“The importance of Melbourne getting this right”

By Sean Car

The pending sale of a 1.4-hectare vacant site along the Flinders St rail corridor has divided the community over what is considered one of the CBD’s most strategically important parcels of land. 

The state government-owned site, known as Treasury Square, is located next to the Flinders St railyard and spans the area between Exhibition and Flinders streets, and Wellington Parade South. 

The government put the site on the open market in November last year and has since attracted interest from four high-profile bidding developers including Mirvac, Cbus Property, Dexus/John Holland and Brookfield Property. The site is earmarked for a $2 billion development including three towers.

City of Melbourne councillors endorsed a motion put forward by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne on May 26 to subdivide the site and rezone the land as Capital City. In its report, council management labelled Treasury Square as a “significant and strategic site in central Melbourne.”

“These opportunities and constraints require an innovative and exemplary design response,” the report stated. 

“It is imperative that any development on this site secures future strategic connections for the city. A generous pedestrian connection north-south from Flinders St through the site would connect the south eastern end of the central city to the Yarra River corridor, and link Treasury Gardens and Birrarung Marr.”

“Any development of this site must also anticipate and provide interfaces that support the future development of adjacent sites including Federation Square East, which will require decking of the rail corridor.”

While supportive of the rezoning of the site, council referred to a number of planning controls of concern including building heights, overshadowing of the Yarra River and Birrarung Marr and discouraging onsite carparking. 

The council’s chair of planning Cr Nicholas Reece took to Twitter last month, stating that it was “hard to overstate the importance of Melbourne getting this right.”  

While the state government stands to make a significant windfall of around $500 million from the site, many local residents have strongly opposed the project.  

Residents of One East Melbourne on Wellington Parade South, supported by Residents 3000, signed a joint letter of objection to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne stating the rezoning to Capital City was an inappropriate use of the land. 

“This is a strategic site for the future vision of Melbourne and we should be advised what that vision is by our city planners before options are closed forever by a rezoning of public land to prepare for a sale,” the letter stated.

“Under the process adopted it will be market forces that will determine use and form of development of the site without any consideration of the potential future uses of the air rights to the south.”

Residents added that the negative social and environmental impacts of the proposed application and amendment outweighed the economic impacts, which they argued could be put to better use for the public as a park.

“The further development of the sports and entertainment area can also provide ongoing and sustainable job creation for the hospitality, entertainment industries as well as construction and infrastructure.” •

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