Plans submitted for A’Beckett St

By Brendan Rees

Plans for a $4.45m “stacked vertical village” tower featuring shops and restaurants in the CBD will soon be considered by City of Melbourne.

Developers have applied to bulldoze a three-storey art-deco commercial building at 41-45 A’Beckett St to make way for an eight-storey tower with an “egg crate-like texture”, and “box-like tenancies”. 

Located opposite RMIT University and Melbourne Central, the proposed 40-metre building aims to “provide a social beacon for the young and effervescent locals”. 

Under the plans, the new precinct will feature painted wayfinding artwork on the exterior, terraces, signage tabs to indicate tenancy, and a facade predominantly clear-glazed. 

“The composition of the building is as a series of single-, double-, and triple-height boxes, to express the individual tenancies, stacked into an ad-hoc composition with a sliding dynamic,” the application said. 

An application to the council proposes the building will be a “social hub; a vertical village of retail, entertainment, and hospitality uses”. 

The existing building, also known as Wilder House with steel windows, dates from the pre-war era.

The plans submitted by Craig Tan Architects for owners Longriver Group say the new building will be targeted to the local demographic, particularly youths and the Asian demographic.

It said there had been a “dramatic increase in the youthful and upwardly mobile Asian demographic in the area, driven by the influx of international students prior to the pandemic”.

It also noted the area will be a “prime oasis” with basketball courts at RMIT also mooted to be developed with a 120-metre-high university tower.

“Once quite low lying, with small two-storey light industrial warehouses, the area to the north of the CBD between Elizabeth and Swanston streets is now dominated by tall residential towers with a characteristic lack of podium setbacks,” the report stated.

“The changing nature of this area is defining a new precinct within Melbourne, one that is akin to a contemporary ‘Asia town’.”

“The proposal at 41-45 A’Beckett responds to this emerging neighbourhood, in a positive and energised fashion.”

Six floors are proposed with a single basement consisting of nine bicycle spaces for staff.  

However, there will be no car parking under the plans, and the site will be limited to six bicycle parking spaces on A’Beckett Street.

The application has so far attracted two comments from the public, citing concerns a lack of bicycle parking will “force visitors to crowd the neighbouring building’s parking”.

Bicycle Network spokesman Alexander Miller said it was important the council considered the plans carefully to allow enough bike and car parking spaces in the area.

“If there’s no bike parking outside a really busy area then people might often park their bike [elsewhere] which the council doesn’t like either,” he said.

“What we observe is that a lot of bicycle hoops that the City of Melbourne installs … a lot of them are often quite full, especially during the day.”

“It seems the way we’re tracking there will be less people driving into the city.”

“I’m not too sure how many there are around that A’Beckett precinct or oversubscribed but that’s something the council needs to look at.”

Mr Miller added people also needed to safely secure their bikes and access buildings easily •

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