Hosier Lane apartments are only a facade

By Meg Hill

Opposition to a planned multistorey apartment building in Hosier Lane has forced the issue to debate at an upcoming City of Melbourne meeting. 

Bruce Henderson Architect’s $12 million plans for 7 Hosier Lane attracted enough formal objections to trigger a review by the Future Melbourne Committee (FMC).

Eight additional floors are proposed atop an existing three-storey heritage-listed building. It’s likely that Youth Projects, the youth charity and shelter currently occupying the building, would be moved out if the plans proceed.

Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) said the proposal would dominate Hosier Lane, threaten its authenticity and was an example of heritage “facadism” – reducing heritage retainment to outside shells.

MHA said the plans “mimicked” the street-level graffiti in its colour design in a threatening and disingenuous way. 

Part of the apartment plans read: “Coloured horizontal and vertical steel frames are proposed around new openings and balconies to create a random façade composition that extends the artistic ‘graffiti’ feel of Hosier Lane to the upper levels and create a visual connection between the existing building and the new extension”.

Street artists are on edge about attempts to commercialise the lane’s graffiti culture after street clothing chain Culture Kings moved into the lane last year.

Tension turned into conflict when store management called the police on the long-accepted practice of street artists painting in the lane without formal permission.

Culture Kings commissioned artwork for their walls in the lane, which further angered street artists. 

MHA has expressed concern that the apartment proposal, which includes moving retail into the ground floor, would also involve a clampdown on non-commissioned painting.  

Street artist Adrian Doyle told CBD News in January that the apartment proposal was hypocritical.

“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 it’s illegal and they don’t want to put any money into the art, so they can make a quick buck.”

A planning permit application for the apartment building was submitted to council in January this year.

There are currently 19 formal objections against the plans.

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