Village-style tailoring for Digital Harbour

THE private investor-owners of Digital Harbour - a precinct marketed since Docklands' inception to become a $300 million low-rise business park - have reworked a master-plan that may see the prime inner-city block, with postcard views over Victoria Harbour, become its own village with apartment towers, shops and a luxury hotel.

THE private investor-owners of Digital Harbour - a precinct marketed since Docklands' inception to become a $300 million low-rise business park - have reworked a master-plan that may see the prime inner-city block, with postcard views over Victoria Harbour, become its own village with apartment towers, shops and a luxury hotel.

In a major planning shift, the new $1 billion-plus proposal would see eight new buildings developed on vacant land bounded by Dudley and La Trobe streets, Wurundjeri Way and Harbour Esplanade, at the north-west tip of the CBD - a gateway site to the Docklands waterfront.

Plans for the first of those towers - a $250 million, 21-level, 33,000-square-metre office building at 1000 La Trobe Street - have just been lodged.

The developer also plans a $250 million 34-level hotel and apartment tower speculated to include about 415 units. Two other residential buildings, including one of 15-levels with seven levels of car parking, are also mooted, along with a 14-level production studio and three office buildings of nine, 18 and 24 levels respectively.

Digital Drive - the new name given to a street entering the precinct from La Trobe Street and Wurundjeri Way - will be extended and connected to Harbour Esplanade, allowing access to the proposed new buildings.

In mid-2011, Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved the rezoning of Digital Harbour to allow for "a broader mix of occupancies to allow for 24/7 activation".

When Docklands was master-planned in the 1990s, the 4.4-hectare precinct, then known as Comtechport, was to have targeted office occupants and be filled with campus-style buildings.

Since then, four low-rise buildings have been developed on the most valuable corner of the site, including 990 and 1010 La Trobe Street, the Innovation Building and Life.Lab.

Digital Harbour executive director and part-owner David Napier told Fairfax Media that implementation of the revised mixed-use plan would depend on market conditions.

Although the revised plans include a residential component, the precinct's name would not change, Mr Napier said.

Digital Harbour abuts the NewQuay pocket of Docklands and an undeveloped precinct, E-Gate, earmarked by government planners to become a high-density village in the medium term.

The Liberman family are substantial shareholders in Digital Harbour.

Two years ago the investment consortium sold 990 La Trobe Street, a six-level, 12,650 sq m and as yet undeveloped office building for $76.5 million.

Lowther passes parcel

EXCLUSIVE private girls' school Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School is hoping to break-even selling a parcel of land it bought at auction in mid-2010 for $3.2 million.

The approximate 2000 sq m block at 20 Park Street - considered one of Moonee Ponds' best residential pockets - was for years home to tennis training school Hillebrand's.

Lowther planned to restore the three rundown tennis courts on the site, which is a few hundred metres away from its campus in exclusive Leslie Road, Essendon.

Now, principal Elisabeth Rhodes has told Fairfax, the school council has decided Park Street does not fall within Lowther's strategic objective to keep education components at the one site.

Lowther Hall has in recent years controversially been buying and demolishing exclusive historic homes abutting its campus near the Essendon railway station.

"We enjoy the intimacy of the single-site arrangement and the opportunities for cross-age interaction that it affords," Ms Rhodes said.

The 20 Park Street site is expected to wind up in the hands of a residential developer with apartments or townhouses mooted. Several other private schools in the area are expected to consider it, according to sources. Nelson Alexander's Matthew Febey and Milo Rasinac are representing Lowther Hall.

Stackables off market

PACE Development Group has withdrawn from the market a St Kilda Junction development site that recently received a permit from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to become a colourful 18-level building.

The unique complex, appearing as multi-coloured stacks each between two and four levels, was for sale with a permit for a 108-unit complex. It's now expected about 130 flats will be developed into the shell of the 2-8 St Kilda Road proposal in St Kilda, currently a low-rise office and also Pace's headquarters.

Pace bought the site for $7.5 million in July 2011 but was seeking about $9 million when it listed the asset and permit for sale 13 months later via CBRE.

Hallowed sites

CONTEMPORARY churches on both sides of the city were listed for sale this week, targeting residential developers.

In Armadale, the Stonnington Baptist Church at 73-75 Union Street, near Glenferrie Road, hit the market with price expectations of about $2 million. The residential-1 zoned block is on 787 sq m.

Melbourne Acquisitions director Dominic Gibson said before the Baptist Church owned the property the asset was occupied by the Salvation Army from 1889 to 2005.

"This is not a typical style of church building and therefore does not have the heritage restrictions generally associated with sensitive architecture."

Across town in Keilor East a church, also being touted for having a residential-1 zoning, is for sale and expected to sell for about $1.5 million. On the south-west corner of Neville Street and Dinah Parade - which accommodates a small shopping strip nearby - the 2532 sq m site is being marketed by Sutherland Farrelly's Grant Sutherland.

Collins Street art deco

CARLTON Football Club board member and Crawfords Group managing director Mark LoGiudice has quietly offloaded a boutique Melbourne CBD office building to private investors for just over $20 million.

The fully refurbished art-deco office at 409-411 Collins Street rises nine levels and includes about 3100 sq m of lettable area and has 10 basement car parks.

Developed in 1930, the building was previously known as the Roy Morgan Centre and the Commercial Union Chambers.

On a block of 624 sq m, the asset sold on a yield of just under 7 per cent. The off-market deal was negotiated by Vinci Carbone director Frank Vinci.

"The buyer was extremely pleased with their purchase, having secured one of only a few buildings left in Collins Street of this [relatively small] size," Mr Vinci said.

"Assets of this quality are always extremely well sought after and will always command a premium both in rental and capital value."

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