Big rush to meet Collingwood demand

Developers are rapidly catering to growing buyer demand in one of Melbourne's oldest, and now hippest, suburbs. But the pace of change is not without detractors.

Developers are rapidly catering to growing buyer demand in one of Melbourne's oldest, and now hippest, suburbs. But the pace of change is not without detractors.

Collingwood has undergone a swift gentrification with 43 apartments under construction and 637 apartments in five projects in the pipeline, Charter Keck Cramer director Sam Nathan said.

Its rough-and-ready image was fast transforming into a cultural hub, attracting graphic designers, architects, start-ups and other creative types.

"Underutilised retail, industrial and housing accommodation has kept rents comparatively low, allowing for the evolution of an eclectic, creative lifestyle," Mr Nathan said.

The mix has attracted a rush to redevelop as well as objectors. Melbourne-based Urban Inc, among others, is set to capitalise on the change with work to start this year on a mid-rise, 233-dwelling apartment in Stanley Street (artist's impression, above right), opposite the suburb's heritage listed Foy & Gibson precinct. Mercon Group has been appointed as builder.

Demand was strong for "respectful" developments that added to the amenity of the streetscape and suburb, Urban Inc director Tim Gurner said.

The group's Elenberg Fraser-designed structure, which rises to nine levels in four components, was to be developed in stages but would now be built as one project after 190 of 233 units sold before the official launch, Mr Gurner said.

Several other apartments were slated for development nearby.

One designed by Plus Architecture and developed by Blue Earth Group was expected to rise to nine levels. Another, on an adjoining site, will rise seven storeys.

Seven people objected to Blue Earth's development while 52 opposed Stanley Street.

Other projects in the area will rise even higher, up to 17 storeys.

The Logiudice family's Banco Group was expected to start a 238-apartment, mixed-use development in nearby Smith Street and developer Martin Strode will push ahead with 17-storey towers on the historic Yorkshire Brewery site.

Tim Hurburgh, from H2O Architects, which has been based in Collingwood's Northumberland Street for 11 years, said the suburb's character depended on maintaining the mixed business and light industrial zoning.

Melbourne's inner suburbs were traditionally between two and six storeys high, a point that fostered life at the street level, Mr Hurburgh said. Beyond that "the risk is it starts to become like Southbank".

But Danny Ciarma, also a director of Urban Inc, said the group's $140 million Oxley development "mimics" the streetscape character, breaking up grain of the building into three structures.

Urban Inc has six projects under construction, with six set to launch. Development conditions were improving for sites that had permits, Mr Ciarma said. "It's a perfect storm: interest rates are low, population's growing, construction prices are coming down."