Southbank, Melbourne’s iconic waterfront location, continues its skyscraper trend with the approval of a 193-metre residential tower.

Last week, Minister for Planning Matthew Guy approved the 61-storey tower, which will be located at 256-260 City Road and will join a list of approved and proposed skyscrapers in the area.

The project calls for a $120 million complex combining residential, retail and hospitality to support the growing Southbank area in what Guy calls a boost in economic investment and liveability in the central area.

Eugene Chieng, a senior associate and project manager with architectural firm Hayball, led the design process for the complex, which is due for completion in 2017.

The skyscraper’s design will see the structure enveloped in intricate bronze glass detail, while inside, it will include 432 one- and two-bedroom apartments designed to house around 600 residents.

Aligning with the City of Melbourne’s ambition to make Melbourne a cycling city, the complex is prioritising bicycle storage, offering 215 bicycle spaces and only 104 car spaces. It will also dedicate two stories to shared recreational facilities including a gym and barbecue area.

Approved Skyscraper, 256-260 City Road Southbank

Approved Skyscraper, 256-260 City Road Southbank

“This development will help transform a currently underutilised site in central Southbank, enhancing the streetscape with its elegant and simple design and opening up street level spaces for retail and café uses,” Guy said. “It also helps meet anticipated high population growth in the area, while also boosting liveability for residents.”

Information from a 2009 City of Melbourne report revealed an increase in inner-city apartment living has seen Southbank’s population grow by 13 per cent per annum in the seven years to 2008.

Last year, industry projections revealed that an additional 10,000 residents were expected to move into Southbank, further forming the path for high-rise development in the area.

The waterfront area itself is being reinvigorated as part of a major Victorian government project that will see pedestrian access improved to further connect Southbank to the CBD, a new plaza, a focus on public space and an already-completed $128.5 million major overhaul of the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall.

“Southbank’s appeal for new residents is significant, as this ‘urban village’ is within our vibrant arts precinct and has immediate access to the Melbourne CBD, employment, public transport, the Yarra River, parks and gardens and other services,” Guy said.

Matthew Guy

Planning Minister, Matthew Guy

Guy believes the tower is yet another demonstration of how Melbourne continues to be a prime location for investment.

“Each crane on Melbourne’s skyline represents real jobs for Victorians, and is a sign of a strong and growing economy,” he said.

However, not everyone agrees with the Minister’s recent approvals of a few ambitious buildings, with some being quite vocal in opposing his intention to inject giant buildings into Melbourne’s skylines and multiply the number of tall buildings in Melbourne by five. Earlier this year, his planning activity had him dubbed “Mr Skyscraper” with many critics voicing their concern over some of proposed projects.

In March, Guy received criticism for his approval of Australia 108, a proposed 388-metre skyscraper in Southbank that would become the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest residential tower.

The tower ignited consistent debate for its potential to overshadow the treasured Shrine of Remembrance while also exceeding the council’s 100-metre height limit at its proposed location at 70 Southbank Boulevard. That proposal has since been cancelled as it was deemed to infringe on federal flight paths and failed to meet a few other regulations.

Original Australia 108 Skyscraper Design

While Australia 108’s architects, Fender Katsalidis, went back to the drawing board to unveil a new, more appropriate design, the nearby 276-metre Queensbridge Tower by Bates Smart has been approved and will stand as Melbourne’s second tallest building upon completion.

Those buildings, along with others that have been proposed and approved, have given rise to concerns that include overshadowing, noise pollution, damaging Melbourne’s skyline aesthetic and the potential of overcrowding. According to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), there are currently 19 buildings of over 150 metres approved or proposed with 16 more 100-metre-plus skyscrapers under construction in Melbourne.

The statistics demonstrate the city’s rapid population growth, and the desire to live, work and play in urban centres. In this light, Melbourne is merely meeting a market demand.

Guy also said each tower built in the central city is removing pressure from Melbourne’s middle suburbs.