Heritage gem to get a makeover as new mansions get approval 

Heritage gem to get a makeover as new mansions get approval 
Brendan Rees

Three “maisonettes” are set to be built in East Melbourne, complementing an existing heritage mansion that will be preserved and enhanced under a $14 million proposal. 

The City of Melbourne has endorsed plans that will safeguard an iconic 1903-built property known as Kilburn Mansion at 29 Simpson St, as well as two adjoining heritage buildings at 19-27 Simpson St and 86-92 Wellington Parade, after giving a developer the green light to build three three-storey dwellings to the side and rear of the existing buildings.     

In what the council believed would make “a positive contribution to East Melbourne”, the plans by Simpson House Pty Ltd will see the removal and reinstatement of Kilburn Mansion’s original Welsh slate roofing, as well as the demolition of “ugly add-ons” made in recent decades to bring the mansion back to its former Victoria era glory.

“I’m very pleased to say that the design proposed for this building truly respects the spectacular original Kilburn Mansion, in fact, in many respects, it does enhance the original grand mansion,” Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said in his address at the council’s July 11 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, during which councillors unanimously endorsed the proposal.

Cr Reece said Kilburn Mansion had had many uses over the decades including more recently as a medical centre, but the interior for “the most part was not original, and there have been several additions to the site including, it has to be said, some fairly ugly new additions to the south and east faces of the building”.

But he added, “I’m very pleased to say that in this new application, these new additions, these ugly additions are being demolished and will be replaced with much more respectful and architecturally interesting buildings”.

Residents, who have long treasured Kilburn Mansion, have lauded the proposal including the East Melbourne Group (EMG) who expressed their delight that the two-storey rendered brick Kilburn Mansion would be preserved.

“The construction of the three dwellings on the lot is relatively benign and, after consultation with neighbours, the historical society and others, we deemed it an acceptable outcome for the site,” the EMG said.

The site, including the adjoining buildings known as the “George St wing and former stables”, is recognised as a “significant” heritage place under the council’s Heritage Places Inventory March 2022. 

In addition to the reinstatement of the heritage roofs, the council considered “key heritage issues” including the visibility of additions, and the integrity of the retained heritage buildings to allow basement piling to occur, for which a structural engineer concluded that the techniques for the piling would be “sound and has recommended conditions should a planning permit issue”.  

Under the plan, an external staircase encroaching into 19-27 Simpson St will be removed as will a separate building at the corner of Simpson St and George St to improve views to the heritage site and “result in a net community benefit”.  

The development’s design has been created by leading architect Fender Katsalidis, which is renowned for producing the Eureka Tower and Australia 108, with Cr Reece praising their latest project as a “development which is truly outstanding and special for East Melbourne”. 

“Planning applications are often hard-fought in East Melbourne, so it’s very pleasing to see in this case that we’ve arrived at an outcome mutually welcomed by all including local residents, the City of Melbourne, and the developer,” Cr Reece said. 

The application received two objections with concerns raised about the impacts of construction, building height, inconsistency with the neighbourhood’s heritage character, sustainable design, and the provision of a basement car parking. •

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