Council approves controversial mixed-use buildings in Kensington 

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Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne has endorsed a controversial plan to build an $82.5 million mixed-use development in Kensington despite opposition from the community.

Under the proposal by Assemble Communities, five buildings at four and eight storeys high, would be built at the corner of Macaulay Rd and Barnett St, including 362 apartments, shops, a supermarket, a cafe, and office space.

Of the one- and three-bedroom studio apartments delivered, 20 per cent would be provided as social housing.  

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the plans at their October 18 Future Melbourne Committee meeting in which Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said was a “very thoughtful development” that was consistent with the Macaulay Structure Plan. 

“The council has recently endorsed a new Macaulay Structure Plan and although this new structure plan has not yet gone out for exhibition, I’m very, very pleased to say that this application is compliant with the new ambitious structure plan which will we hope soon take effect in this area,” he said.

“It’s also heartening to see that Assemble and Housing Choices Australia (as a joint venture) have been able to make this development happen.

“Homelessness is one of the most pressing issues facing Melburnians and we strongly encourage all new developments to include affordable housing measures.”

Mr Reece added, “We don’t often see, to be frank, this amount of thought going into an application development proposal, and there are a number of really positive features which reflect that thinking.”

The application was approved after being referred to the council by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning that will ultimately decide whether the development goes ahead. 

However, residents have voiced concern that the proposed development at 402-432 and 434-444 Macaulay Rd would impact the amenity of the area as well as create issues around parking and privacy. 

One objection letter stated, “the sheer size of the planned development is far too big impacting on the visual Kensington landscape and Barnett St streetscape which consists of a row of heritage homes”.

“As a young family we are deeply concerned about the new build with residents seeing into our backyards despite the design measures Assemble have in their plans,” it said.

Kensington Association chair Simon Harvey said given the council had approved a similar development in Kensington in recent years, the association was “not surprised” the current proposal was given the green light.

He said most concerning was that the plan would “adversely affect” residents in Barnett St with street parking. 

 

“We think it’s an overdevelopment,” Mr Harvey said, adding the association would be “pushing hard for a more complete precinct plan for parking and traffic control around the area”.

 

However, the Deputy Lord Mayor said although there would be some shared parking available on-site, the council would not be providing on-street parking permits for residents of the building.

“This means we don’t anticipate additional pressure on public on-street car parking from the new residents in this building,” he said, noting he was “acutely conscious” about the “large amount of development that is coming along Macaulay Rd and the need for us to get the traffic management plan right”.

Assemble’s managing director Kris Daff addressed the council meeting, saying he looked forward to partnering with different community groups including Kensington Primary School in allowing them to use their communal spaces as part of the proposed development. 

“We’ve got a community engagement team that has been meeting with the community and hearing some of their desires and thoughts around our proposal,” he said.

Mr Daff also pointed to Assemble’s presence in Kensington including the recently completed build-to-rent complex at 303 Macaulay Rd (home to about 170 residents) while construction will soon start on a project at 15 Thompson St which will consist of 199 apartments. 

Director of Planning and Property Partners Paul Little, who is the advisor and planning consultant for Assemble, said the proposal would deliver a “high level of amenity for future residents, a great sense of community delivered through the relative design of this proposal, and excellent amenity spaces for residents”.

Cr Rohan Leppert said the developer had “heard loud and clear” from the community’s demands but noted that “doesn’t mean that they get a blank check for everything that they would like to do”.

“Our job today isn’t to decide whether or not we like the proposal. It’s to assess the proposal against the planning controls as they stand,” he said.

“I will say without any hesitation that the application that we’ve got before us with two very quality architects KTA (Kerstin Thompson Architects) and Hayball – not just the one – and the additional public benefits that are being offered that we wouldn’t have got the case with another application from another developer, has to be acknowledged and should be rewarded.” •

 

Caption: Artist’s impressions of the proposed development at 402-432 and 434-444 Macaulay Rd, Kensington.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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