Smaller, “superior” office tower approved for La Trobe St

By David Schout

A 31-storey office building less than half the size of a previously approved development at 383 La Trobe St has been endorsed by the City of Melbourne. 

The northern CBD site, currently housing the Australian Federal Police, could accommodate up to 4000 future workers once complete.

At the ground level, a public arcade and laneway will provide pedestrian access through to Little Lonsdale and Queen streets and would feature a range of retail venues. 

It would also feature public steps designed as a “meeting place” on the La Trobe St frontage.

Council planning chair and Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the comparatively modest Mirvac development at the edge of the Hoddle Grid was “in many ways superior to what has been put to council previously”.

“It’s a very significant development and we welcome that, as we bring back the buzz,” Cr Reece said. 

“This is a high quality, well-articulated proposal that responds appropriately to the site’s context.”

In 2016, a 70-storey hotel and apartment tower designed by French architect Jean Nouvel was approved for the site, but was not built by then developer Sterling Global.

Mirvac then purchased the existing five-storey Royal Mint Centre building for $122 million in 2018. 

Deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert said the latest proposal was of “high quality”.

“What a brilliant vote of confidence in the future of commercial and retail in our city and what a beautiful way to design future commercial and retail uses in our city as well,” Cr Leppert said. 

“This is a really stunning design and everything about the lower levels in particular and the care with which the permeability of the ground floor and the way the retail interacts with those new through-block links … has been done in a really, really smart way.”

The design, by Cox Architecture, also features a “flexible facade” where tenants will be able to “curate” their own terrace zone ranging from two to nine metres.

“Terraces are orientated to the north and will have views over Flagstaff Gardens and, collectively, have the potential to provide a green vertical spine to the building’s facade,” the proposal read.

Cr Reece said the links through to the south of the site — soon to house a 32-storey Victoria University vertical campus — were the “most pleasing aspect” of the designs. 

“In years to come this is going to be a really, really busy part of Melbourne, so those linkages are going to be extremely important and it’s going to make this part of the city, and this particular site, a real hive of activity.”

Councillors recommended that the central arcade be open seven days a week from 7am to 10pm.

“Obviously what we’re trying to avoid here is what we’ve seen in some other parts of the city where if you try and visit an arcade outside of working hours you find out it’s closed, and it creates these dead spaces around the city.”

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne will make the ultimate decision on a permit for the site and if approved, Mirvac would look to begin construction in 2022 •

Caption: An artist impression of the 31-storey office building on La Trobe St.

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