Melbourne’s first premium grade commercial development in 20 years, 171 Collins Street, is now complete.

Located at the Paris end of Collins Street, the $143 million project consists of work on two buildings: the restoration of the heritage Mayfair building (a former theatre) and a new 18-storey tower that sits behind it.

Joint owners Charter Hall and CBUS Property commissioned architectural firm Bates Smart for the design of the tower with a concept that addresses the relationship of the Mayfair building’s façade to the spires of the neighbouring St Paul’s Cathedral.

“Currently, the spires are visually lost among the mixed assembly of taller structures beyond,” explained Bates Smart. “This new insertion provides a consistent backdrop, so that the Cathedral’s fine architecture can be clearly discerned against the elegant white glass curtain of the building.”

The tower consists of 29,800 square metres of premium office space while the Mayfair building offers 1,700 square metres of boutique office space. The lower levels incorporate a business centre and more than 1,500 square metres of high-end retail.

White Glass Curtain Facade

White Glass Curtain Facade

The project drew national attention recently as the new headquarters of BHP Billiton and home to luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana’s first Australian store.

Brookfield Multiplex was selected for the construction of the entire development, with the 171 Collins Street tower standing as the company’s third commercial tower in Melbourne in just three months.

“We are proud to be involved in transforming the Melbourne skyline with environmentally sustainable-design-savvy buildings that build on the city’s strong architectural heritage, said Brookfield Multiplex regional managing director of Victoria Graham Cottam.

The façade of the Mayfair building was restored to its original 1913 condition that reflects an architectural style generally described as “romanesque revival.”

During its restoration, Brookfield Multiplex constructed a nine-storey SPANZ structural solution for temporary support for safety precaution which proved difficult considering the site’s inner city location.

For the tower itself, Brookfield Multiplex had to demolish four buildings and excavate and retain of four basement levels within extremely hard rock prior to construction.

Dolce & Gabbana Melbourne

Dolce & Gabbana Melbourne

The tower has achieved a 6 Star Green Star and 5 star NABERS energy rating, while the Mayfair building is aspiring to achieve an Environmentally Sustainable Design, As-Built and Energy Rating outcome according to the Green Building Council of Australia.

One sustainable and aesthetically striking feature of the project is the tower’s internal central atrium, which spans nine storeys and includes travertine stone, glass and steel interiors and finishes.

Recycled materials were used where possible, including concrete, steel and cement, while advanced rainwater and grey water recycling systems have been installed and interiors with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials selected.

The building’s energy reduction credentials include a destination controlled lift system, fully integrated lighting and under floor air distribution, which also substantially reduces water use.

The atrium’s construction did come with some challenges for Brookfield Multiplex.

“The atrium sits 40 metres above the ground level; it was an extremely difficult task to install the glass roof and cantilevered glass internal screen. Our team worked tirelessly to ensure that the glass was installed safely and efficiently,” Cottam said.

In a bid to encourage tenants to replace driving with cycling, the development features 296 bike spaces and 137 secure car spots for tenants with bicycle air fill stations, change rooms and locker amenities.

The 171 Collins Street project has demonstrated the sustainable and aesthetic opportunities available when combining old and new architecture while tackling what is generally a controversial subject when heritage buildings are involved.

Windsor Hotel Redevelopment

Nearby at 111 Spring Street, Melbourne’s iconic Windsor Hotel spent months battling to secure approval for a similar concept, which includes an extensive restoration of the hotel and the development of a modern 27-storey tower which will be built directly behind the 130-year-old building.

Heritage Victoria recently issued a permit to allow the developer, Halim Group, to replace some interiors of the building including replacing the existing timber flooring with concrete floors, but Planning Minister Matthew Guy voiced his concerns over the latest approval.

“It is such a shame that it is now going through a process of having the interior ripped out of it,” Guy said.

Guy also referred to the tower, originally approved by the Labor government, as a scar on Melbourne, arguing that a permit for the project should never have been issued.

Developer Adi Halim believes, however, that there are many supporters of the ambitious project.

“We have great support from all of the supporters and Melbourne have been supportive,” he said. “The design industry, the hotel industry and the tourism industry have been very supportive of the project.”