Student accommodation to be redeveloped after five years
The City of Melbourne has endorsed a plan to knock down and redevelop a North Melbourne student accommodation complex despite a 12-storey building having been built five years ago.
Under the plans, the site, known as the RMIT Village at 5-17 Flemington Rd, would be demolished with a 19-storey student housing building, as well as two build-to-rent towers of 19 to 22 storeys, built in its place at a cost of $264,333,000.
Councillors voted unanimously at their November 21 Future Melbourne Committee meeting to endorse the proposal, although Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece did raise questions as to why the whole complex could not be retrofitted.
The site, located next to the Haymarket Roundabout, was previously home to the Old Melbourne Motor Inn before it became the Old Melbourne Hotel in the 1970s. More recently, it was converted into student housing for 456 students before alterations and a 12-storey building was added to increase student capacity.
While the proposal met the city’s planning control requirements, it did however prompt Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece to issue a sharp warning that an “era of disposable buildings in Melbourne is well and truly over”.
“When new buildings are built on the cheap to be knocked down every 20 years or so we’ll end up with a throwaway city of junk buildings, as well as the unacceptable environmental cost that comes with that,” he said in addressing the council meeting.
“For us as a city, the way forward is to ensure disposable buildings don’t go up in the first place and that we push other alternatives to demolition, such as retrofitting and adaptive reuse.”
An artist’s impression of the proposed development.
Andrea Zohar of planning consultancy UPco spoke on behalf of the building’s owners at the council meeting, saying the application had been amended in August 2023, and they believed “the hard work put in by both the council officers and the applicant team is a testament to the ultimate design success of the project”.
“The site is currently looking pretty tired, grossly underutilised with a commercial carpark and dated student housing at a time when many international students are returning to Melbourne,” she said, adding the housing offered in the development would contribute to the state government’s recently released housing statement, which aims to build 800,000 homes in Victoria over the next decade.
When asked by Cr Reece whether the applicant had considered options around retrofitting the existing building, Ms Zohar said, “all aspects of the redevelopment scheme to the site were considered in depth by the client and the team”.
She said the proposal offered a significant contribution to student facilities in addition to “much larger scale” communal areas and outdoor terraces “that can’t be achieved by retrofit”.
The planning application, submitted on behalf of the site’s owners Centurion Australia Investments, was referred to the council as it underwent assessment by the Department of Transport and Planning. The student housing tower (with a total of 644 student rooms) would face Bedford St and be built as part of the first stage of the development.
A ground level retail premises and a medical centre would be provided along Flemington Rd and Blackwood St as part of stage two, which would see a total of 538 apartments built in the other towers. A small retail shop would be provided within the stage one student housing.
In a community benefit, a two-metre-wide pedestrian pathway would be created, providing a through-link between Bedford Place and Blackwood St, which Cr Reece noted would be a “really positive” aspect of the development. •
Caption: Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece at the RMIT Village in North Melbourne, which will be redeveloped. Photo: Hanna Komissarova.