Support for Munro site development

The City of Melbourne has voted in favour of recommending a planning permit for its Munro site development adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market (QVM).

On April 3, councillors endorsed a proposal from its development partner PDG Corporation to build 410 apartments, a residential hotel and a childcare centre on the site.

The council bought the site in 2014 for $76 million, partly as a speculative investment to off-set wider QVM redevelopment costs and partly to protect the market from inappropriate uses.

Now facing losses rather than a windfall, thanks to receiving from Planning Minister Richard Wynne only about half of the development height it expected, the council is putting on a brave face.

At the April 3 meeting, councillors waxed lyrical about the new community facilities coming to the northern end of the CBD.

In particular, the 120-place childcare centre will offer about 100 more spaces than the council’s nearby A’Beckett St centre.

The west side of the development is also to house 5332sqm of, as yet undefined, community use.  Suggestions have included a gallery, community kitchen, maternal and child health centre and artists’ spaces.

Some 48 of the 410 apartments are to be used for affordable housing, although it is understood that the state government may be picking up the tab for these.

The development will house 163 resident car parking spaces and 503 publicly accessible spaces – partly compensating the market for the planned removal of 720 spaces when the existing car park is repurposed as a civic space.

Councillors are less proud of two taverns proposed for the development – one for 350 patrons in the east tower and a 180-person tavern in the community-centric eastern building.  Both will trade between 7am and 1am, sevens days a week.

They are also sheepish about the loss of c-graded heritage shops along Therry St.

At the April 3 meeting, Cr Rohan Leppert explained that councillors did not have a choice in this matter.

“We’ll be voting on whether or not the application complies with the planning scheme, not debating the merits of the proposal itself,” he cautioned.

“I am deeply unhappy and concerned about some of the heritage treatment and I note that the heritage advisor and the delegate have differing opinions on what is appropriate.”

“In a vacuum or under the old planning controls, the retention of the Therry St facades should have been enforced.  The issue we have here is the planning controls that the planning minister has put in place requires a certain street wall height along Therry St.”

“It assumes the demolition of the facades in order to facilitate the new podium to allow the mix of uses and that situation was locked in very, very early – even before the City of Melbourne purchased the site,” Cr Leppert said.

The heritage consideration was only one of three reasons that Cr Jackie Watts voted against the proposal (the only councillor to do so).

“The heritage demolition is a concern to me,” she said.  “Also, the parking that relates directly to the QVM development, which is in jeopardy now that we have a refusal of the (heritage) permit.”

“And the last element of concern to me is the affordable housing.  It still falls short of the City of Melbourne’s policy aspiration of 15 per cent.”

Cr Watts said: “The game has changed and it is not acceptable to me to proceed as if nothing has changed.”

The cost of the works is estimated at $230 million.

Planning Minister Wynne will determine whether or not a permit is granted.

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