Another big year for CBD planning

By Lawrence Dragomir, Urban Melbourne

What was initially a relatively quiet beginning to 2017 is fast drawing to a close with progress being made on a flurry of projects.

Charter Hall’s $600 million Wesley Place project at 130 Lonsdale St is now underway with ground works signalling the commencement of construction on the premium grade office tower by Lendlease.

Charter Hall is pushing ahead with the development after securing pre-commitments within the 33-storey, COX Architecture-designed tower which accounts for about 30,000sqm within the 55,000sqm tower.

130 Lonsdale St forms Stage 1 of Wesley Place, as Charter Hall pushes a second tower through planning that will effectively bookend the massive site.

Stage 2 of Wesley Place at 150 Lonsdale St was recently endorsed by City of Melbourne. The proposal would see the existing car park onsite partially demolished to allow for construction of the 23-storey tower which will sit atop the existing structure.

Also designed by COX, 150 Lonsdale St would rise to an overall height of 80m above street level with a floor area ratio of 22.77:1, which exceeds the recommended 18:1 plot ratio. The proposed floor area uplift is supported by the delivery of commercial office space as the public benefit.

A mixed-use tower at 111 A’Beckett St is moving forward after new owners SP Setia concluded a deal to purchase the site from Singaporean developer Tong Eng for $61 million mid-year. The project now dubbed UNO Melbourne is set to join a growing list of Elenberg Fraser-designed towers in the CBD’s north, with the 63-storey EQ Tower directly opposite.

UNO Melbourne will rise a total 210m behind the retained facade of the Commonwealth Motors building, which is finished in an Art Deco-style and will comprise approximately 60,000sqm of floor area with SP Setia reconfiguring the existing permit to include a hotel across the tower’s lower levels.

Elsewhere, after a protracted legal battle with a Singaporean rival, developer CEL Australia has walked away from its Tower Melbourne project. Demolition of the existing building on the corner of Bourke and Queen streets ground to a halt in 2013 following a dispute about access to the property and damage to the adjoining buildings at 140 Queen St and 27 McKillop St.

Fellow developer Colonial Range filed legal action in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal seeking to have the planning permit for the project revoked, which delayed the start of construction of the 226m Elenberg Fraser-designed tower. With VCAT finding in its favour, CEL Australia was ready to recommence works onsite. However, these plans were scuttled after Colonial Range decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Following on from its decision to walk away from the project it has since emerged that CEL and Colonial Range have agreed to collectively sell their respective sites. The landholdings are being marketed off market through Colliers International with both parties expecting $150 million for the combined blocks which now encompass 140-150 Queen Street and 27 McKillop Street. Combined, they form a 2500 sqm development site. Watch this space.

And finally, Golden Age Group has announced that it has signed an agreement with Starwood Capital Group to enter into a joint venture to manage the hotel component within its 85 Spring Street development.

The $600 million mixed-use development has frontages to both Little Collins and Spring Street. Golden Age Group purchased site from Grocon during February 2017 for $75 million, consequently enlisting Bates Smart to redesign the project.

In addition to the hotel the project is set to include 138 apartments across 39 levels in a building with frontage to Spring Street and views over the parliamentary precinct. Starwood’s signature sees it manage a second building fronting Little Collins Street which will rise to 26 levels and include 250 hotel suites plus amenities such as a bar restaurants, conference rooms and a gym. The hotel is tentatively slated to open in 2020, meaning a construction start is likely next year.

As the curtain draws to a close on 2017 there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018 with construction proper on the $11b Melbourne Metro Rail Project set to commence in addition to the first stage of the Queen Victoria Market Redevelopment. On the skyscraper front Aurora Melbourne Central should be topped out by year’s end while construction on Queens Place, 308 Exhibition Street and the massive West Side Place project should be in full swing. Olderfleet, Premier Tower, Collins Arch and 80 Collins Street will also finally begin to emerge from the ground and start making their mark on the CBD skyline.

And with that I hope you have a safe and enjoyable break over the holiday period and I look forward to what should be a big year for construction in Melbourne. See you in 2018.

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