Royal Park's 188 hectares of grassland, open woodland and wetland may soon be overlooked by a new skyline.
Development Victoria – a new government agency formed by the merger of Places Victoria and Major Projects Victoria – wants state Planning Minister Richard Wynne to approve proposed changes to the Freeway Apartment precinct, which is part of the former Commonwealth Games village.
Citta Property group wants to raise the height of a number of new buildings set to be constructed on the village's western edge, the Age reports, including one that would increase to about 23 or 25 storeys high. Original plans set that building’s height at 40 metres, or eight storeys, high. In the new proposal the building is 79 metres high.
The additional levels would add 388 extra apartments to the development, which borders CityLink. Development Victoria argues that a higher tower would provide an acoustic barrier for the park and village, but the City of Melbourne disagrees.
"The development is completely out of proportion with its location. The height and bulk of the development does not fit with the context of the area.," said Cr Nicholas Reece, chairman of the city's planning portfolio. "The much-loved Royal Park and the Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands adjoin the site and the impact on these areas needs to be considered."
Mr Reece said he was disappointed with the amount of social housing that would be provided within the new building, "while the proponents make reference to the public benefit from the provision of affordable housing, there is no formal commitment to this in the proposal and a formal commitment on affordable housing is needed."
At a recent Future Melbourne Committee meeting, the City of Melbourne raised its objection to the proposed increases in height. The council says the proposed changes do not "demonstrate any clear community benefit" and the "proposed building heights and mass will increase the visual bulk and dominance of the building in long views, and impact" on the views of the Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands and Royal Park.
In a statement provided to Broadsheet, a spokesperson for the Planning Minister said: “The former Commonwealth Games Village has great potential, but it's important a correct decision is made that balances the needs of catering for population growth and protecting the character of the area.”
Development Victoria says the Commonwealth Games village site, which is only a few kilometres from the CBD, is an important location for future housing close to the city.
The City of Melbourne says any increase in development should go hand-in-hand with developments in the surrounding area to improve services for a growing population.
Two-bedroom apartments in the village currently sell for $600,000, the Victorian government's new stamp duty-free threshold for first homebuyers. But only 23 of the extra apartments planned by the developers would be categorised as social housing. That is just under six per cent.
The City of Melbourne formally lodged its submission opposing the changes on Friday morning. Its submission, along with others, are being considered by Minister Wynne.