News / Planning

New buyer for high profile Park St development site

Mirvac is looking at up to 200 apartments to be built overlooking Princes Park

The development site is currently occupied by a motel.

Mark Phillips
Monday, August 30, 2021

PROPERTY giant Mirvac has swooped on one of Brunswick’s most prominent development sites, setting the stage for a potential new fight over high-rise developments near parklands. 

The developer has bought the high-profile Princes Park Motor Inn site on the corner of Sydney Road and Park Street and is already spruiking apartments to potential buyers with construction works expected to start late in 2022. 

Mirvac reportedly paid $40 million to secure the 6496 square metre site, which also has a frontage on Brunswick Road, after a previous bid to build a 13 storey tower (later trimmed to 10 storeys) was knocked back by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last year. 

The move comes as Mirvac is already embroiled in a fight against Brunswick residents opposed to a 10-storey apartment complex adjacent to Clifton Park in Albert Street. 

Mirvac has begun advertising for expressions of interest from potential buyers and is looking at up to 200 apartments on the Park Street site. This would be significantly scaled down from the 333 apartments that previous developer JW Land put forward in 2017.  

The project is likely to resemble Mirvac’s redevelopment of the Freemason’s Hospital site opposite the Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne into an upscale 14-storey apartment building.  

“Mirvac is in the early visioning stage for Park Street, with the current scheme looking to yield approximately 200 apartment residences in a range of configurations to appeal to a broad selection of purchasers,” said the company’s Head of Residential, Stuart Penklis. 

“We have recently seen a trend towards oversized apartments and amalgamations which could see this number change. 

“The current plans see the building at various heights stepping back from Park Street to minimise any impact on Princes Park and maximising the spectacular vistas for residents, but we are still in the process of finalising the scheme.” 

The previous attempt to develop the site went all the way to VCAT, which refused to grant a permit for the project in April last year. 

A residents group called Protect Park St Precinct was formed to fight that development. After its victory in VCAT, the group has since shifted its attention to ensuring any future development on the site does not cause overshadowing of Princes Park. 

Signs like this one have been posted around Gilpin Park.

This is a similar issue to one of the main concerns of the newly formed Scale It Down – Protect Brunswick Parks group, which has come together to protect Clifton and Gilpin parks from the impact of two high-rise apartment projects in Albert Street. 

Both projects, which would have a total of 682 apartments, have been referred by the developers directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 

Developer Stockland wants to build 155 dwellings in 12 buildings, including two eight-storey towers, at 429 Albert Street. At 395 Albert Street, known as Albert Fields, developers Mirvac and Milieu Properties want to construct 527 apartments, including two 10 storey buildings.  

The Stockland project has been listed for an eight day hearing beginning in the middle of November, while the Mirvac project has been brought forward to December for hearing. 

Rodney Spark, a spokesman for the group, said it was seeking to raise $16,000 for a town planning advisor to represent residents at the Stockland hearing. 

But efforts to mobilise park users for the campaign have been hamstrung by COVID-19 restrictions. 

Unable to conduct letterbox drops or hold events in Gilpin and Clifton parks while the lockdown continues, they have instead attached A4 sized signs to trees which have a QR code linking to the group’s website, which in turn hosts a petition, survey and a donations page. 

Mr Spark said almost 800 people had signed the online petition and 350 had filled out the park use survey. 

He said early survey responses had identified dog walking, exercise and children’s recreation as the main uses for the parks, and the loss of sunlight, trees and foliage, and peace and quiet as the main concerns. 

Respondents had described the projects as “gross over-development” and “the ghettos of the future”, he said. 

Mr Spark said the Stockland and Mirvac, who are great rivals in Australia’s property development industry, were working in tandem because establishing a precedent for high-rise buildings near Brunswick’s parks would be mutually beneficial. 

“Mirvac have swung in behind Stockland to make sure they get up [their project], which would give them eight storeys and then Mirvac could then argue for 10 because it’s only two different. 

“Clearly they’ve got a whiff that there’s community angst about.”  

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Meanwhile, a contentious apartment development in Brunswick East is also now headed for VCAT. 

The Cyprus Community of Melbourne and Victoria left it until the eleventh hour to lodge an appeal against Moreland Council’s insistence that it reduce the height of an apartment building within its proposed mixed use community centre, retail and residential complex at 495-511 Lygon Street. 

The council granted a planning permit in April, but required the developers to reduce the size of the building from seven storeys to five. 

The CCMV had initially sought to build a 10-storey apartment tower behind the façade of the historic Liberty Theatre building. 

But the development was heavily opposed with more than 130 objections lodged by the time the council came to consider it. 

A group established to fight the development is now seeking to engage a town planner at the VCAT hearing, which will be held in January.

“The risk in not fighting this at VCAT is the precedent it would set for future building heights,” the Save Lygon St North group said in an email to supporters.  

“The overdevelopment, including disregard for height limits, in the south of Lygon St began with one building, which other developments used as a precedent.  

“We need to draw a line in the sand now, with this application. With this being the first building of this scale proposed in this area, we are best placed to argue it is inappropriate and out of character.”