Developer takes council to VCAT over permit condition to build hotel

Developer takes council to VCAT over permit condition to build hotel

By Brendan Rees

A developer will head to the state planning tribunal to contest a permit condition despite winning the City of Melbourne’s approval to build a 12-storey hotel in the CBD. 

Datre Pty Ltd was recently given the green light to demolish Melbourne’s Hub Arcade and build a 40-metre hotel in its place under a $35 million plan.

But the Toorak-based developer has now lodged an appeal at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) against the council after it issued a single permit condition for a rear upper-level setback requirement. 

According to the council, the setback is required “to protect amenity and allow equitable development of the adjoining site”. 

Under the plans, the proposed boutique hotel building at Little Collins St will feature 135 guest rooms, shops, a pool, restaurants and eateries.

The two-storey Hub Arcade, which opened in 1965, will be bulldozed to make way for the new building with a proposal to upgrade the existing link to the heritage-listed Royal Arcade, which is home to a number of restaurants and specialty shops. 

The plans also include an “elegant arched brick ground floor retail streetscape” as well as an 11th-floor terrace with a glazed balustrade, a lobby, gym and swimming pool in the basement, and food and drink venues on the ground floor and roof top.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the proposal was an “exciting project which will revitalise a tired section of Little Collins St to create a beautiful new boutique hotel”.

“The Hub Arcade is an iconic site, and it was important plans for its redevelopment were respectful and displayed quality architecture and design,” he said.

“We hope the new hotel will help bring back the buzz to this historic quarter of the city and help support other local businesses in the area.”

Under the proposal, the new building will incorporate a central arcade entry at the centre of its Little Collins St frontage, with shops on either side.

“While the proposal is somewhat taller than the majority of these buildings, the upper levels of the proposed hotel will not exert any adverse scale impacts,” the submission said. 

The application said demolition was “acceptable” as the arcade building was not considered contributory.   

“The proposed new building will be a positive insertion within its heritage context, that responds to the valued character of the precinct though its massing, articulation and materiality,” it said.

The new hotel would also “provide an appropriate setting to and internal interface with the adjacent Royal Arcade”.

The proposal does not include car parking on site, however, there would be a total of 28 bicycle spaces.
Tristan Davies, president of the Melbourne Heritage Action group, which had objected to the proposal, said “it is disappointing to see one of Melbourne’s little arcades go, and also the low-rent shops in it disappear … which is something we really need when Melbourne reopens.”

In its objection letter, the group said it was against the demolition of the Hub Arcade and expressed concerns the proposed building would “certainly dominate its neighbours”.

“While we understand the planning scheme does not put controls on us, it is unfortunate to see yet another cultural space make way for a ‘luxury hotel’,” the letter said.  

“We also object to the demolition of an arcade with multiple tenancies being turned into a blander arcade with reduced tenancy spaces.”

A VCAT hearing has been scheduled for March 2022. 

Datre Pty Ltd has been contacted for comment •

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