Park Street apartments finally win government approval
A heritage electricity substation will be retained but council is disappointed at lack of affordable housing
A 10-storey luxury apartment building at the southern entrance to Brunswick has been given the green light after developer Mirvac successfully used a controversial fast-track process to win planning approval.
Both Mirvac and Merri-bek Council have confirmed that Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny has approved the $280 million development on the site of the former Princes Park Motor Inn at the corner of Park Street and Sydney Road.
Mirvac used a contentious state government Development Facilitation Program to bypass the council and directly apply to the Minister for the project to go ahead.
A planning permit was signed by Ms Kilkenny on May 9 but there was no public confirmation until Mirvac announced this week that the project had been approved.
Demolition works are already underway on the site, which also has frontage to Brunswick Road and includes a heritage substation that the developer is required to retain and is likely to be enclosed in the foyer of the apartment building.
Get more stories like this delivered to your inbox
The final approval for the development draws to a close a long saga since a previous owner first attempted to build a 14-storey building on the site in 2016.
This led to the formation of a residents group, Protect Park St Precinct, to oppose the project which it insists is an inappropriate development so close to Princes Park.
The original application, which was later reduced to 10 storeys, was knocked back by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2020.
Mirvac bought the 6496 square metre site in 2021 for $40 million and submitted amended plans for several buildings of six to 10 storeys directly to the Minister for Planning through the Development Facilitation Program which was introduced in 2021 to streamline the approval process for projects regarded as having significant economic benefit.
In April last year, the then-Moreland Council resolved to formally oppose the application by Mirvac.
A special panel appointed by the state government held hearings about the proposal in August and September last year before recommending that it be approved by the Planning Minister subject to some minor changes, including improvements to the Park Street façade.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mirvac welcomed approval of the project, which it said would now consist of 166 apartments of various sizes from one to four bedrooms.
A six-storey building will have a Park Street frontage while a 10-storey building behind it will have a frontage onto Brunswick Road.
Mirvac said the project was worth $280 million and would be designed by prominent architects Bates Smart.
Merri-bek Mayor Angelica Panopoulos said the final plans approved by the Planning Minister were an improvement on earlier designs because of the council’s advocacy over the years.
But she said the council was disappointed that just 10% of dwellings in the building – or 17 apartments in total – would be set aside as affordable housing at a 35% discounted price.
“Council submitted that for a development of this scale, a much greater contribution to the provision of affordable housing should be provided, especially to warrant the intervention of the Minister for Planning … Council sees this as a missed opportunity to deliver much needed affordable housing for both struggling families and those of the lowest income bracket of affordability,” she said.
The president of the Brunswick Community History Group, Elisabeth Jackson, said she was pleased that the heritage electricity substation would not be demolished, although she was concerned that it could be obscured or overshadowed after the new buildings were constructed.
She said very little of the history of the Brunswick Council’s electricity supply service was left.
“It was important to keep it from a social and historical point of view and [because] it’s a nice 1920s building,” she said.
“I would like to see it kept and be used as a café or a community room for the residents and have some acknowledgement of its history on it.”
South Ward Councillor James Conlan said the program under which the development was approved was flawed because it removed local government oversight from planning.
“As if the planning system is not broken enough, the state government introduced another program to give developers an easy ride,” he said.
In an update emailed to its 1700 members last week, the Protect Park St Precinct group maintained the battle was not over until Mirvac provided revised plans that complied with its permit conditions.
Do you have feedback on this story? Send us a comment here.