Proposal to sell council-owned historic North Melbourne draws mixed-response

Brendan Rees

A City of Melbourne proposal to sell an historic council-owned building in North Melbourne has drawn a mixed response from residents, with some believing it should be used as a community facility.

The council is considering offloading the single-storey heritage-listed building at 505-513 Abbotsford St as well as three other buildings in the municipality that are no longer being used for council services.

Until the end of June, the Abbotsford St premises had been leased to Cohealth which had provided child and family health services.

The council is now seeking the community’s input and feedback on the proposed sale of all four properties, two of which are “underutilised”.

“If we sell these properties, we will reinvest the proceeds into city-shaping infrastructure projects and the capital works program,” the council said.

“We have an opportunity to think about how we want to evolve as a city and be bold in creating a better future for Melbourne.”

North Melbourne resident Brendan Gleeson, who is a professor of urban policy at the University of Melbourne, said he believed the community had to trust the council’s “expert informed view that the site and facility is not well suited to adaptation for contemporary service provision”.

“There are certainly important heritage values associated with the building and hopefully the council will ensure these are respected in any future use. Its location at the edge of the residential fabric and close to Royal Park is not ideal from a human services perspective,” he said.

“The council has recently enlarged and greatly improved the Lady Huntingfield Children’s and Family Services Centre in Haines St.”

Mr Gleeson said this was “a far better location” from a human services point of view, and in proximity to the municipal pool/gym, the new North Melbourne Primary School campus, and the Gardiner and North Melbourne Reserves. 

 

“This area could be seen as a ‘service hub’ that will support the needs of the Hotham area as well as the new Arden Urban Renewal Precinct.”

 

However, some members of the community feel saddened that the historic building would be lost and key support services no longer available to families.

Margaret, a North Melbourne resident, said she would hate to think the 1920s-built red brick building would be replaced by multi-storey apartments.

“It would be a great community hub for a men’s shed … a women’s group, ethnic-specific groups etc. I know the community choir used to rehearse there,” she said.

A Cohealth spokesperson said their organisation had always understood their lease agreement for the Abbotsford St site was short-term, with the City of Melbourne having “been very transparent about their sale plans, and we appreciate their support and communication”.

“We’ve enjoyed offering a range of child and family health services from Abbotsford St and have begun scoping other potential locations from which we can continue to provide these essential services,” the spokesperson said.

“We don’t expect to be relocating until sometime in 2023 and can assure people that Cohealth will continue to offer accessible, community-based child and family health services for many years to come.”

According to Property Value online, the Abbotsford St property is valued between $1.5-$1.6 million.

Councillors voted unanimously at their May 31 meeting to authorise public notices of “council’s intention to sell the land to be placed on the council’s website”.

Other properties the council is proposing to sell are 47-49 Canning St, Carlton, 100-104 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, and 30-38 Gatehouse Drive, Kensington.

Public consultation will end on July 31. •

To have your say, visit: participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/proposal-sell-four-council-properties

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