New tower design is more acceptable

Chief amongst planning news in the CBD in May was the unveiling of a new design for 212-222 LaTrobe St. 

Originally lodged with planning authorities in 2011, the previous proposal consisted of two towers with a combined number of dwellings numbering 296 with 100 car parks, ground floor retail and 1800 sqm of commercial space.

The original design drew criticism from the City of Melbourne citing lack of setbacks, lack of activation at street level and poor on-site amenity.

Fast forward to present day and a redesign by Jackson Clement Burrows (JCB) has been approved by VCAT.  The JCB design features a tower of 54 levels on the 212-222 LaTrobe St site and a second tower of 39 levels located at street address 17-25 Little LaTrobe St.

Together, both towers yield 400 apartments and all units within the structures adhere to a minimum net floor area of 50 sqm (inclusive of balconies).

Unsurprisingly, after such a long time in the planning system, the sites are now up for sale and are being advertised by Savills.

Not to stray too far from LaTrobe St, RMIT University has published details on its “New Academic Street” project which aims to open up the lower levels of many of its existing academic buildings in order to create a more amenable experience.

The academic buildings fronting Swanston St – Building 8, Building 10, Building 12 and Building 14 each feature new entrances covered by protruding canopies.   Building 14 on Franklin St is to get the same treatment.

According to RMIT, the “interventions”, as they are dubbing them, will:

Enhance the physical quality and character of the relevant streets;

The transparent and open interventions will increase passive surveillance on Swanston and Franklin streets; and

Create informal spaces – furthermore enhancing activity at street level.

Likewise, as part of the New Academic Street(NAS) project, the new entrances to the buildings will form part of a laneway network thus providing an enhanced wayfinding experience through the city campus.

To create a simple, clear and effective means of transforming the access and wayfinding into the campus, the design team proposes to create a new network of “laneways”.

According to RMIT NAS’s town planning report:  “These laneways will be substantially open, operating on an extended-hours basis within the campus, and being partly undercover and partly ‘open’ to the sky.”

I couldn’t write this month’s column without mentioning the Better Apartments discussion paper.  Although I’m yet to find the time to read through the document entirely, many in the industry have.

The range of opinion from planners, architects, developers, marketers, building managers, sales agents, engineers – all the sub-sectors which make up what we at Urban Melbourne dub the “Urban Industry” – is incredibly diverse.

There’s a lot of focus on the discussion paper not asking the right questions about costs and drawing parallels to NSW’s State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) number 65 – which some sectors of the industry have said the Better Apartments paper is drawing too much inspiration from.

The idea that minimum sizes of apartments should be mandated is causing the most angst.  Here’s hoping this topic of discussion doesn’t take up all the air time. Expect a fiery debate over the coming months.

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