The former campus of Abbotsford's Sophia Mundi Steiner School is to be transformed into a $60 million boutique development with 74 dwellings.
Developer Domain Hill Property Group bought the site on the corner of Mollison and Nicholson streets for $10.1 million from the Catholic Church's Melbourne diocese late in 2011.
Bucking the trend towards compact apartments that are proliferating in Abbotsford, it intends to turn the 4800-square-metre site into a series of low-rise terraces.
"We detected growing buyer resistance to large, generic apartment projects," Domain Hill's director Peter Cahill said.
Instead, the company will focus on building a string of 57 podium and loft-style terraces no more than three levels high, Mr Cahill said.
As well, one of the former school buildings on the site will be turned into six heritage apartments. Another 11 rooftop warehouses will be added.
The project has been designed by architects at KUD Urban Design, whose director, Billy Kavellaris, conceived the new Kinglake Catholic Church after it was razed in the 2009 bushfires.
The new building's design includes a front facade incorporating the work of photo artist Samantha Everton, Mr Cahill said. Mr Cahill's company is also constructing the art-focused 2 Girls complex in nearby Lithgow Street and it was behind the well-known Smith Street Lofts project.
Construction is expected to start at the end of this year on the site that, prior to being a Steiner school, used to house a Christian Brothers technical school.
It faces stiff competition with the number of apartments constructed over the four years to 2014 in popular inner-city suburbs like South Yarra, Richmond, Prahran, Footscray and Abbotsford expected to double what was built in each suburb over the previous decade, according to analysts Charter Keck Cramer.
But Mr Cahill said if "you've got the right product that suits the market at the present time, then you'll find good demand."
Prices will range from $450,000 to $795,000, he said.
When the Catholic Church and Domain Hill sealed their deal, the Steiner school that used the site for 20 years gained approval for controversial plans to build a school block on the grounds of the historic Abbotsford Convent, allowing it to relocate.
The school stared down staunch community opposition to its expanded presence at the convent, gaining 11th-hour approval from Planning Minister Matthew Guy for the plans, which include turning a derelict pool area into a playground. Three months earlier, Yarra Council had rejected the school's proposal.