Kings Way “eyesore” labelled a “disgrace” as site flagged for potential open space
The condition of a heritage building opposite Boyd Park in Southbank has come under scrutiny by the Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA), as the site’s owners await approval to conduct early demolition works.
The corner site abutting Kings Way and Kavanagh St is home to the former Austral Otis Engineering Works office building, which was the subject of a heritage overlay in 2020 as “a very rare survivor of South Melbourne engineering works”.
While located at a major southern entry point to the CBD and earmarked for development following an approval for a mixed-use building project dating back to 2020, the site has fallen into major disrepair.
Sitting opposite the Boyd Community Hub and Boyd Park, the corner building is currently plagued by graffiti and broken windows, with its condition described as a “disgrace” by SRA president Tony Penna.
“The building is indeed a disgrace and an eyesore within the fabric of Southbank; more so when directly opposite our much-loved community space. I know the community would be grateful to have this site cleaned-up,” Mr Penna said.
The site is currently owned by Run All International Pty Ltd and Hengmao Australia, which were contacted for comment by Southbank News.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Planning said an application to amend the planning permit had been received from the developers in November 2022 and that “it would be inappropriate to comment” while it was under assessment.
The proposed amendment seeks to make changes to conditions in the permit to allow for demolition to occur, prior to endorsement of plans and documentation required under these conditions.
The spokesperson added that any enquiries regarding the condition and maintenance of the existing building and site in the interim should be directed to the City of Melbourne.
A City of Melbourne spokesperson said that the council was “aware of these sites and conducts regular inspections to ensure the owner/s aren’t in breach of Local Law.”
“If they are in breach, the council will direct the owner/s to conduct works to bring the properties into compliance,” the spokesperson said.
Despite awaiting approved development, with the permit due to expire on December 19, 2024, should it not be completed, Mr Penna said the site was the perfect opportunity for the council to explore new open space in Southbank.
He said being located directly opposite Boyd Park and at the cul-de-sac end of Kavanagh St made it “ideal” for a potential acquisition.
“The open-air car park block directly opposite Boyd, adjacent to this derelict building site, would be the ideal site for the council’s acquisition plans owing to its central Southbank location, connection with Boyd, and its relative access to sunlight,” he said.
There are not a lot of potential options within Southbank and this site is as good as it could get.
As part of its 2021-22 budget, the City of Melbourne allocated $20 million towards “new Southbank open space”, while a further $5 million was planned for 2022-23 financial year, to redress the critical shortage of green space in the area.
It’s understood the council has been in talks with a number of landowners in the area, but Lord Mayor Sally Capp wouldn’t confirmed whether the owners of the Kings Way site were among them.
“Southbank is one of our city’s most densely populated areas, and we’re committed to creating much-needed green open space for the community to enjoy,” Cr Capp said.
“We’re continuing to work closely with the community, industry and developers to identify and maximise opportunities to establish new open space.”
The council noted that the 2010 Southbank Structure Plan outlined “an ambitious vision for the future transformation of Southbank, including securing new open space”.
“Considerable work has been undertaken to realise this vision, including major new open space projects such as the Southbank Boulevard transformation, Boyd Park and Kennedy Park,” it said.
“The City of Melbourne’s Budget 2023–24 includes $16.5 million to secure new open space across the municipality, including two pocket parks for Chapman St, North Melbourne and Miles and Dodds Street Reserve in Southbank.”
Speaking to councillors at their June 23 meeting where the council’s annual plan and 2023-24 budget was endorsed, Mr Penna questioned whether any further open space would ever be created with the $25 million set aside in recent budgets.
“Of course, we support the plans to deliver new public open space in Southbank. We’ve been hearing about this for years; yes, money has been allocated for years. But seriously, are we ever going to see any additional public open space? The money’s there, but I think it’s a legitimate question.” •