A 100 metre, 32-storey tower has been approved by the tribunal at 278 Little Lonsdale St. (See 278 Little Lonsdale Pty Ltd v Melbourne CC  VCAT 577.)
On site now is a low-level brick building that houses the “Phillips Shirt Factory”. It is to be demolished to make way for the new building.
This part of the northern Melbourne CBD has seen the construction of many tower buildings over the past 10 years, making it one of the most dense precincts in the city.
The council was the responsible authority for the application, not the Minister, as the floor space was under 25,000 sqm. The council was opposed to the application and engaged legal counsel and an urban design expert to fight the proposal at the tribunal.
Three key issues were identified by the tribunal:
Would the development comprise a continuous, dominant wall of towers?
Would the development enable adequate sun penetration to reach street level?
Would the proposal be an overdevelopment?
On the first issue, the tribunal found that the proposed building would be a positive addition to Melbourne’s skyline as viewed from Elizabeth St and Lonsdale St. It noted that the proposed building would not extend outside an existing building envelope and was satisfied it would not add in any significant way to the prevailing mass of built form in this area.
On the second issue, the tribunal considered Little Lonsdale St to be already substantially over-shadowed, including by existing four-storey industrial buildings. It said: “People can enjoy sunshine and high amenity in the nearby wide boulevards. People seeking sunshine can walk and sit in nearby Elizabeth St, Lonsdale St and LaTrobe St. These wide boulevards have been designed to provide high levels of pedestrian amenity. Little Lonsdale St was designed to provide access to the adjoining properties.”
On the third issue, the tribunal concluded that the proposed building would activate an otherwise bland space that is widely viewed from one of Melbourne’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares.
It was also satisfied that it would not contribute to an imposing wall of towers or unacceptable overshadowing of a sensitive and important public space.
It also gave weight to the building’s contribution to tourism (which was to provide short-term accommodation) and wider economic benefits.
The case also addresses a question of law as to whether part of the building servicing lifts, stairs and refuse chutes was exempt from the building separation requirements in the planning scheme. It found in the affirmative.