Abandoned former Cancer Council building an “eyesore”

Katie Johnson

Redevelopment plans made in 2019 to turn the site into a $5 million mixed-use commercial property have yet to go ahead – leaving the site empty and covered in graffiti.

Resident Sue Ahearn said the building spoiled the gateway to the World Heritage Environs Area of the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.

“It’s been left abandoned for years and has been the target of really ugly graffiti. No one seems to take any effort to stop this vandalism in the centre of our city – and opposite the beautiful heritage buildings of the Exhibition Building and Royal Society,” Ms Ahearn said.


I’d be delighted to see it demolished.


Another resident Lisa Adams, questioned why the owners were allowed to leave the highly-visible building in a dilapidated state for so long.

“What a cynical exercise, to land bank a building in a World Heritage precinct and brazenly allow it to become a derelict fire hazard,” Ms Adams said.

“Why can’t we regulate against this type of antisocial behaviour? What does it take for constructive action?”

The former Cancer Council site is currently owned by Kingsland Timber, headed by Xiaoyan Bao, who purchased the building in 2013 for $20.6 million.

In 2013, Ms Bao was the centre of controversy after she bought the Toorak mansion “Idylwilde” for $18.5 million, only to demolish the century-old property two years later.

Ms Bao appointed East Melbourne property consultants Partner Developments in 2019 to turn 1 Rathdowne St into a mixed-used commercial property with more than 50 car parks and 4300 square metres of floor space – however work has yet to begin.

Carlton Residents’ Association (CRA) member Trish O’Laughlin wrote in the association’s recent newsletter that the building was an “ugly piece of visual pollution that has been sullying this beautiful heritage area for nearly a generation”.

“Recent developments on the other side of the Carlton Gardens should be making us even more anxious about the old Cancer Council site. We know about the proposed development of the St Vincent’s site and another site in Gertrude St – both within the environs of the World Heritage Area,” Ms O’Laughlin wrote.

“Are the developers also waiting to see the outcome of Gertrude St and St. Vincent’s development?”

Resident Ken Wallace drove past the building everyday before work and said that it “soured the area”.

“It’s a hideous building that makes a big impact on the surrounding area,” Mr Wallace said.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said that while it was aware of the graffiti at the site and was working to remove it, it was the responsibility of the owner.

“We take a strong stance against tagging and illegal graffiti and remove more than 70,000 square metres of graffiti from surfaces each year, which is the equivalent of about three MCGs,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re aware of an ongoing graffiti issue at 1 Rathdowne St. While property owners are responsible for graffiti removal from building hoarding, we’re currently reviewing available options to expedite its removal, and prevent future graffiti in the area.”

“That includes removing graffiti from the hoarding as part of our weekly surveillance program, and arranging for graffiti removal from the section of building visible above the hoarding.”

Partner Developments did not respond to request for comment before publication •

Caption: Graffiti on the facade of the building (top) and a render of the 2019 development which never went ahead.

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