Finale for artists’ building?

By Rhonda Dredge

Lawyers are advising tenants of the Nicholas Building to think about exit strategies, following gazettal by the Minister for Planning in January of the project land area for the Metro Tunnel. 

Several hundred tenants occupy the building, which is one of nine included in a planning scheme amendment that paves the way for construction of the new CBD South station.

Compulsory acquisition notices will be posted this month, said Peta Olive, a principal lawyer with Aitken Partners. The company is representing several tenants in the Port Phillip Arcade and last month leafleted the 10-storey building in Swanston St.

“Sometimes tenants are kept out of the loop,” Ms Olive said. “This is a move to keep people informed.”

The Nicholas Building is adjacent to the site for the new station and many of the artists, designers, gallerists and small business people that occupy the building are in favour of public transport.

Few realised the impact the Metro Tunnel project would have on their lives. “We didn’t discuss things,” said one tenant.

An independent panel has recommended to the Planning Minister that the station be located four metres deeper and the number of properties acquired be reduced by two to lower the impact on the community.

“The Nicholas Building won’t be acquired,” Ms Olive said. “But anyone within the designated project land area may have rights. You could be next door to the Port Phillip Arcade and running a business for the next five years and have to put up with dust, noise and restricted access.”

In other public projects such as the replacement of suburban railway crossings, businesses have not been compensated. The January gazettal is a positive step for the properties in Swanston St, Ms Olive said, because they are part of the designated project land.

Businesses may be able to make a claim for compensation if they suffer a loss or experience restricted access. The company has already assisted businesses from the City Square relocate.

Compulsory acquisition occurs in stages. Notices of intention to acquire will be posted this month. The Melbourne Metro Rail Authority will wait two months before gazetting the notices.  The works then go out to tender, with timing controlled by the authority.

“The demolition of the carpark at City Square will occur in 2017,” said MMRA spokesman Peter de Luca.

“With the buildings around Young and Jackson’s not likely to be affected until 2018 after the award of the PPP major works contract.”

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