Developer hits a snag in redeveloping an East Melbourne heritage building
A “significant” heritage East Melbourne townhouse built in 1873 will be partly demolished and reconstructed “brick by brick” after a developer hit a snag in converting the building into apartments.
The three-storey building is part of a site at 364-370 Albert St which is currently being redeveloped after the City of Melbourne approved a planning permit in 2020.
However, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said as development had progressed, “it has become clear that it is not possible to build the basement under 364 Albert St without risking collapse of the entire heritage building”.
An amended planning application has subsequently been submitted to the council to undertake “reconstruction of heritage fabric associated with the rear area of the building at 364 Albert St”.
The building at 364 Albert St, which has a bluestone façade facing Providence Lane, is identified as “significant” in the Heritage Places Inventory March 2022.
According to the National Trust database, the building is a “notable example of terrace house architecture and is directly comparable to numbers 406 and 408 Albert St as both have an almost identical facade composition and detail”.
In addressing the council’s Future Melbourne Committee meeting on December 6, in which the amended application was approved unanimously, Cr Reece said while he was supportive of the developer’s request, “it was far from an ideal outcome”.
“It’s not ideal from a heritage perspective as we obviously want to see significant heritage buildings to remain fully intact. And it’s also a bad and expensive outcome for the developer,” he said.
“It requires the developer to dismantle the building, brick by brick; number each of those bricks, sort all the bricks in the building, and then reconstruct it in exactly the same manner that it was first built back in 1873 – good luck!”
However, Cr Reece said the council’s heritage team was supportive of the application “and given that the plans for the new development were approved back in 2020 I’m happy to support it tonight as well”.
He added that council would “take this as a learning experience” and he was “glad that the developer and our team have been able to land on a path forward for this development that preserves the heritage building and allows for development to continue as it was intended”.
A council report noted public notice of the proposal had been undertaken and no objections were received.
However, the report noted that the dismantling and reconstruction of the heritage fabric would be undertaken through the supervision of a heritage conservation architect “and is to be completed in a like-for-like manner”.
“The application is required to facilitate the construction works associated with the approved development so the heritage fabric across the broader site is not impacted and can be retained,” it said.
Property developer Orchard Piper has currently listed 13 residences for sale at 370 Albert St, with prices starting from $2,950,000.
They consist of two- to four-bedroom dwellings across eight floors, each with private terraces and views of the Fitzroy Gardens and city skyline.
Construction at 370 Albert St was initially expected to be completed by mid-2024, however, it is not known whether the reconstruction of heritage fabric would impact this timeframe.
Under the plans, the new development would also feature retail and commercial spaces, and “positively contribute to the neighbourhood character through resolved contemporary design sympathetic to the scale of the existing built environment”. •
Caption: An artist’s impression of the redevelopment at 364-370 Albert St, East Melbourne.