Hotel approved above heritage warehouse
By David Schout
A new 28-storey hotel is set to be built on City Rd, above a 105-year-old heritage-listed warehouse.
Plans for the $120 million development near Crown Casino were approved by City of Melbourne councillors at an August 3 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
The 100-metre tall hotel, featuring 380 rooms and an “alfresco-style café” at street level, would sit atop a 1916-built Edwardian-era warehouse building.
Existing buildings at 292-300 City Rd would be demolished to make way for the hotel, however the warehouse facade would be “largely restored to its original appearance”.
The warehouse was considered significant for its association with Southbank’s industrial history, and the new hotel tower would be set back six metres behind the facade “to respect its integrity”.
The council’s planning chair and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the proposal would bring “real character to the streetscape” and “an additional degree of respect for Southbank heritage”.
“I do think this is a significant improvement on what we’ve seen time and again unfortunately in Southbank, where we have lost too many of the heritage warehouses which used to be a real feature of Southbank, or we have seen cases of extreme facadism where towers extend immediately behind the facade of an old warehouse,” he said.
Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies said while the group was pleased the council had ensured “more than than just token facadism” on the site, it did have some concerns.
Mr Davies said it had hoped more of the building had actually been retained.
“It appears that what is being called ‘retention’ behind the facade to a six-metre depth is actually a completely new construction in modern materials behind the facade; sort of an illusion of keeping more of the building,” he said.
However, deputy planning chair Rohan Leppert said while there were “atrocious examples” of so-called heritage protection throughout Southbank, this would not be one of them.
“Whilst the purest interpretation of the now updated local policy might call for an eight to 10-metre setback or thereabouts, if you compare these drawings in front of us to the sorts of applications we’ve seen in past years, we are seeing vast improvements already,” Cr Leppert said.
“And I think that is testament to a changing culture in the development industry but also the extent to which our planners have been given additional tools to push further.”
The proposal also received 28 objections, many from residents in the 46-storey Shadow Play apartment building to the west of the site.
Concerns focused primarily on impacts to daylight, outlook and privacy.
However, the council’s delegate report said tower separation of 11.3m to 12m ensured “adequate and reasonable privacy, outlook and daylight is maintained to the north-east facing apartments at Shadow Play; and sunlight is not reduced from midday”.
The hotel itself would feature an alfresco-style cafe on the ground floor, directly behind the retained facade.
Level one would feature hotel dining, level two dedicated for function space, level three admin and office space, level four co-working office space and meeting rooms, and level five a gym, pool and treatment rooms.
Level six to 26 would each feature 18 hotel rooms, level 27 two presidential hotel suites, and a function terrace was proposed for the top floor.
The site is owned by IMG Australia Investments, and the hotel was designed by architecture practice Elenberg Fraser.
Addressing the council on August 3, Ruben Monsanto Jnr from Elenberg Fraser said the proposal would “bring the building back to life and create activation within the streetscape”.
It is an area of Southbank in which locals have said street activation was “sorely lacking”.
It is not yet known when the hotel development would commence.
Why is the warehouse important?
The warehouse at 300 City Rd was built in 1916 for poultry and bird food supplier White & Hancock.
According to heritage documents, it is considered significant both historically and aesthetically.
“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,” Amendment C305: Southbank Heritage notes.
“And aesthetically for the ornate Edwardian classicism of the facade, particularly the entry bays, judged within Edwardian era warehouse and manufacturing structures.” •