Melbourne’s ‘great scar’ needs healing: Fender

The rail lines along the Yarra River’s north bank are a “great scar” on Melbourne.

Hotels, apartment and office towers surrounded by open public spaces should be built over unsightly rail lines in the heart of Melbourne, according to the designer of Eureka Tower.

Fender Katsalidis Architects boss Karl Fender — whose firm is also behind iconic projects including the Richmond Silos and the soon-to-be-tallest building in the nation Australia 108 — branded the rail lines a “great scar” on the city.

After decades of inaction, the space should be opened to developers with the funds to make something happen, he said.

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“This great scar can actually become an additional open space type of community link between the north and south of the river,” Fender says.

Melbourne’s towers have expanded to the south side of the river, but little has changed along the rail yards on its north side since the 1930s.

“We have talked about it for so long and if there was a way of unlocking it, you’d do it tomorrow.

“(But) these things don’t happen unless there’s ingenious or practical funding schemes, and obviously a partnership between the government and the development sector can enable that.”

The leading architect, who lives on level 71 of Eureka Tower, which looks out to the rail lines, argues Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s recent approval of the Flinders Bank development, to replace the Melbourne Convention Centre at the corner of Flinders and Spencer streets, proves development is possible without compromising the Yarra River.

Reaching the river from the CBD requires going around or under Flinders St Station. Picture: Tony Gough

The tower will have a wedge-shaped top, with top-end apartments given extensive outdoor terraces, to mitigate overshadowing of the river.

Its combination of open public areas, luxury hotel rooms, affordable housing and retail space is a blueprint that could transform the rail lines.

“Flinders Bank is the first step in that direction,” Fender says.

“This is the best of the city’s central real estate and it could make an enormous difference in this city.”

New designs such as the Flinders Bank development show the northern bank can be developed without impacting the river.

Additional open space for the community as well as retailers will be a part of the Flinders Bank development.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp agrees more needs to be done.

Melbourne City Council is working on plans to improve the area and to create 240,000sq m of open space across the city over the next 15 years.

“We are working to develop a vision for the north bank and we need to work closely with government agencies, land owners along the river and the private sector to maximise the open space potential,” Ms Capp said.

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Karl Fender: Developers could heal ‘great scar’ on Melbourne CBD”.