years old,” Mr Forman said.

“Together with the council’s refurbishment of the Promenade and Southbank Boulevard, as well as the state government’s plans for the Sturt St Arts Precinct, it really heralds a brand new era for Southbank.”

“ Our only concern is for the livelihoods of those tenants who have helped to make Southgate the icon that it is over nearly three decades.”

“ We trust that they can be accommodated in some way during the construction and that their future is assured into the new era”

Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna welcomed the rejuvenation of the area.

“The re-energersiation of Southgate is welcomed by residents on the condition that it works for the local community and complies with the planning scheme.”

ARA Australia estimates that the project would generate more than 340 jobs during construction, which if approved, would start and finish in 2021 and 2024, respectively •

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