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Vicinity’s 51-Storey Box Hill Tower Approved After Tense Debate

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Whitehorse City Council has approved plans for 51-storey residential, office and retail tower in Box Hill—making it the tallest building in the state outside central Melbourne.

The council supported three planning permits for Vicinity Centres’ 10-year masterplan, which aims to transform 5.5ha at Box Hill Central into a mixed-use and retail precinct. The combined total investment is expected to be around $700 million.

Box Hill Central is set to become one of Melbourne’s biggest private mixed-use developments, and the first stage is expected to deliver more than 50,000sq m of commercial office space, 366 apartments and 3350sq m of new public spaces. Vicinity’s masterplan will eventually add a 28-storey commercial tower.

The project, which includes a partially covered public plaza and improved pedestrian and bike connections to public transport, has not been without its detractors.

The council says it “had carefully considered” 40 objections to the project, which covered issues such as building height, parking, increased traffic, and bicycle access.

“The development is in line with local and state planning policies, with the Victorian government designating Box Hill as a metropolitan activity centre,” Whitehorse mayor Tina Liu said after the vote.

“We held a consultation forum to ensure resident concerns were taken into consideration,” she said. 

“Our officers have worked hard to ensure all aspects of the redevelopment are in keeping with the Whitehorse planning scheme.”

▲ A render of the stage 1 skyscraper, part of the Box Hill Central masterplan.

But that did not prevent a 90-minute, often tense, debate on Monday night.

Councillor Blair Barker called on his colleagues to support the application because, he said, on balance it breathed new life into an area that desperately needed it.

“In the future we will see cinemas, more jobs, more high-tech jobs, more housing and greater public realm that attracts people because of its high-quality activation,” he told the meeting. 

But Cr Ben Stennett argued not all development was appropriate in Box Hill.

“While it is true there is no mandatory height limits in Box Hill, the larger the development there are other issues that are of concern, and this is way and above what we have seen to date and way and above the community expectation,” he said.   

Cr Prue Cutts agreed, saying the residential tower was 42 per cent higher than any other building in the municipality.   

“We are not the city, we are not the CBD,” Cutts said. 

“I would like to suggest that council officers and the applicants have been locked in a thought bubble for a couple of years and are completely at odds with what the community is thinking about high rise in Box Hill.” 

Vicinity’s chief development officer Carolyn Viney said after the decision the redevelopment of the Box Hill Central precinct would transform the heart of Box Hill into a new, world-class destination for Melbourne.

 “Since plans were submitted, we have worked closely with the council, state government and the community to ensure that design reflects the site’s rich history and responds to the community’s aspirations and preferences to live, work and play close to home,” Viney said.

The tower will house about 600 residents and commercial office space for 2000 workers.

“This exciting project reflects our long-term confidence and investment in Box Hill’s future growth and builds on its existing strengths, including its longstanding reputation as a key destination to visit for fresh food and rich dining experiences.”

The redevelopment will create new walkways and roads to interconnect with the area’s transport, shopping and restaurants.  It is expected to deliver up to 2400 jobs during the building phase and more than 6000 new jobs upon completion.

Chadstone, Victoria-based Vicinity Centres was formed in 2015 with the merger of Novion Property Group and Federation Centres, bringing together some of Australia’s biggest retail assets.

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Article originally posted at: https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/articles/vicinity-51-storey-box-hill-tower-approved-after-tense-debate