A week in the life of Bourke St

By Rhonda Dredge

The last days of lockdown were moving swiftly for those connected to the block in Bourke St between Little Collins, Elizabeth and McKillop streets.

A new office tower was completed, residents were moving back into their heritage apartments and a famous tea house was re-opening. 

The tower, at 405 Bourke, was completed on Friday, October 15 and construction workers celebrated after a difficult build.

Within a day, residents were moving back in next door to find a 39-storey tower cantilevered over their apartment building.

The tower was designed by architects Woods Bagot, who created a similar cantilever for a tower at 80 Collins St, completed last year.

Commentators say that a cantilever is expensive to build but it allows a developer to buy air space in a prominent site while protecting heritage buildings close to the ground. 

The tower fits well into the streetscape on Bourke St with the podium the same height as the five-storey historic buildings either side. The residential building to the west was itself a 2010 redevelopment of the old McEwans hardware store, which went bankrupt in 1993.

If anything has come out of the pandemic, it has been the show of strength of the construction industry, particularly on hard core development projects such as this.

The tower was pre-leased in entirety to the National Australia Bank prior to COVID and bank staff were moving into 395, beneath the residential section, and 405, with the branch due to open in November. 

Courtney Lettieri, who works for Harcourts Melbourne City, travelled from her home in Werribee to Bourke St on the Thursday after completion to arrange an inspection of one of the apartments. 

“You can’t beat this location,” she said. “It’s a beautiful part of town, central where you get the best of both worlds.”

Harcourts already has its marketing down pat for what they’re calling a “pied- à-terre”, in city real estate parlance “a home away from home”.

Harcourts has several apartments for lease at 395 and Courtney was showing people through a two-bedroom apartment with views of the GPO, for sale for $690,000 to $740,000.

“We’re not allowed to advertise,” she said. “But we can do inspections.”

Maker Lane, a new lane running through to Little Collins St, was lagging a week behind the rest, but just up the street, on the corner of McKillop St, Hopetoun Tea Rooms was getting ready to open.

The tea room has replaced another Melbourne institution, Kozminsky’s jewellery store. That move is a story in itself after the original tea room went into administration last year following a dispute with the owners of the Block Arcade. 

The construction company, Multiplex, which built the tower for Brookfield Properties, has already moved out to work on its next job, the new quarantine centre at Mickleham •

Caption: Courtney Lettieri, of Harcourts, happy to be back in town.

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