A pocket of Footscray will become a satellite city of 5000 people living in more than a dozen high-rise towers after recent amendments to Melbourne's planning scheme.
But the new scheme may allow towers up to 25 storeys high on the banks of the Maribyrnong River, prompting anger from nearby residents.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has cemented controls for a small sandwich of land between the Maribyrnong River, Hopkins Street and Williamstown railway line that is set to become a forest of 18 tall buildings near Footscray's town centre.
Five different developers, including government-controlled Places Victoria, have drawn up plans for 3061 apartments in towers ranging in height from four to 32 levels. The bulk of the proposed buildings are 17 or more storeys tall.
One proposal from Devcorp Vic, yet to be approved by Mr Guy, includes four towers between 16 and 24 storeys within 100 metres of the riverbank.
The angular glass structures will provide "an active, attractive and accessible riverfront with improved public recreation opportunities," its designer, Plus Architecture, states.
Footscray businessman and local councillor Grant Miles said residents would be "horrified" if the proposed structures were built.
"We would really hate to think there's one rule for the Yarra and another for the Maribyrnong," Cr Miles said.
The contentious planning overhaul introduced in late July removes uncertainty about height restrictions for the Joseph Road Precinct, an area over which Mr Guy has planning control but which has attracted sharp criticism from local authorities concerned about how the impending population explosion will impact on infrastructure and services. It also alters the preferred maximum building height for the precinct from 14 storeys to between six and 25 storeys, a Planning Department spokeswoman said.
Because the area is slated for high-density development, height limits are not rigid.
"Preferred heights do not apply if built-form outcomes are achieved and particular amenity impacts, including overshadowing, are acceptable," the amendment states.
The changes "short-circuit" extensive community consultation being conducted by Maribyrnong council for its draft Footscray structure plan, Mr Miles said. "We are concerned about the Joseph Road Precinct because it's right on the banks of the Maribyrnong River." But several developers behind the apartment projects said the updated rules reduced the likelihood permits already issued would be revised.
Further away from the river on Moreland Street, developer Austpac's permit will allow two 32-level towers, as well as three other shorter, 17 and 19-storey, buildings.
Austpac was recently reported as seeking an offshore buyer for the site.
Places Victoria is also reportedly close to selling its block, the old Le Mans Toyota dealership in Hopkins Street, for close to $18 million.
An expression of interest campaign had closed but negotiations were continuing, Savills Australia selling agent Nick Peden said.
The site is yet to be granted a permit for seven buildings, between six and 24 storeys.
Developer Urban Inc is hoping to build another two towers and the Pitliangas family has gained a permit for a 25-storey building in the precinct.
Other parts of central Footscray are also being redeveloped. Construction of the regional rail link is under way and Grocon is set to build a $350 million commercial and residential project in McNab Avenue.
Mr Guy was contacted for comment.
Mini City - The New Footscray
1 G & E Pitliangas
One building: 25 storeys, 10 Moreland St
Austpac (Sailing Free Investments)
2 Two 17- storey, at 18 to 20 & 24 Hopkins St
3 One 19-storey tower, Whitehall St
4 Two 32-storey towers, 20-30 Moreland Street
5 Urban Inc
19 storeys and 26 storeys at 1 Warde St
6 Devcorp (Vic)
Four buildings 16, 18, 20 and 26 storeys at 2 Hopkins Street
7 Places Victoria
Seven buildings 6, 13, 14 storeys at 4 Hopkins St and 15, 17, 22 and 24 storeys at 1-3 Nielson Place