A development application for a $500-million commercial tower in North Sydney’s CBD is in limbo after it was refused by council.
Investa Property Group had proposed redeveloping its 6600sq m site, at 105 to 151 Miller Street, into a 27-storey, A-grade office tower comprising 74,000sq m of net lettable area.
The site is currently occupied by the 63-year-old MLC Building, a modernist office block designed by Bates Smart and McCutcheon in 1954.
At the time of its opening in 1957, it was the largest office building in Australia with a gross area of almost 42,000sq m across 14 storeys and a frontage of 100 metres.
It was revered for its early use of a glass-curtain wall. The building ]is locally protected as a heritage item on the North Sydney Local Environment Plan under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Investa’s application made in mid 2020 for the tower, designed again by Bates Smart, called for the demolition of the ageing commercial block.
The proposal, touted as North Sydney’s first net zero commercial building, was targeting a 6-star Green Star office design rating and 5.5-star NABERS Energy Rating.
It was planned to have a naturally ventilated atrium, terrace gardens, and be raised from the ground level to create a public space that connects to Brett Whiteley Place.
The application triggered opposition from architects and heritage advocates and, following a number of objections raised by heritage conservationists, led by conservation group Docomomo Australia, the Heritage Council of NSW recommended a state heritage listing for the building.
Investa objected to the potential listing of the MLC Building on the state heritage register, citing a 2013 decision by the NSW heritage council not to list the building in the register as it wasn’t of “significance to the state”.
At the time it said listing the office building would cause undue financial hardship, requiring up to of $200 million to be spent on conservation, upgrades, maintenance and repairs.
Investa chief executive Jonathan Callaghan said the building “no longer met the requirements expected from commercial tenants”.
In June, special minister of state Don Harwin directed the building be listed as an item of state heritage significance after receiving independent advice on a recommendation from the Heritage Council.
When Investa lodged an appeal in the Land and Environment Court on September 1, the DA before the North Sydney Council was deemed to be refused.
A North Sydney council spokesperson told The Urban Developer that it was now a legal matter and that they would not comment further.
Investa declined to comment to The Urban Developer on the issues.