Tower approved for biotech giants

By David Schout

The City of Melbourne has approved plans for a 17-storey tower at the north end of Elizabeth St, paving the way for biotechnology company CSL to move its global headquarters into the purpose-built facility in 2024.

The 86-metre approved project, on a site owned by private developer PDG, significantly exceeded the preferred height limit of 60 metres for Elizabeth St North.

But councillors were willing to make exceptions for a development it deemed a “huge community benefit”.

“It’s fair to say this development does not strictly comply with the preferred heights and setbacks (of the area),” planning portfolio chair Nicholas Reece said.

“However, the land use that is proposed here, being an R&D (research and development) centre means that it will make a very significant contribution to a nationally significant area of economic activity for Australia.”

The new headquarters, at the northernmost point of the CBD just south of the Haymarket roundabout, will sit within the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, which includes the University of Melbourne, alongside several research facilities and hospitals.

The building will include seven floors of office workspace and nine floors of laboratories and research and clinical phase production suites.

Cr Rohan Leppert said the council approved the development not on the basis of the tenant, but the research and development conditions attached to the site.

“We’re supporting this not because it’s CSL, but obviously the great benefit to having CSL in this location is undisputed,” he said.

“This is a world-class biomedical and research and development precinct and we want it to remain that way.”

PDG has proposed two towers on the Elizabeth Street site, of which the new CSL headquarters comprises “stage two”.

The first stage, on the site of the Melford Motors building, is now almost fully committed, with Toyota and Melbourne University’s Trinity College set to take the space.

Councillors were also pleased with the heritage outcome for the 1928 Melford Motors building.

The new development signals a significant shift in plans for the site, after a 1008-dwelling project (698 of which were student units) was approved by planning minister Richard Wynne in 2017. 

“The transition from student housing to what it is now as a research and development hub, I think is fantastic for the CBD and also the precinct,” Cox Architecture director Phillip Rowe said.

CSL’s CEO and managing director Paul Perreault said the location of the new world-class facility was a pointed one.

“Melbourne’s reputation as a world class centre of biomedical research excellence is well established,” he said.

“(The northern CBD/Parkville area) is considered a world-class medical precinct and a significant research presence in global terms.”

CSL is the third-largest publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange and, according to its website, is “a leading global biotechnology company with a dynamic portfolio of life-saving medicines”.

The new development will accommodate more than 800 CSL employees.

“There really are few companies that have come out of Melbourne as globally famous as CSL,” Cr Reece said.

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