Tick of approval for new skyscrapers

By Laurence Dragomir, Urban Melbourne

A couple of skyscrapers which have been at planning for the better part of three years were recently approved via different channels.

The first project at 63 Exhibition St was last month granted a permit by the Minister for Planning for a Bates Smart-designed mixed-use tower. When the project came before the City of Melbourne for assessment, it was to rise 203m and cost an expected $255 million.

As part of their referral response, council planning officers requested a reduced height of 183 metres to ensure the development didn’t overshadow Birrarung Marr, although it is unknown if the approved version has been reduced to adhere to the City of Melbourne’s wishes via conditions of permit.

The approved tower will deliver both apartments and a hotel component on the site of the current ASF House.

63 Exhibition St’s approval marks off another of the diminishing number of projects which were assessed under the previous planning controls for the central city, prior to the Minister for Planning’s sweeping inner-city planning reforms.

Another CBD high-rise at 478-488 Elizabeth St has had to earn a planning permit the hard way, with a visit to VCAT required to achieve approval. The permit will pave the way for the development of an Elenberg Fraser-designed tower in excess of 60 levels comprising apartments, hotel suites and retail tenancies at ground level.

478-488 Elizabeth St will slot in between the completed 226m Vision Apartments and the under-construction Victoria One at 241m, further intensifying the emerging “wall” of skyscrapers that have created a new backdrop around Queen Victoria Market.

The successful planning results of both developments leave only a small handful of applications to be assessed under the previous planning regime, such as 100 Franklin St and 441-451 Elizabeth St.

And, finally, the City of Melbourne has revealed its plans for University Square, with the significant public space set to receive a complete makeover.

With the surrounding area rapidly bulking up and receiving a new metro line and station, the City of Melbourne’s plans for the site provide much-needed open space. Some 40 per cent of elms at University Square have reached the end of their useful life expectancy.

In partnership with the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Government, the reworked University Square is now in its third phase of consultation, which was submitted for consideration during September.

The first stage of University Square’s redevelopment will see both Leicester St and Pelham St come in for some attention. Sections of Leicester St adjacent to University Square will be demolished in favour of a new five-metre wide, north-bound lane and dedicated bicycle path/pedestrian thoroughfare.

Pelham St, on the other hand, will receive a new park entrance and pedestrian crossings, plus new garden beds and seating, whilst also relocating the temperance fountain to the new Pelham St entrance.

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