“Bitter disappointment” over Treasury Square deal

By Katie Johnson

The Treasury Square Gardens deal that will see developers build residential and office towers on prime public land has locals up in arms.

After buying the land in May last year, Cbus and Mirvac plan to build three towers on the 1.4-hectare slice of land spanning the Flinders St railyard to Wellington Parade South. 

East Melbourne Group planning and heritage convenor Greg Bisinella said the decision to sell the land to private developers put “Melbourne’s backyard” at risk.  

“It’s a very significant, open site that requires careful planning and we’re bitterly disappointed with the outcome,” Mr Bisinella said. 

“There was a lack of consultation with the community for such an important piece of land which is part of the railway grid from Fed Square to the MCG.” 

Developer Mirvac and superfund Cbus property won the bid for the land in May last year after the state government’s VicTrack put it up for sale. 

There was huge interest from national and international organisations as the site was marketed as an opportunity to own up-market real estate with a value of more than $2 billion. 

Prior to the deal, the City of Melbourne also voted to subdivide the site and rezone the land as Capital City to allow building to occur. 

Mr Bisinella said that this decision wrongly “extended CBD planning laws into East Melbourne”. 

“That hard edge is designed for a purpose, it provides beautiful views over the Yarra, and now you’ll have an ugly building blocking the view and overshadowing Birrarung Marr park,” Mr Bisinella said. 

“Public open spaces are very scarce in Melbourne and the Treasury Square Gardens could have been great opportunity to create a new public space.” 

Residents 3000 president Rafael Camillo also said that council should be more focused on protecting and creating public space. 

“The perspective of residents is that it could be better used as a public space and for the long-term future of Melbourne it’s important to protect open land,” Mr Camillo said. 

“If we start getting massive towers all around the park it will overshadow the space that makes Melbourne special.” 

In the long term, rail lines east of the Russell St extension to Batman Avenue will be decked over to form what could be Federation Square East. 

A new pedestrian and cycle link between the city, parks and Yarra River has also been proposed. 

In the original submission to parliament the City of Melbourne said the possibility of this connection made the site “very significant and strategic.”

“A generous pedestrian connection north-south from Flinders St through the site would connect the southeastern end of the central city to the Yarra River corridor, and link Treasury Gardens and Birrarung Marr,” it said.

Although there is pressure for the developers to obey local planning guidelines, Mirvac and Cbus have complete freedom when it comes to what to build. 

Early plans outline that the development will likely take the form of residential and commercial buildings, but formal plans are yet to be released. 

Mr Bisinella said that the he hoped the developers would carefully consider the impact on the city as a whole before they began building. 

“This project is too significant to rush,” he said. 

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