By Meg Hill
A proposed development in Hosier Lane would place 36 serviced apartments and two new retail spaces in the tourist hot-spot.
The $12 million development at 7-11 Hosier Lane would involve internal demolition and reconstruction of the existing three-story building and eight additional floors.
The development would have entrances on both Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane. Part of the building is currently leased by the Youth Projects, a charity providing for disadvantaged and homeless youth.
It is unclear whether or not the development would allow for the Youth Projects to remain.
The current building, of which the exact construction date is not known but is estimated around the beginning of the 20th century, has heritage overlay protection.
A planning application for the development outlines the protection of the brick facade, which is required by the heritage listing. The additional eight storeys is described as “contemporary”, with rainbow colouring that the application states will complement the graffiti and street art at ground level.
But the application also states that there will be “minimal visibility” of the additional storeys from ground level, and that this will mitigate any negative impact on the visual identity of the laneway.
Street artist Adrian Doyle said the proposal was “outrageous”.
“Hosier Lane gets 10,000 visitors a day, it’s an economy in its own right,” he said.
“Would they want to set up their shops and develop it if there wasn’t street art? They’re using street art, even though its illegal and they don’t want to put any money into the art, so they can make a quick buck.”
“They don’t understand the currency of culture. At what point is the whole city going to be exactly the same, like one big shopping mall?”
“We’re a cool city because of our art, and it’s just about gone.”
The proposed development may inflame simmering tensions over commercialisation of the lane and its street art.
After Culture Kings opened a store with an entrance in the lane there was a dispute over the company calling the police to report street artists last year.
At the end of last year street artists also hit out at commercial art in the laneway, including promotions for sporting events and different businesses.
Culture Kings signed a 10-year lease in the lane in 2017, but there are almost no other retail or hospitality outlets in the lane at ground level.
A notable exception is Good2Go Coffee, also at the 7-9 address, which is a social enterprise run by the Youth Projects.
A proposed high-rise development at another address in Hosier Lane was met with widespread backlash in 2014 and was rejected by VCAT after being approved by then planning minister Matthew Guy.