News / Planning

‘We don’t want to become Manhattan overnight’

Residents gear up to oppose seven-storey apartment project in their street

Objectors to the Dods Street development, including next door neighbour Elisa Hill (second from left) outside the house which would be demolished to make way for the apartment building.

Mark Phillips

RESIDENTS of Dods Street are urging Merri-bek Council to reject a proposed seven storey apartment building they fear could be a “stalking horse” for even more high-rise development in the neighbourhood.

Numerous objections have been lodged against the development which would be a storey taller than the the height limit in the area.

Toorak-based Bespoke Development Group Pty Ltd wants to build the 11-apartment building on a site at 20 Dods Street which is currently occupied by a rundown single storey early-20th century weatherboard house.

The developer lodged an amended application in November, setting up a fresh stoush over neighbourhood character in established Brunswick streets.

The Dods Street application comes after the state planning tribunal recently granted approval for two large apartment developments in Brunswick East despite resident and council opposition.

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Residents in Dods Street, a dead end street close to Sydney and Glenlyon roads, say the proposal for a seven storey building is an over-development of the site.

Dods Street is currently an eclectic mix of traditional weatherboard houses, apartments and warehouses, and is dominated at its north-western end by a five-level apartment building in the redeveloped Holeproof stocking factory and by a council-owned car park.

The area has a 20 metre discretionary height limit but the $4.9 million project would be 24.6 metres high. Public records show the block last sold for $1.275 million in December 2020.

In its application, the developer says the extra storey is justified because it will be set back from the road, and is appropriate given the changing nature of the street, which already includes several other multi-level apartment buildings which have either been constructed or approved.

In 2016, the then-Moreland Council approved a six storey development containing 34 apartments on the two properties immediately west of 20 Dods Street but while the apartments were advertised for sale off-the-plan, that project has not yet gone ahead.

Michael Petit, a resident in the Holeproof apartment building, claimed the project at number 20  was “the most egregious ambit planning application sought in a residential street in some time”.

Mr Petit said even though the planning scheme allowed developments up to six storeys to encourage medium-density development, four would be more appropriate for a single block.

“Everything on this street is four storeys at the highest and we’re happy with that but we’re not happy with seven storeys because it’s an over-reach on a normal housing block,” he said.

“We don’t want to become Manhattan overnight.”

Another objector is Elisa Hill who has lived next door to the development site since 2007 and whose family recently renovated their house.

While she is worried that overshadowing from the apartment building would render the house’s solar electricity system useless, a greater concern is the impact it could have on her intellectually disabled 18-year-old son.

“It’s difficult for him to get out into the community and he largely depends on sunlight in the backyard for his living and health needs,” she said.

An artist’s impression of the proposed apartment building.

Mark White, another resident of the Holeproof apartment building, said the size of the proposed building was “ludicrous”.

Ms Hill echoed other residents who said expensive apartments were pushing artists and low-income people out of Brunswick, permanently changing the suburb’s character.

The council has scheduled a meeting between the developer and the objectors at the end of this month to seek a compromise.

A representative of Bespoke Development Group declined to make any further comment for this story.

VCAT green lights projects

Meanwhile, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has recently ruled in favour of two multi-level apartment projects in Brunswick East that were hotly opposed by local residents and refused approval by the council.

Objectors gained concessions in both decisions.

In a decision just before Christmas, VCAT approved a 109 dwelling project in Lygon Street, but ordered the building’s height should be reduced from a maximum of eight storeys to seven.

VCAT also ordered increased setbacks to reduce shadowing along with some other minor design changes.

Earlier this month, VCAT approved another contentious multi-level project in Albert Street adjacent to Fleming Park, but ordered the developer to reduce its height from six storeys to five.