It is a precinct of obvious significance, but one that has only even been protected by a height limit, not a heritage overlay. It has remained intact, despite this lack of protection, until now. There is currently a proposal that would see a pair of 1920s red brick warehouses replaced with a seven-storey brown brick and glass block residential development, which would dominate and undermine the character and significance of the precinct.
Guildford Lane never gained heritage protection because heritage precincts in the CBD have not been reviewed since their first establishment in the early 1980s, when they focussed on protecting concentrations of notable facades on the main streets. Laneways were respected, but only for their provision of pedestrian ‘permeability’ rather than for their character. The plainer industrial buildings, which often existed along laneways, and the backs
and sides of older buildings that form what could be called ‘lanescapes’, were not assessed as significant.
In the last decade, the regard for ‘lanescapes’ has changed completely. They have become one of the most highly-valued assets of the city. The time to act is now if we are to protect these wonderful, low scale, intimate places and spaces that are so characteristic of something that is unique to Melbourne’s CBD.