Red light for ‘facadism’

The City of Melbourne has recommended that a developer be refused a permit to build an 85-storey tower at 640 Bourke St.

Councillors considered an application for support for the predominantly residential tower at their July 5 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.

They supported their officers’ view that the proposal was: “an overdevelopment of the site by way of inadequate setbacks and inappropriate height to Little Bourke St, plot ratio and level of demolition of heritage fabric.”

The developer proposed to retain only the distinctive facade of the former Eliza Tinsley building.

Melbourne Heritage Action spokesperson Katrina Grant addressed the committee and complained intensely on the proposed “facadism”.

“We objected to a similar proposal in 2012 and, in our view, this version is worse,” she said. “The current proposal will see this building reduced to a facade and short-lengths of side walls. The facade will no longer relate to the floors inside, which will be wholly removed.  Instead, it will be free-standing and what was an historical building will become a screen wall.”

“We agree with the advice of council’s heritage adviser that the current proposal essentially uses the building as remnant artifact rather than a respected and reused building of value.  It will be seen without integrity and only as a husk,” she said.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was succinct in his summary: “Unacceptable overdevelopment.  It should be refused.”

Acting planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert was more expansive: “If the minister is going to approve this, with this height and this setback and bulk at the front and the lowering of the building, then the heritage place might as well be demolished.”

“I mean there’s no integrity left if this were to go ahead.”

“You can still get significant height and significant net floor space out of this site if only that height is built a bit further back from the front of the heritage place.”

“I’m surprised how ambitious the applicant is being in the light of all that is going on in the media and the strategic planning space about the centre of Melbourne at the moment.  I think this is a clear over development.”

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