Promoting high quality urban design outcomes in the central city and Southbank: synthesis report

Cities and towns Urban planning Sustainable building design and construction Melbourne

As a custodian for the quality of our environment in the Central City and as a land owner, advocate, Responsible Authority, and Recommending Referral Authority, the City of Melbourne has a critical role in investing in and advocating for good design. While the City has developed a strong reputation for urban quality on the national and international stage, it is imperative that we continue to invest in good design through our procurement of capital works projects as well as our influence through the planning framework on the development of private property.

The Central City and Southbank have undergone rapid growth in recent years. The resultant influx of new residents, workers and visitors that has coincided with new development has had positive effects on the vitality of the City; however there is evidence to suggest that the urban design outcomes which have resulted have not met the expectations of design quality of the City of Melbourne. Excluding matters addressed by the recently adopted Amendment C270, the key areas where poor outcomes have been noted include:

  • The impact of parking including access and podium parking on the quality of the public realm
  • The impact of building services on the public realm through location, integration and design detail
  • The lack of design investment in the lower 20m of building facades and in particular in shop front design to provide a high quality public realm interface

Based on a review of recent completed development, engagement with industry experts and government agencies through workshops as well as benchmarking of comparable city strategies, it is clear that there is an excellent opportunity to address these issues through a co-ordinated approach comprising regulatory, advocacy and process improvements. The proposed actions to optimise urban design outcomes in the Central City and Southbank include the following:

  • Amendments to the Melbourne Planning Scheme to consolidate existing fragmented policy and overlays into a consolidated Design and Development Overlay Schedule 1 with a focus on urban design in order to provide clarity and certainty to applicants, development planners and the community.
  • Introduction of a Central Melbourne Design Guide document which provides a visual aid to assist in the interpretation of the Design and Development Overlay and increase the understanding of the City of Melbourne’s expectations regarding design quality.

In addition to this primary strategy a series of additional processes are identified for further exploration:

  • Introduction of a revised City of Melbourne Design Review Process for major projects in order to provide timely, and high quality advice on major projects
  • Investigation of the opportunities for a Competitive Design Policy which requires the undertaking of Design Competitions to achieve design excellence in major projects.

The following report outlines these matters in more detail.


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