Battle over the future of Albert Street heats up
Two apartment projects which would transform an area earmarked for urban renewal have raised the hackles of residents
Monday, May 31, 2021
MORELAND Council has signaled its determination to fight high rise apartment development near Gilpin and Clifton parks in Brunswick West, in defiance of state government policy, by rejecting the first of two major projects proposed for the area.
The council’s Planning and Related Matters Committee last week refused to issue a planning permit for a development at 429 Albert Street which included two eight-storey apartment buildings.
A second major apartment project just 100 metres away is set to come before the council in the next few weeks and may suffer the same fate.
The project at 429 Albert Street will now move to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in an important test case that will shape the future of a sensitive part of Brunswick West which includes parkland and Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses.
Developer Stockland is seeking to construct 155 dwellings in a total of 12 buildings on the 4010 square metre site, which is currently occupied by a timber yard. Two eight storey buildings with rooftop terraces would abut the Clifton Park football oval, while the other 10 would be three storeys in height.
Stockland bought the land in January last year for a reported $15 million.
About 100 metres away at 395–411 Albert Street and also abutting Clifton Park, rival developer Mirvac has teamed up with Milieu Property to build a massive new 527 apartment development in a project worth $202 million.
That development would include two 10-storey buildings, and the developers would retain ownership under a ‘build to rent’ model. Mirvac bought the largest parcel of land, a warehouse building, for a reported $25 million in 2019.
Both properties are within a 1.74 hectare area along Albert Street that has been earmarked as a key urban renewal precinct.
But the precinct has a tortured planning history. Following a request from a developer, Moreland Council first considered rezoning it from industrial to residential in 2015, with a mandatory six storey height limit. But the rezoning was abandoned in 2017 after an independent planning panel increased the height limit to eight storeys.
At this stage, Planning Minister Richard Wynne stepped in to use his powers to rezone the land with a discretionary eight storey limit.
The 429 Albert Street project attracted 163 objections, with concerns including its excessive height, visual bulk and scale, being out of character with the area, insufficient car parking, traffic congestion, and overshadowing. Councillors unanimously agreed with a recommendation to reject it on the grounds of its unacceptable visual bulk, design and impact on local amenity.
At last Wednesday’s meeting, Paul Turner, who lives next door to the proposed development in Albert Street, said it was inappropriate for the area.
“Eight storeys is too much,” he said. “Because this is the first redevelopment for Albert Street, it’s important to get this one right because … between the two [projects], basically we end up with 1000 apartments in this area of Brunswick that’s not close to an activity centre, we’re one kilometre from Sydney Road, [and] there’s no precedent for a building of that bulk.”
Deputy Mayor Mark Riley said it was inevitable that an eight storey development would eventually be approved for the site and the council had no real powers to stop it, but he was hopeful that the VCAT hearing would result in improvements to what was an “undercooked” application currently on the table.
Cr James Conlan said the application was “ridiculous” and urged residents to mobilise to fight it in VCAT.
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