Leaving a lasting legacy

Sean Car

Meet Paul Curry, one of Cox Architecture’s leading visionaries behind Southbank’s future suburb within a suburb, Melbourne Square at Kavanagh St.

For a long time it was nothing more than an incredibly big car park. It would be fair to say that many locals once looked back on the vacant Kavanagh St block with a certain level of apprehension about its future.

A plot of land bigger than the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), the site sits directly opposite the ultra-dense City Rd precinct and, put into the wrong hands, many may have feared that the same trend could have followed here.

Enter Malaysian developer OSK Property, which purchased the site for close to $150 million back in 2014. From the very beginning, it was clear that the developer was determined to make its first Australian project a special one.

As an area lacking in open space, community services and street activation, the developer wanted to provide something that was going to be truly lasting for the people of Southbank and for Melbourne.

Marrying up with its vision was the concept design created by the team at Cox Architecture. While a number of renowned architects had vied for this mammoth project, it was this firm’s response to the brief that truly made OSK Property sit up and take notice.

And spearheading that creative vision was Cox Architecture director Paul Curry. Having worked on a range of major private and public infrastructure projects, such as the master plan for Melbourne’s Sports Precinct, it was clear he and his team had the right blend of experience to offer something special to Southbank.

“Right from day one, OSK was really big on this. This is their first project in Australia and they wanted to set a new benchmark and leave a lasting legacy for Melbourne,” Mr Curry told Southbank Local News.

“When we presented that, and then had ultimate feedback from the client saying that our drivers and aspirations really aligned with theirs, it felt like a nice fit from the beginning.”

There is no denying the significance of this project in creating a more liveable Southbank. From the beginning, Cox Architecture worked with both the City of Melbourne and the state government to ensure all parties were aligned with a broader vision for the area as set out in the Southbank Structure Plan and the Arts Precinct Blueprint.

Wedged right in the middle of the Arts Precinct, Southbank Village, Boyd Community Hub and Yarra River precinct, getting Melbourne Square right would mean tying all of these local assets together.

One of the biggest components to this is the aspiration for Kavanagh St to become a central street, linking Boyd Park to a transformed Southbank Boulevard with cycling links and active street frontages.

And, by combining four residential towers, a commercial tower and a hotel with a full-line Woolworths supermarket, childcare centre, retail and a 3700sqm urban park, the project is sure to make good on those aspirations.

“Through the master planning phase, through the City of Melbourne and the state government, we really did identify a number of ways that the site can aid that connection,” Mr Curry said.

“Council has its plans for Southbank Boulevard and Boyd Park at the moment and in the future is the Kavanagh St upgrade with the cycling links to City Rd, so as council begins to develop Kavanagh St more we will be looking to continue working closely with them.”

“The Boyd Park site has more of an active use so that was factored into the design of our park and how our park will link with Boyd Park and have some synergies and differing uses.”

“It’s all about understanding the journey and how Southbank can actually be the middle of the journey between the Botanic Gardens, the city and the Arts Precinct and how this can be a new place on that journey.”

From providing what it calls “amenity-retail”, to its emphasis on sustainability and sculptural tower designs, Mr Curry said that every aspect of Cox Architecture’s plan aspired to build on a rationale of improving Southbank.

Working closely with Carr Designs to deliver apartments that exceed standards set out in the government’s Better Apartments Guidelines, the project will also deliver homes that help to strengthen community.

“We’ve actually got just as many three-bedroom apartments as we do two-bedroom and the driver was really to create a more liveable project,” he said. “It’s about providing a range of affordability and aspect for the apartments but really recognising that the client also wants the development to be attractive for the owner-occupier.”

While the whole Melbourne Square project is many years from full completion, the community can look forward to stage one being delivered in 2021, at which point it will have a new park, supermarket and a range of other facilities to enjoy.

As he continues to play an integral role in delivering this landmark project for Southbank, Paul said he and the Cox Architecture team were incredibly proud to have its name associated with Melbourne Square.

“OSK Property was more about doing the right thing and leaving a lasting legacy rather than just creating a signature for signature’s sake,” he said. “It’s all about a quality combination, how that ties in with the ground and sets a benchmark.”

“We’re extremely proud. It’s such an iconic project and we have such a strong relationship with OSK Property and collectively we continue to want to get the best outcome for the site and for Southbank.”

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