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Melbourne developers bring together the old and the new


Everything old is new again as Melbourne developers enliven heritage sites.

As the city continues to grow upwards and outwards, commercial and industrial buildings are being repurposed into apartments and townhouses, many retaining original features.

The rejuvenation of the 107-year-old Huddart Parker shipping company building, at the Makers Mark site on Collins Street, is one of such projects unfolding across the city.

Collins House, by Golden Age Group and Asian Pacific Group, will restore the building’s original large central window, sandstone mullions and original bluestone cladding.

The ceiling cornices, medallions and decorative columns in the lobby of the 57-level apartment development will also be reinstated.

The upper storeys are being refashioned into unique apartments that will keep with the character of the original building.

Kristen Whittle, of architects Bates Smart, said by stripping away the layers of paint that covered the historic facade, it would “bring back to life” the original materials beneath the surface.

“Every level of the existing building is being retained, but there’s going to be new floor slabs being put in,” he said.

“So essentially the old form of the building; the shape and the size is going to be [preserved].”

Across the city, many developers have paid homage to a site’s history as they merge existing buildings with new structures.

Collingwood’s Yorkshire Brewery, by developers SMA Projects and architects Hayball, has restored several portions of the rundown site, including the historic brew tower, cellar and stables.

They have been converted into residences and will have timber floors, exposed brick and concrete to reflect the development’s past.

“These buildings have all been retained either in their entirety or in a meaningful way, they’re not simple facade fragments,” said Tom Jordan, managing director at Hayball.

Compared with a new build, he said it was important for developers to have a detailed understanding of the character of the heritage building before they start the project.

Paul Roser from the National Trust believes the redevelopment of a heritage site should “go with the grain of the place”.

He commended the Yorkshire Brewery as an “exciting” project, and said the former Channel Nine studio development also worked out well.

But like many projects, he said they had been contentious because of concerns over height and size of development.

“[Another] issue is the extent of demolition that comes with some of these places, and developers will often want to justify the extent of demolition under the Heritage Act by saying that it’s uneconomic to maintain the whole building so they need to demolish some of it and rebuild with a tower, and that was the argument with the Windsor Hotel,” he said.

The $330 million redevelopment of the 1880s Hotel Windsor will increase the number of rooms from 180 to 280, with all of the key heritage features maintained and refurbished.

In Brunswick East, the former Tip Top bakery site had also been redeveloped by Little Projects into a master-planned community of 411 apartments and townhouses.

Michael Fox, managing director of Little Projects, said they worked closely with architects RotheLowman to integrate the new building fabric sympathetically with the existing heritage facades and lobby.

“Its iconic history inspired the architecture as we were committed to retaining heritage facades on both Weston and Edward streets as well as restoring key architectural elements within the principal deco building,” he said.

“We were therefore able to deliver a unique development that pays homage to the site’s history, yet is contemporary within its surrounds.

“Owners within our heritage projects really appreciated the unique character redeveloping a heritage site can deliver, as well as the connection to the site’s history.”

Christina Zhou

Domain reporter

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