News / Planning

New Lygon Street apartment project ruffles feathers

Residents and businesses fear more high-rise development will create a ‘dark and gloomy’ corridor effect

Andrea Bunting at the site of the proposed development in Lygon Street.

Mark Phillips
Friday, June 10, 2022

A BRUNSWICK East nursery says it will be forced to relocate or perhaps even close down if an eight storey apartment development nearby goes ahead. 

Michael Khalil, owner of the Lygon St. Nursery, said the proposed apartment building would block all natural light for more than a third of each year and kill the plants and trees he nurtures in the back section of the business. 

St Kilda based Pace Development Group wants to build two mixed use residential and retail buildings over most of the Lygon Street frontage between Evans and Pitt streets. The exceptions would be the building occupied by the nursery and the adjacent Noisy Ritual cellar door and wine bar, which are both owned by the same owner who has refused to sell to Pace. 

A total of 109 one, two and three bedrooms apartments would be built, along with six street level retail tenancies and two levels of underground parking. 

At eight storeys and 28.3 metres, the tallest of the buildings in the development is about 12 metres higher than the recommended height limit for the area. Designed in an L-shape, it would wrap around the corner of Lygon and Evans streets, and be connected to a five-storey building that would be entered from a laneway off Pitt Street.  

The project has been valued at $33 million. 

An architectural rendering of the building at the corner of Evans Street, looking south down Lygon Street.

Community activist Andrea Bunting is rallying opposition to the project, which she says would create “dark and gloomy” corridor effect with high-rise buildings on both sides of Lygon Street. 

Ms Bunting, who recently co-ordinated the successful campaign to block a Bunnings warehouse around the corner in Glenlyon Road, said Moreland Council should force the developers to comply with the height limit for the area. 

She said there had been some developments on the eastern side of Lygon Street that would higher than the recommended limit, but the shadowing impact would be far worse if the same was allowed on the western side. 

“They need to abide by the planning scheme … and not get more storeys on top of what’s allowed,” she said. 

“This would set a precedent on this side of Lygon Street and cause severe overshadowing in the early afternoon and it would be very dark and gloomy. 

“I think most people understand that medium density development is going to happen, but it’s got to be liveable. There’s been a lot of consultation about these height limits and it’s been specified in the planning scheme. 

“Otherwise it’s going to be a free-for-all where it’s anything goes. ” 

She said last year’s campaign to reduce the size of a new apartment building on the site on the Cypriot club further north on Lygon Street showed that community pressure could reduce the impact of high-rise development.

That project had been originally proposed to be 10 storeys, but Moreland Council ordered it should be reduced to five. 

Mr Khalil said the impact of an eight-storey building virtually next door would be devastating for his business. 

He relocated his nursery to its current position about three-and-a-half years ago, and spent $80,000 installing a customised clear polycarbon roof above the 300 square metre rear section of the property. The roof disperses natural light which allows him to grow plants and trees all year round. 

But the shadow cast by the proposed building, particularly during winter, would make it impossible to continue nurturing plants on site making it unviable to continue operating, he said. 

He said his only choices would be to move again or possibly even close down the business. 

“At the moment, we probably get two to three hours [of winter sun], which is better than nothing but this would block it out for three or four months a year,” he said. 

“I would lose all capability to keep plants alive in winter. And that’s pretty much 100% of my business.” 

Ms Bunting said Pace Developments could expect a fight if the height of the apartments was not scaled down. 

She has started a Facebook page and is considering redirecting the Bunnings campaign towards opposing the Lygon Street project. 

“Thanks to Bunnings we know all our neighbours now,” she said. 

“If they want a fight we’ve got an experienced, well-organised team with runs on the board … We will harness the spirit of the stop Bunnings campaign.”