6 Apr 2016

Shorter ’pantscraper’ tower given green light for Collins Street

The Collins Street “pantscraper” will go ahead after the Andrews government reached an agreement with developer Cbus Property to cut more than 20 metres from the top of the interconnected twin towers.

Concerns about overshadowing of the Yarra River saw two planning ministers earlier reject the $1.25 billion, amid claims these decisions had been politically motivated because of the applicant’s union links.

But an in-principle deal for the prime city block at 447 Collins Street was finally confirmed by Planning Minister Richard Wynne on Tuesday. 

It will likely see the creation of a new central city park around the two 41-storey skyscrapers connected by a sky bridge.

Mr Wynne said the removal of six storeys from the towers had alleviated his concerns about overshadowing of the Yarra River. Although the skyscrapers still shade the north bank, the shadows no longer reach to the south bank in the winter equinox.

“It’s a significant win in terms of getting a development that protects the amenity of the Yarra River and more importantly it speaks to the enormous energy and appetite there is for development in this corner of the city,” Mr Wynne said. 

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle, who had feared Cbus would sell the land to a less-sympathetic developer in the face of the continual rejections, said the agreement was a “victory for common sense”.

“The last thing I wanted [to happen] was Cbus to walk away and the site gets flipped to a developer that doesn’t really care about the streetscape of Melbourne and we get another glass tower right on Collins Street.”

Town Hall’s support of the plan was heavily driven by Cbus’ promise to provide 2000 square metres of its land for public open space and fund the development of half of the adjacent Market Street into green space.

The new agreement means these parks will still go ahead.

The towers, designed by Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects, have been dubbed the “pantscraper”, as the bridge that connects the twin buildings at their highest point prompted the comparison to a pair of trousers.

The lord mayor said he was not sure he liked the label for the “elegant” building design. “Perhaps we should call it ‘The Strides’ because it does look like it is moving,” he added.

Mr Wynne said he thought it was an “interesting design”.

“It is certainly going to be talked about,” he said.

The towers will include retail stores, office space, a hotel and apartments and brings the value of property development approved by the planning minister this year to almost $7 billion.

Changes to the planning rules and a ministerial permit will be required before Cbus can start construction, but Mr Wynne said he hoped there would be “digging in the ground by the end of the year”.

The block is the former site of the 27-storey National Mutual office building, which was demolished after some of its marble cladding crashed to the ground in 2012.

Cbus’ first proposal for the site was for a 295-metre, 100-storey building that would have overshadowed the south bank of the Yarra. That application was rejected by former planning minister Matthew Guy in 2014.

Cbus Property chief executive Adrian Pozzo could not be contacted on Tuesday for comment.

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