“Make Room” homelessness housing project a step closer despite objections
Plans for 50 studio apartments to house rough sleepers in a six-storey Little Bourke St building are progressing.
A CBD project that plans to house rough sleepers is a step closer, after $1.1 million works were approved by City of Melbourne councillors despite almost 40 objections.
Partial demolition and building works at 602-606 Little Bourke St were unanimously backed by councillors as part of the “Make Room” project.
The initiative, between the City of Melbourne, Victorian Government, Unison Housing, and corporate and philanthropic sectors, plans to convert the building into secure accommodation for people experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough.
The building, on the CBD’s western fringe, will eventually offer up to 50 studio apartments and wraparound support services for residents who, according to the council, will stay for up to 12 months or until they are connected with long-term housing.
At an August 1 Future Melbourne Committee meeting councillors considered the changes needed to the building required to fit out supported residential accommodation, and whether they were acceptable from a heritage and urban design perspective.
The six-storey rendered brick building, constructed in 1952, was “in need of some much-needed TLC (tender loving care)” according to the council’s director of planning and building Julian Edwards.
A total of 38 people objected to the plans, concluding that the project would not provide a positive impact on the city.
Objectors said the Make Room project would decrease security and personal safety of surrounding residents, while increasing crime rates and litter.
Others said it would negatively impact nearby commercial interests and property prices.
However most of the objections were deemed irrelevant, as they focused on the “use” of the land as a supported residential facility, which did not require planning permission.
“Upon review of the objections received for the application, the majority of the concerns raised are associated with the intended use of the building for the Make Room project, and not in relation to the proposed works or heritage considerations,” an officer’s report said. “These concerns do not fall within the remit of council’s discretion when assessing the application, and therefore, cannot be addressed through this planning application.”
The approved works would see the building be re-rendered, all external windows replaced, construction of a new pedestrian entrance and the landscaping of the roof to feature a rooftop garden.
It was set be retrofitted and significantly improved (rather than demolished), something the council has been vocally supportng in recent times, particularly from an environmental perspective.
“We’d much rather see the retrofitting of an existing building rather than building something from scratch,” Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said.
“That helps preserve the fabric of our city – in this case a building that has received significant heritage grading – as well as being a far superior sustainable building outcome.”
The City of Melbourne has said the “landmark” CBD project was crucial for the city.
“People can re-take control of their lives when housing is available,” it said.
“However, without a continued supply of short term housing options in inner Melbourne, people will continue to end up sleeping on our streets.” •
Caption: An artist impression of the proposed “Make Room” project on Little Bourke St.