30 Sep 2016

The grand designs occupying the sites of Melbourne’s former landmarks

Survey the dazzling skyscrapers gathering on Melbourne’s skyline and it’s easy to forget how it all began. Yet each one is built on the site of former landmarks – perhaps not as ambitious, but no less grand.

Collins Arch, one of the newest addition’s to join Melbourne’s tower club, will grace the footprint of the city’s very first wholesale fruit and vegetable market. The Western Market was up and running in 1841, just six years after Victorian settlement. Trading on the block bound by Collins, Market and William streets, and Flinders Lane, the market thrived for 90 years.

But like the nearby Eastern Market, located where Southern Cross Station can now be found, the Western Market faced fierce competition from the Queen Victoria Market. Both markets were demolished in the 1960s.

Enter the next stage of the development, when the 27-storey National Mutual Bank was built in 1965. In 1999, AXA took over a majority stake in the bank and it was renamed and later Suncorp moved in.

But the writing was on the wall for the aging office tower, when a slab fell off the side of the building and onto the forecourt below. It was vacated in 2012 and sold to property developer Cbus in 2013.

Being one of Melbourne’s only “island sites” – a block location bounded by four streets – the prime spot represented a hen’s tooth opportunity for developers. So it was only fitting that a tower unlike no other take pride of place there, says Cbus Property chief executive Adrian Pozzo.

“We felt that Melbourne, the most liveable city, a world-class city, needed a unique design,” he says.

“It’s just something different.”

But if you’re trying to get a read on what Melburnians think of Collins Arch, you may as well toss a coin. Where some see an elegant arch, others simply see a pair of pants.

This trouser-likeness has earned the 41-storey tower the nickname “pantscraper”. Whether it’s a term of affection or one of scorn, remains to be seen.

“It’s a nickname that will hopefully disappear in time and people actually realise how great it will be,” he says.

“I think it’s a fantastic design, it’s a one of a kind in Melbourne’s CBD. Hopefully it will capture the attention of the state and the world, really.”

Architects at Australia’s Woods Bagot joined forces with New York’s SHoP, after the pair won a competition to design the landmark development.

At 6000 square metres, the sheer scale of the site was a challenge to be relished, says Woods Bagot principal Kate Frear.

“This opportunity only comes around once in a lifetime,” she says. “So for the team working on it, it’s been an incredible opportunity.”

The twin-tower style of the development is a defining style, says Frear, who isn’t troubled by the “pantscraper” tag.

“It’s a bit like the Gherkin in London,” she says. “Often city landmarks have their own nickname. I think maybe it’s a sign Melbourne’s coming to terms and starting a loving relationship with it.”

It’s been 175 years between the opening of the Western Market and the finalisation of plans for Collins Arch. A sure sign Melbourne’s entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds.

CBD ‘perfect for us’
The youngest of Dale and Cindy Murphy’s three children has just flown the nest, leaving the pair all ready to downsize.

While some of the Mount Waverley couple’s friends have chosen to move to semi-rural locations, the Murphys will jump into the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. They purchased a 12th-floor apartment in the Cbus tower at 35 Spring Street, which overlooks nearby Treasury Gardens. Their new home has two bedrooms, one bathroom, one car space and 90 square metres of internal floor space.

“We’ve got some friends who have gone in the other direction and moved into some extra land, but a lot of people we’ve talked to have moved into the city or around Camberwell or other places like that,” Dale says.

“We just liked the whole concept of downsizing into the city and not having to do gardening and maintenance. The city is perfect for us and I’d recommend it.”

The sports lovers and faithful Hawthorn supporters are looking forward to walking to the G in winter and strolling to the Australian Open and cricket matches in the summer.

Easy public transport and car sharing access means the Murphys may no longer need their car.

“We’ve only had one car for the past five years so we’re contemplating whether to get rid of that car and not even have a car or use one of those GoGets, which is right out the front on Flinders Street,” Dale says.

The couple will soon put their family home of more than 30 years on the market and move into their city pad early next year.

The right fit  

433-439 Collins Street, Melbourne

Demolition works have finished at the historic site of where Collins Arch will soon rise.

The $1.3 billion project launches on October 6 with the finished product housing a 300-room hotel, 200 apartments and 50,000 square metres of office space.

Original blueprints for Collins Arch were rejected by two planning ministers because of concerns the building would overshadow the Yarra River. In April, Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced he had approved the plans after Cbus scaled down the height by 21.6 metres.

At ground level, there will be 2000 square metres of open space available to the public. Cbus is in negotiations with the Andrews government to close half of Market Street so a further 1500 square metres of space can be added to this area.

But the developer is keeping quiet about other details, including apartment prices and configurations as well as the name of the hotel chain.

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