“West Melbourne Waterfront” plans slammed by community as “madness”
A $230 million bold plan to create a “West Melbourne Waterfront” consisting of 14-storey high buildings lining the banks of the Maribyrnong River has drawn criticism from the community as being “excessive”.
The City of Melbourne is considering a planning application that seeks to build a mixed-use development at 156-194 Kensington Rd that would see a “sky neighbourhood” created featuring affordable accommodation, build-to-rent homes, a hotel, retail shops, a total of 384 apartments, riverside bars and more across a 2.3-hectare site.
Under the plans submitted by developer Scalzo Kensington Pty Ltd, five 14-storey buildings would be constructed at a newly rezoned former industrial site that is currently occupied by two-storey warehouses, carparking and storage.
In their stead could be one of the five buildings housing six storeys of office space, a 147-room hotel, and retail shops.
Two other buildings would comprise cinema, a supermarket, an art gallery, a “club space’’, rooftop outdoor terrace, carparking and 191 apartments.
The remaining two buildings would comprise 2498 square metres of office space within a podium, retail premises at ground floor, 104 parking spaces, 192 apartments, and a rooftop terrace.
Other proposed spaces include basketball courts, rock climbing, outdoor terraces, and a rooftop community garden.
The development would also see 1081 square metres of public open space next to the Maribyrnong River.
In a pitch to the council, the plans said the new neighbourhood would deliver “the natural gifts of air, light and water” and the “West Melbourne Waterfront will be the beating heart of Melbourne’s booming inner west”.
It would also create local employment opportunities, according to the plans, as well as incorporate a “contemporary architectural and landscaping response that vastly improves the public realm and streetscape presentation to Kensington Rd”.
But the community has expressed concern over the ambitious plan, saying it would impact the amenity and character of the area.
The Kensington Association’s chair Simon Harvey was highly critical, saying it would be an “atrocious” outcome if approved.
“Someone is floating something out there to see if the powers that be will take the bait,” he said.
“This vision of ‘development’ is feeding someone’s fantasy.”
Mr Harvey said the council should reject the plans “on the grounds that it would desecrate the banks of the river and destroy public open space that we so desperately need to conserve”.
“The banks of the river need to be preserved, not be sacrificed on the pretext of ‘creating employment’,” he said.
“Constructions of concrete to make money for someone and in the process destroy the natural calm and beauty of the riverbank.”
“Unfortunately, it has already begun over the river in Footscray. Let’s not try to imitate the madness.”
Chairman of the North and West Melbourne Association Kevin Chamberlin said the proposed development “doesn’t really respect the unique location of that site on the riverbank and Kensington Rd”.
“To go from two to 14 storeys on Kensington Rd is excessive and completely changes the nature of that major road,” he said. “It is completely out of scale with most of the buildings on that road.”
“The pretext that it creates jobs is hardly a justification for this development in the current economic climate.”
Given the future impacts of global warming on riverside communities, Mr Chamberlin also questioned how sophisticated the flood control measures would be on the site based on its history.
Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the application would be carefully considered, particularly against the West Melbourne Waterfront Development Plan.
“Given this is a very significant proposal located in a picturesque location on the Maribyrnong River it is vitally important that we get the planning decision right,” he said.
Cr Reece said the lower reaches of the Maribyrnong River and this pocket of West Melbourne “are a forgotten corner of the city.”
“It is also one of the most exciting areas in Melbourne for new development given its rich community history, easy access to the amenities of Kensington, and the potential for idyllic waterside living right on the doorstep of the city.”
“It is pleasing to see a proposal of this scale has included the provision of new public open space for the benefit of the broader community.”
It is not yet known when the application will come before City of Melbourne councillors for consideration.
Caption: An artist’s impression of the ambitious development proposal in West Melbourne.