Casino operator Crown Resorts has lodged a planning application for its hotel and apartment tower in Melbourne, designed by UK-based practice Wilkinson Eyre, which, if approved, will be the tallest building in Australia.
The application proposes a 323-metre-tall, 90-storey tower on Queensbridge Street, Southbank. It is 10 metres taller than the previously proposed 313-metre-tall tower, first unveiled in October 2015. The previous proposal, reportedly worth $1.5 billion, was to have have 388 hotel rooms and 680 apartments.
If approved, the tower will be the next tallest building in Australia, rising half a metre taller than Gold Coast’s Q1 tower, which reaches 322.5 metres to the top of its spire (245 metres to the roof line). It will also pip Melbourne’s current tallest building, the Eureka Tower (297 metres) designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, by 26 metres and surpass the Australia 108 tower (317 metres), currently under construction and also designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, by six metres. The new proposal will include 708 residential units (28 more than the previous proposal) and 388 hotel rooms.
A spokesperson for Victoria’s planning minister Richard Wynne confirmed the application has been received. The proposal will be subjected to the new planning controls introduced by the Victorian government.
According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR), the proposed tower will have a total floor area of 306,666 square metres. This means it will have a plot ratio of 57:1, which is more than double the maximum plot ratio of 24:1 under the interim planning controls introduced in September 2015, and more than triple the new proposed maximum plot ratio of 18:1, announced in April 2015.
Crown Resorts “is seeking an exemption from CBD height controls on the basis it is a project of state significance,” reported the Herald Sun.
Under the proposed central city planning provisions, “a floor area uplift bonus” is allowable if “an appropriate public benefit is provided to share the added value.” Public benefit is defined as public open space, public space within the building, social housing in the building or office use.
The proposed hotel and apartment tower is to have “an observation deck with rooftop dining, bar, wedding venue, and gardens over multiple levels to provide the public and visitors with panoramic views of the Melbourne city skyline,” said Crown Resorts in its permit application. Part of its proposal is to also upgrade the adjacent existing Queensbridge Square.
The AFR speculates “the casino operator will no doubt argue a planning waiver is justified on the basis of its contribution to the state economy.”
The tower development will also include a pedestrian bridge over Queensbridge Street that will connect the proposed hotel and apartment tower directly to the casino floor of the Crown Complex.
The site of the proposed tower was originally owned by Schiavello Group. In 2011, Schiavello proposed an 84-storey hotel and apartment tower designed by Bates Smart. Crown Resorts entered into a joint venture with Schiavello in 2014 to amalgamate four parcels of land and develop the site.
In March 2015, planning minister Richard Wynne told The Age he was inclined not to allow the earlier, shorter version of the tower development to go ahead because it would overshadow the Shrine of Remembrance.
The proposed height of the tower could also violate air safety height restrictions for Essendon airport. In April 2013, the proposal for Australia 108 by Fender Katsalidis was forced to shave off eight storeys for that very reason.
The Queensbridge Street tower is the second project by Wilkinson Eyre for Crown Resorts. Its casino tower proposed for Barangaroo in Sydney is currently under assessment by New South Wales’s independent Planning Assessment Commission, after it was recommended for approval by the Department of Planning and Assessment. The Barangaroo casino tower has attracted vocal criticism from prominent NSW architects including the Australian Institute of Architects NSW chapter president, Shaun Carter.