Home World Business Not as easy as ABC, as heritage grades get updated

Not as easy as ABC, as heritage grades get updated

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The City of Melbourne has proposed a shift in its heritage ratings scheme away from A-D grades to a new system spelling out a building’s significance.

City of Melbourne councillor Rohan Leppert, who covers heritage, said the new grading system would give landlords and developers more certainty about what they can do with their properties.

Render of the proposed addition to the former Grange Lynne factory. Render of the proposed addition to the former Grange Lynne factory. Photo: Supplied

The move comes as concerns mount over the loss of historical buildings, notably the notorious demolition of the Corkman Hotel in Carlton last year and the prospective losses of the Palace nightclub in Bourke Street, the Great Western Hotel and the Hansen Yuncken headquarters.

Another building tipped for demolition is the Art Deco Yooralla Building, built originally as Snow’s Department Store in 1936, opposite Flinders Street Station.

The Great Western Hotel. The Great Western Hotel. 

Moremas Land, controlled by the Malaysian Loke family, bought the C-grade building in 2015 and has proposed a 13-level hotel in its place.

“The mentality in the development community seems to be that D equals demolish. That’s something we want to overcome,” Cr Leppert said.

“If we provide more certainty about what’s significant then I’m confident the system will work better for everyone,” he said.

The proposed system, amendment C258, would replace A-to-D grades with words – significant, contributory and non-contributory – and has been undertaken simultaneously with other heritage reviews for the Hoddle Grid, Southbank, Fishermans Bend and the Guildford and Hardware Lane precincts.

The Yooralla building at 248 Flinders Street, Melbourne. The Yooralla building at 248 Flinders Street, Melbourne.  

Mr Leppert said the updated terminology brought the city into line with other councils.

“It’s not adding buildings to the overlay. There are other projects which do that. It’s just making the grading system clearer,” he said.

The gradings review also provides capacity for factors other than the built form – historic, aesthetic, scientific, social or spiritual significance – to be counted as heritage.

Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies said the City of Melbourne had finally done quite a lot of work on heritage listing after 30 years of neglect.

“If something was D-grade it was seen as being not very significant and easy to demolish. The new guidelines make it clearer that they are worth keeping,” Mr Davies said.

He said there was a danger the city, renowned for the bars and cafes in its laneways and historic buildings, would lose its lustre.

“Every time you demolish another old building or area you lose the potential for it to become a new hot spot,” he said.

IIG chief executive Chris Lock, whose fund owns two historic buildings in the City of Melbourne, also looks at heritage as a landlord.

“We want to protect the fabric of heritage buildings. We think it appeals to the types of tenants we want in our buildings,” Mr Lock said.

Impact is currently undertaking a complete refurbishment of 401 Collins Street ahead of new tenants WeWork, a US co-working company, taking up most of the 6000 square metre building.

Since the 1980s, developers have skirted the issue of heritage protection by retaining a facade around a new tower, but there are signs that might not be enough in the future.

Last week, planning minister Richard Wynne refused a planning permit for 183-180 A’Beckett Street where a 58-storey tower was proposed to fill out the shell of the Art Deco Grange Lynne factory, designed by Walter Burley Griffin’s Australian acolyte Edward Billson.

Over-development of the site, excessive height and lack of setbacks were the main reasons for Mr Wynne’s refusal, which had already been knocked by council, partly on heritage grounds.

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