More than 500 student apartments approved despite community objection

By Katie Johnson 

After two years of deliberation by the City of Melbourne, the inner city will be home to the first private, fully-catered student accommodation in Melbourne.

 Scape plans to build a 22-storey, 533-bed student accommodation building on Victoria St, despite more than 100 community objections. 

Carlton resident Andrew Richards said that with so many studio apartments the building was a “gross overdevelopment” of the site and would make it impossible to socially distance.

“There is only 3.1 sqm of communal space per student for indoor space and only three lifts proposed, which will be clearly inadequate, as up to 1066 people could reside in the building,” Mr Richards said.

“Social distancing is completely impossible as there are a multitude of shared and crowded spaces built into every part of the design.”

CBD resident Mark Furlong also said the building’s layout would not be COVID-safe.

“It would be unconscionable to permit developers to build an uber-congested ant colony comprising hundreds of contiguous units, almost none of which have private cooking facilities,” Mr Furlong said.

Scape’s plans state that the building will serve as a space for student communities to thrive, and will be equipped with “lounge areas, gym, cinema, dining room and connected terraces”.

Student meals will also be provided for students during their tenure, much like a university college would.

Daniel Soussan from Tract consultants said that Scape had gone to great lengths to ensure students had enough apartment space, with a floor to ceiling height of two point seven metres.

“In relation to student accommodation that [height] is acceptable as it meets building code,” Mr Soussan said.

“The student rooms will exceed the requirements of the City of Melbourne’s student housing policy, with generous indoor and outdoor communal spaces.”

The building was designed by architect Denton Corker Marshall and has a modern exterior decorated with tree plantings.   

Carlton resident Ewan Ogilvy said that the new building could dominate the heritage overlay of the area.

“Why couldn’t the council have reviewed the massing of the development to ensure that important views towards the Royal Exhibition Building along Mackenzie St are retained?” Mr Ogilvy said.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nick Reece said council had carefully considered the plans since they were proposed in 2019 and were confident Scape would create a “stand-out” building for Melbourne.   

“They are making a bold statement with the design of this building and it’s a real juxtaposition to Drummond St and the heritage buildings of Carlton,” Cr Reece said.

“It is one of those designs that if it is executed with quality materials and quality finishes it could be a real stand-out building for Melbourne, but if it’s not done with high-quality materials and detail it could be a real ugly duckling.”

Cr Reece also said that although the building could provide a positive addition to the suburb and benefit pedestrians, more needed to be done to improve the standards for student accommodation.

“There is a large number of people going into this building and it is a matter of great regret to me that we do not have the equivalent of the building and apartment design guidelines for student accommodation,” Cr Reece said.

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