Malaysian newcomer UEM Sunrise Berhad will build two high-rise towers at 224-252 La Trobe Street that will soar 78 levels above the city on a site it bought just two months ago.
The apartment buildings have yet to gain planning approval but UEM, one of Malaysia's largest listed property developers, is confident they will go ahead and has begun publicising them in its home town of Kuala Lumpur.
UEM chief operating officer Raymond Cheah told Malaysian news organisations La Trobe Street would have about 1000 apartments in two towers rising more than 60 floors each. They will sit above a five-storey retail podium.
UEM finalised the purchase of La Trobe Street and another city site, at 9-23 Mackenzie Street, from property investor Jimmy Goh for $65 million in October.
The nine-storey car park on the La Trobe Street site will be demolished to make way for the new towers.
Work is expected to start in 2015, subject to planning approval, and finish in 2017.
The Mackenzie Street site will have a 35-storey tower with 388 one, two and three-bedroom apartments priced between $400,000 and $600,000 each, Mr Cheah was reported in Malaysia's Business Times as saying.
UEM's Melbourne project manager, Andrew Fortey from PDS Group, said the proposed La Trobe Street buildings would have an underground passage and an overhead pedestrian walkway connecting them to Melbourne Central shopping centre and the metro railway station opposite.
The development might also include a 250-room hotel, he said.
Elenberg Fraser Architects won a competition to design both projects ahead of Fender Katsalidis Architects and Cox Architects, sources said.
Elenberg Fraser was behind another of Melbourne's new wave of skyscraper apartments, the 71-storey Tower Melbourne in Queen Street, which Singapore-based CEL Australia recently appointed Probuild to construct.
Fairfax Media reported last week that listed Hong Kong developer Far East Consortium was seeking approval for a 300-metre, or 93-level, tower on the former site of The Age newspaper in Lonsdale Street.
The proposed building would be three metres taller than Melbourne's tallest residential structure, the 92-level Eureka Tower in Southbank.
Thomson Lawyer's property specialist Eu Ming Lim said foreign developers were familiar with large-scale projects. "It is what they do every day of the week," he said.
Australia's "robust" legal and financial system and growing population were proving attractive to Asia's big listed property players, which were facing restrictions in their home markets as governments moved against speculative buying, he said.