Zaha Hadid’s Melbourne tower gets clear path through council

A proposed tower development by Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture will be referred to Victoria’s planning minister for approval without consideration by the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne Committee. This means the project is now a step closer to obtaining a planning permit.

Proposed tower for 582–606 Collins Street, Melbourne by Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture.

Proposed tower for 582–606 Collins Street, Melbourne by Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture.

Developer Landream submitted the 54–storey tower proposal at 582–606 Collins Street for planning approval in December 2015. The tower’s design consists of a series of stacked volumes, which resemble vases. The design establishes uniformity between the podium and the tower.

The City of Melbourne is a recommending referral authority and was asked for advice by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. The minister for planning Richard Wynne is the responsible authority for determining the application.

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The council’s Future Melbourne Committee was to decide on a ministerial referral in a meeting on Tuesday 3 May. However, of the 11 councillors, two were absent for the agenda item and five declared they had a conflict of interest and could not vote on the matter, leaving only four councillors remaining.

As a result, Geoff Lawler, director of city planning and infrastructure at the City of Melbourne, said “the meeting has failed to achieve a quorum for this item so this matter will not be able to be considered by the Future Melbourne Committee. On that basis, what is contained in the papers will be conveyed to the department by the administration in the form of advice.”

The councillors who declared conflicts of interested included the lord mayor Robert Doyle, who said, “I have a conflict of interest as an investor in this particular developer.” Councillor Beverley Pinder-Mortimer said, “I also have a conflict of interest as it is a donor investment.” The other three councillors declaring conflicts of interest were deputy lord mayor Susan Riley and councillors Arron Wood and Kevin Louey. All five are members of the party Team Doyle.

Proposed tower for 582–606 Collins Street, Melbourne by Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture.

Proposed tower for 582–606 Collins Street, Melbourne by Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture.

In November 2015, The Age alleged Team Doyle’s $400,000 in donations during the 2012 Melbourne City Council elections was bolstered by significant support from property developers. Team Doyle’s nearest rival (in terms of donations) received $67,000. Since the 2012 election, the lord mayor has abstained from voting in “more than a dozen decisions involving his campaign donors,” The Age said.

The council’s planning officer’s report is generally supportive of the proposed tower, stating, “the development will not overwhelm or dominate the public realm or adjoining buildings,” and “apartment sizes are good [with] no reliance on typical saddlebag layouts.”

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However, it does point out “the development does exceed the maximum plot ratio of 24 to 1” under Melbourne’s interim planning laws. In April 2016, the government proposed new changes that would see the ratio dropped to 18 to 1. Zaha Hadid Architects and Plus Architecture’s proposed tower has a plot ratio of 26.4 to 1.

The officer’s recommendation was to “advise Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning that the Melbourne City Council supports the proposal.”

If approved and built, the tower will be Zaha Hadid Architects’ first Melbourne project, and among the firm’s first Australian projects, to be realized following Hadid’s sudden death in April 2016.

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