No affordable housing planned in scheme to offload $100m Peter MacCallum site

Clay Lucas

It is one of Melbourne’s most desirable development sites, and for almost a century it has served the public as a hospital.

But with an expected value now well in excess of $100 million, the Andrews government is moving fast to sell the East Melbourne building that housed the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link The former Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Photo: Joe Armao

The government wants to rezone the site so as to allow up to 12 levels overlooking the Fitzroy Gardens.

The state government has released a series of reports into the proposed rezoning as part of its "fast-track" government land sale process.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link The building is now home to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. Photo: Joe Armao

The Peter MacCallum centre moved to Parkville last year to become the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

One city agent said the East Melbourne site could soon be "the most desirable prestige residential address in Melbourne".

But the proposed sale of the public land will not require any affordable housing – despite Labor’s pledge in its Plan Melbourne strategy to "utilise government land to deliver additional social housing".

A spokesman for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the old cancer centre site was no longer needed for government purposes.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link An artist’s impression of what a possible 700-apartment development on the East Melbourne site could look like. Photo: tesselate

The minister has referred proposed changes to planning rules for the site to a panel of experts who will review Treasury’s request to rezone the site to "mixed use".

No reference to affordable housing on the Peter MacCallum site is made in any of the government’s rezoning reports.

SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link A consultant’s drawing of the shadow that a proposed 12-storey building (which would rise 36 metres) would cast, only onto Lansdowne Street. Photo: Victorian government

The 8000-square-metre site can today only be used for public health purposes.

Treasury’s proposed change would allow it to be sold for redevelopment as apartments, a hotel or offices.

The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is using the building temporarily but will move out in 2018.

An architects’ report produced for the Andrews government shows more than 700 apartments could be built on the site under the most aggressive redevelopment plan.

A less ambitious plan retaining an existing 10-storey building on the site would see 500 apartments.

"The land will have a value of at least $100 million," said Clinton Baxter, a director at agents Savills. "If greater height is allowed, then the value goes up."

Mr Baxter said every major developer in Australia would want to buy the site because of demand for top-end apartments.

He said it would also be "ideally suited to a luxury hotel development, as demonstrated by the adjacent Park Hyatt," which is 15-storeys.

But Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said the site was ideally suited to affordable housing.

"Centrally located, it’s close to community services and job opportunities for people who might otherwise miss out," she said.

"Given the scarcity of such high amenity sites, it would be a huge pity if the government simply sold the land to the highest bidder, with no requirement to contribute to the public good."

The government’s plan for the site ensure key sites such as the Fitzroy Gardens, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parliament House and the Treasury Gardens would not be overshadowed.

Melbourne City Council deputy planning chair Rohan Leppert, from the Greens, said the site was incredibly well serviced by public transport, parks and nearby jobs.

The government should use the land to champion social housing, he said.

"[It] would demonstrate the state government is serious about housing affordability. So far all we have is a missed opportunity," he said.

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