West Melbourne Heritage set for Interim Protection

West Melbourne Heritage Protected


MHA is very pleased to announce that this month, the City of Melbourne has requested interim protection for all places cited in its recently completed West Melbourne heritage review.

The recent pace of change in West Melbourne has been frenetic, even relative to the development pressure we’ve seen in the CBD and Southbank. Since 2004, the suburb’s population  has almost doubled, with three quarters of these newcomers housed in residential apartments. Presently, a further 2800  dwellings are either under construction, approved or awaiting planning approval, hence the imperative for the study.

This is part of a broader West Melbourne review that will look at a range of issues beyond heritage such as built form, height and density.

The review is concerned for the most part, given the nature of the suburb, with Victorian-era residential terraces and the (mostly) more recent industrial structures, many of which have already been converted to apartment developments and hence were  not likely to come under enormous development pressure.

At the same time, the review is large and comprehensive in scope, weighing in at over 2,500 pages. Accordingly, there remain numerous notable and conspicuous inclusions.

The review grants protection for the famous Apollo Gym, originally built as a warehouse and one of Melbourne’s first ever poured concrete structures. The gym was among the first established in Australia and pioneered the teaching of women’s self defense classes.

Dominick Cleary’s 1897 bootmaking workshop is one rare example of the suburb’s surviving nineteenth century industrial heritage. Older still, Charles Barber’s shop and residence dates to 1867, built from a distinctive and unusual basalt masonry.

Of equal note and creating some precedent, the review also provides protection for the 1980s postmodern infill housing in Capel Street, which will rank these among the first postmodern buildings anywhere in Melbourne to be granted heritage protection.

And while we’re talking postmodernism, the building you only ever want to admire from the exterior, 1989’s Godfrey Spowers and Darryl Jackson-designed Melbourne Remand Center joins the neighbour it references, the fabulous red brick Victorian former Sands and MacDougall warehouse in also gaining protection.

Festival Hall, built in 1955 after a fire damaged the earlier stadium on the site, was for many decades Melbourne’s only large-scale music and entertainment venue, and it makes up for its lack of immediate aesthetic character by housing many decades of accumulated cultural heritage.

“This is a miserable place to go to a concert.” Frank Zappa once proclaimed. Nonetheless Melburnians look set to have that opportunity into the forseeable future, as the building now also gains formal protection.

And in arguably the biggest direct heritage windfall from the study, the charming Victorian former Edward J. and Samuel Spink warehouse-workshop at 488 La trobe, which was recently directly subject to proposed demolition under an apartment development is now also accorded formal protection.

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All nominated sites within the study will soon be subject to an interim heritage overlay, pending the Minister’s approval, preventing them in theory from either demolition or inappropriate development. The panel process that will prefigure permanent protection can take up to year, so interim listing will ensure we don’t lose anything while that occurs.

But What’s It All Mean?

MHA was formed out of the scandalous demolition of Lonsdale House in 2011, with the specific aim of preventing the further loss of heritage buildings in central Melbourne. It has been quite a time, and we’ve seen our share of setbacks.

However, we can proudly state that today we have heritage reviews either completed or scheduled for 2016 across

  • The Hoddle Grid/CBD
  • Southbank and
  • West Melbourne

With the City North Heritage Review being gazetted last year, the ONLY remaining area within MHA’s boundaries where we believe there may still be “gaps” – ie recognised heritage buildings that remain unprotected by any overlay – is a small pocket of East Melbourne.

So guess what our campaign priority for 2017 is looking like?

With the completion of these heritage reviews, we hope to be in a position to say we have ACHIEVED ONE OF MHA’s FOUNDING GOALS.

Every heritage structure across ALL OF the above zones would be protected by a heritage overlay.

And that means from that day forward, there should be


But please, readers, don’t think that will have us resting back on our laurels in future.

Even where buildings are protected, we are still fighting the dread specter of INAPPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT TO HERITAGE almost daily. And  demolition threats can still pop up if the powers that be see something big and shiny.

The goalposts may well keep shifting, the oranges at half time might be seductive, but our fans may be assured, MHA will remain on the park for the full four quarters.


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