Protect our key CBD sites: Council

By David Schout

The City of Melbourne has asked the Planning Minister to apply heritage protection for 64 sites it sees as historically and culturally significant to the CBD.

The buildings, situated within the Hoddle Grid, include the former Victoria Club building and the 164-year-old Metropolitan Hotel.

Some of the sites are more than 150 years old, yet aren’t protected from developers under the city’s planning scheme.

Others are more modern, post-war sites, including the 1970-built Hoyts Mid City Cinema on Bourke St.

The proposed heritage overlay will not explicitly prevent development or demolition on the respective sites, but will ensure owners must apply for approval and meet additional heritage rules.

The council’s wish-list to Planning Minister Richard Wynne also includes a request for protection of six CBD precincts, including sections of Flinders Lane, Little Lonsdale and Little Collins St.

Most of the sites recommended in the extensive 1800-page audit – undertaken by independent heritage consultants Context – were graded in both 1985 and 1993 studies as buildings of significance. Yet they were never formally incorporated into the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

The age of the sites vary greatly, from an 1854-built bluestone warehouse on Highlander Lane (adjacent to Flinders St) all the way to the relatively modern 1976-built former Dillingham Estates House on William St.

But “historical significance” was just one of eight criteria used to assess each site, in addition to criteria such as “rarity”, “aesthetic significance” and “social significance”.

A heritage overlay will prevent the council from having to approach Mr Wynne for site protection on a case-by-case basis.

This was the case in June, when the council applied for interim protection for the Metropolitan Hotel in the face of plans for its partial demolition by a developer.  

Cr Rohan Leppert said at the time that previous council failings resulted in the situation it found itself in.

“It is a problem of former councils that not all the recommendations of the 1985 or 1993 (City of Melbourne Heritage Review) studies were incorporated into the planning scheme,” Cr Leppert said at a June 5 council meeting.

The minister will now assess the audit and decide which of the 64 sites and six precincts will be added to the planning scheme.

Below, CBD News looks at some of the key sites included in the review.

1. Former German Club, later Naval and Military Club, 7-19 Alfred Place

Built in 1885-6

Meeting place for German migrants who arrived from the 1840s

From 1918 used as the Naval and Military Club

Venue for famous Mietta’s Restaurant from 1985-95.

2. Hoyts Mid City Cinemas, 194-200 Bourke St

Built in 1969-70

Reflective of the increase in leisure activities in the post-war period. Also marked a shift to more intimate, modern cinemas

Example of a small class of Brutalist buildings in the City of Melbourne.

3. Former Palmer’s Emporium, 220 Bourke St

Built in 1937

Used primarily by retailers and shoe manufacturers

Interwar, Moderne-style building. Unique facade, with bands of windows that wrap around each level of the building, creating light and open spaces.

4. Former Victorian Amateur Turf Club, 482-484 Bourke St

Built in 1936

Strong association with the history of horse racing in Victoria

Designed by architect Albion H Walkley who, along with an engineering company headed by Sir John Monash, made several alterations to the building in 1937

5. Former Zander’s No. 2 Store, 11 Highlander Lane

Built in 1854

Rare remaining example of an early bluestone warehouse building

With its close proximity to the Yarra River, it is historically significant for its association with shipping and warehousing in the city.

6. Former Tuberculosis Bureau, 364-370 Little Lonsdale St

Built in 1928

Historically significant as a reminder of the state-wide public health campaign to eradicate tuberculosis, declared a notifiable disease in Victoria in 1909

Later used between 1992-96 as the Department of Forensic Medicine.

7. Shops and residences at 53-57 Lonsdale St

Built in 1880-81

Strong historical links with Melbourne Italian restaurateur families who managed restaurants in the building from 1901 to 2001

Played a role in the influence of Italian culture on Australian culinary traditions, which continues to have an enduring presence and value in Melbourne today.

8. Metropolitan Hotel, 263-267 William St

Re-built in 1925 (from original 1854 building)

Historically significant for its association with the establishment of city hotels as meeting places

One of the hotels that played host to both an increased occupation of women as publicans in the early 1900s, and increased role of the pub (from the late 1930s) in raising money for charity.

9. Former Victoria Club building, 131-141 Queen St

Built in 1927

Strong links with Victorian horse racing

Location of the 1976 “Great Bookie Robbery”, the largest robbery recorded in Australia at the time, and subject to significant media attention.

10. Talma Building (former Buxton’s Building), 119-121 Swanston St

Built in 1885

Elaborate Victorian facade

Constructed for James Thomas Buxton’s artistic stationery business

The merchant and gallery proprietor’s complex contained a stationery store, gallery space, meeting rooms for societies and clubs, an artistic photographic studio and classrooms for art lessons.

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