Lang Walker’s $750m twin towers backed for Docklands’ heritage-listed site

An artist’s impression of the $75m development, proposed for the Goods Sheds at Docklands.

Tycoon Lang Walker’s ambitious $750m plans for a twin-tower office project in Melbourne’s Collins St have won the backing of city council, but still needs a green light from the state’s heritage auth­ority.

The council committee overseeing planning last week unanimously voted to support the Goods Shed twin tower development, which could supercharge the still quiet area that was hard hit by the pandemic.

The plan to build “iconic twin towers” above the heritage-listed Goods Shed at Docklands will now be considered by the Andrews government, with Heritage Victoria talking to the Minister for Planning to discuss the development.

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the development, supported by town planners but opposed by Heritage Victoria, could be a game changer for Docklands.

He dubbed the application as one of the most significant in Docklands for almost two decades, citing the $750m scale and two towers in a gateway location in a heritage context.

“This particular development has the potential to be a real game changer for Docklands, located in that gateway site located as it is in the setting of the Goods Shed,” Mr Reece said.

“It has the potential to be a precinct-transforming development. The Goods Shed is one of Australia’s most remarkable heritage buildings … its over 300m long.”

An artist’s impression of the $75m development, proposed for the Goods Sheds at Docklands.

Mr Reece said it was the longest building in the Southern Hemisphere. “In many respects, it’s a building which I think was forgotten by Melbourne for decades.”

He said the building had a mini renaissance in the early 2000s, but the site had not reached “anywhere near its potential as a building which Melburnians can use and love”.

“I think this application unlocks the full potential of the Goods Shed,” he said.

“Not only does it unlock the potential of the Goods Shed as a building, I think it also foregrounds the potential of this whole precinct to be transformed.”

Mr Walker has been working on the proposal for at least two years, since he took a half stake in 710 Collins St, the northern section of the historic building, from the listed Abacus Property Group.

The billionaire already controls the southern section of the structure.

Council backed plans to build the 188m towers as part of a revamp of the sheds, built in 1889 and deemed of “state significance”.

The development would see shops and a market space built in the north shed, offices and a childcare centre in the south shed and a new public space beneath the Collins St bridge.

The northern end of the Goods Shed would be rebuilt with a new public forecourt, market hall, retail space, restaurants and improved pedestrian connections to nearby Marvel Stadium. The southern end would have a cultural and event space, outdoor dining and new tree-lined “Village St” modelled on Melbourne’s well-known laneways.

A planning application to Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny by developer Walker Corporation said the 41-storey towers, with two basement levels, on either side of Collins St would change the face of the area. “The commercial towers will form a gateway to Docklands and provide a marker on Melbourne’s skyline,” it said.

Heritage status for the 139-year-old building, at 707 and 710 Collins St, 731-735 Bourke St and 44 Village St, says it is “the largest and most architecturally significant example of a railway goods building of that era in Victoria.”