Design panel praised as new hotel approved following “robust” feedback
A new 207-room CBD hotel has been approved by the City of Melbourne after it told the applicant to go back to the drawing board.
A 25-level hotel on Little Bourke St has been approved by the City of Melbourne after significant changes were made following “robust” feedback from the council’s design panel.
The reworked design, which is said to have ensured an improved outcome for heritage and the public realm, was evidence of a successful planning system according to the council.
In June 2022 plans for the site, at 620-632 Little Bourke St at the western edge of the CBD, were considered by the Melbourne Design Review Panel (MDRP) — a panel of independent architecture, landscape architecture and urban design experts formed in late-2021 to improve the quality of new developments.
The panel’s advice urged the applicant to be more sympathetic to both the streetscape and heritage context, with the site home to a heritage-listed red brick building originally constructed as a workshop within a former power station.
It also urged architects to reconsider vehicle access arrangement, increase activation and improve the public realm response at ground level.
The “robust” feedback was taken on board and implemented in the latest application, approved by councillors at a October 24 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
Town planning consultant Paul Little, from Planning & Property Partners representing applicant Yarra Hotel Group, said they had been on “quite a journey, but a really positive one”.
“A proposal was put forward [and] it’s fair to say we received some robust but constructive feedback through the MDRP process,” he said.
The council’s acting director of planning Marjorie Kennedy said it had worked “very collaboratively” with the permit applicant, and through the MDRP process had seen key changes.
These included the removal of cantilevering over the heritage buildings and vehicle access through Little Bourke St which was against urban design principles.
Other changes included a greater setback from the heritage building and significant amendments to the tower design.
She argued a “much improved design outcome has been a result of that process”.
Mr Little said while his client has existing hotels to the east of the CBD, a new offering within the Hoddle Grid had been a “focus of theirs for some time”.
Works on the development, which Yarra Hotel Group hope to begin next year, are set to cost $33.2 million.
The council’s planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said the result was an “absolutely brilliant example” of the MDRP process in action.
“There were some challenges with this application when it was first submitted but it went through the MDRP [which] was a very constructive, robust and positive process for everyone involved. We have seen some important changes made to the design of the building,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.
“Which really leave this as an absolutely stunning building which works beautifully in the heritage context of the old warehouse there on Little Bourke St.”
“It’s going to be a fabulous addition to the collection of standout buildings we have in Melbourne. It’s not often I get to sit here and say I wholeheartedly welcome this application and can’t wait to see it being delivered, but that his absolutely the case here.”
Deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert added: “[It’s] an exemplary process leading to an exemplary outcome … it wasn’t a rushed decision but it is a lasting decision because we know that good design leads to really good outcomes.”
Cr Reece said the application was also a positive from a wider economic perspective.
“We’re a city in which entertainment, hospitality and tourism is going to be a bigger and more important part of our economy going forward. So, seeing a proposal for a new hotel, particularly such a well-designed one as this, is just fantastic to see and great for Melbourne.”