Racecourse Rd has looked better. It looked pretty good in 1907.
Parts of it still radiate architectural elegance, but some cosmetics are poorly applied.
Moonee Valley Council has recognised the need for reapplying some style to the shopping precinct and has developed a Streetscape & Activation Plan: ACLARRPOCStreetscape Activation PlanFinal Copy 160122
But before this plan gets some money behind it, VCAT may allow Racecourse Rd to look like this:
The Flemington Association, several residents from Norwood and Lewis Streets, and Moonee Valley Council, spent three days at VCAT this week arguing this proposal would not make a positive contribution to the streetscape. We may lose.
This development would have an even greater impact on the more intact heritage streetscape in Norwood St. IMHO.
The expert heritage advisor for the applicant argued this proposed building presented a reasonable level of visual bulk to Norwood Street. We argued the opposite.
The proposal is for a seven storey, 66 room hotel – with 18 car spaces entering via the ROW adjoining Pin Oak Crescent. There’s no clear plan for how vehicles would turn around in the dead-end laneway, if they didn’t enter the basement carpark, no taxi drop-off, no plan for 24 hr reception. I could go on, but I’ve been through it all at VCAT for three days straight and my head hurts!
One of the problems is the lack of any policy guidelines in the MV Planning Scheme for development in the Racecourse Rd Major Activity Centre – as nominated under Plan Melbourne.
A decade ago, MVCC did spend many years consulting with residents to try to develop a clear Structure Plan to assist in the future development of the area, but this was abandoned by Council in 2013.
The plan was to limit development on this particular site to three storeys – with developments of five storeys acceptable if certain criteria were met.
The Structure Plan was abandoned because councillors were anxious about the Activity Centre boundary extending across residential and heritage Flemington. They were also worried about this area being designated an ACZ. Rather than try to amend these elements, councillors threw the whole thing out.
For six years, no further work appears to have been undertaken which gives residents and council very little to say at VCAT with respect to preferred heights in the precinct.
VCAT may well decide that the future of Racecourse Rd is a seven storey starting point, backing onto homes in Norwood St.
The sheer concrete wall facing east, depicted above, was left blank by the applicant to allow for ‘equitable development’ by adjacent properties along Racecourse Rd – meaning that all of the shops to the east of the development could also build seven story structures.
The hearing finished today, and the decision will be handed down in 4-6 weeks. The decision could alter the streetscape of Racecourse Rd and set the agenda for any future structure planning.
Those of us who spent the week in the tense hearing rooms at VCAT, quizzing experts, arguing our case and trying to protect the streetscape of Norwood St in particular, are exhausted. But we did our best. We’ll soon know what VCAT has in store for the future of Racecourse Rd and Flemington.