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PLANS for Australia’s tallest building have been approved, as well as bookend commercial towers for Charter Hall and Dexus in the Melbourne CBD, as the Victorian government gave the green light for $3.5 billion worth of projects in a bid to boost development activity during the coronavirus crisis.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne also announced he and State Treasurer Tim Pallas will oversee the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce, that will investigate planning and investment opportunities to boost Victoria’s industry over the short, medium and long term.

Malaysia-backed Beulah International’s mammoth $2 billion tower has a proposed height of 368.1 metres and includes 789 apartments, a 322-room hotel, 27,000 sqm of office space and 32,000 sqm of retail space.

The proposed height breaches the air traffic control limit of 357.2 metres above sea level for the site. Even if modified plans that cut the tower’s height by 11.1 metres are requested by aviation authorities, it will still the country’s biggest.

Beulah bought the 6,061 sqm BMW Southbank site at 118 City Rd in 2017 for $101,088,888, and selected a “Green Spine” design from Dutch firm UN Studio and Cox Architecture out of a competition.

Commercial confidence

Some 84,000 sqm office space will be added to the city at Charter Hall’s 555 Collins St and adjacent 55 King St site, as well as 2,300 sqm of retail, across two stages. The first tower will comprise about 50,000 sqm across 34 levels and accommodate up to 5,000 CBD workers when completed.

Demolition of the site at 555 Collins St is well progressed and soon to be completed, with construction of the first building expected to commence in mid-2020. Completion of stage one is targeted for late 2022.

Charter Hall is currently working on its $1.3 billion triple tower Wesley Place precinct in the east of the city. comprising two new towers at 130 and 140 Lonsdale St – the latter will be home to the Australian Federal Police – and the overhaul of existing 150 Lonsdale St.

Charter Hall collaborated with Cox Architecture and Gensler on the project, which will “focus on creating a vibrant workplace experience through human-centred design”.

This will include a market hall and amphitheatre for tenant activations and events, as well as “third spaces”, that will provide flexible working space for tenant customers. Approval for the tower has arrived at an inflection point for the office market, currently grappling with much of the white collar workforce working from home during the coronavirus outbreak and waiting to see how companies approach use of space and costs.

The ground level retail offering will provide convenience retail including allied health services and food and beverage options, including cafes to a signature restaurant. New connections throughout the site will create a improve pedestrian flow from Collins St through to Flinders Ln.

David Harrison, group managing director and chief executive officer, said the project would create over 2,000 jobs during construction.

“It’s a credit to the Victorian Government that it is working to keep the economy moving by maintaining employment and investment and, in particular, to facilitate the recovery the Victorian economy will gain from shovel ready projects,” he said.

Dexus double dip confirmed

Just a few metres away, major rival Dexus recently acquired a half share of the famous Rialto tower at 525 Collins St in partnership with GIC, giving Australia’s largest office landlord its own bookends at the CBD.

Dexus has just had its own office tower at 60 and 52 Collins St approved in the latest raft of approvals. The premium grade building of 35,000 sqm will rise 26 storeys from a combined corner site that Dexus spent $230 million obtaining.

Dexus and Charter Hall both aggressively chased the 80 Collins St development across the road last year, with Dexus emerging successful via a record $1.47 billion bid.

Approval spree

Minister Wynne’s signature was also given for the Pace Development’s $300 million apartment that will overlook the main straight of the world famous Flemington racecourse.

The 15 storey building will have 300 apartments.

The new taskforce will initially focus on overseeing the fast-tracking of planning approvals using Ministerial powers, where decisions have been delayed due to coronavirus related impacts on the Victorian Planning System, a government statement said.

The government will also seek advice from the taskforce on a pipeline of building and development projects over the longer term, including initiatives that further expand social housing options.

Financial incentives and current revenue measures, such as land tax, developer contributions, fees and rates, will also be subject to advisement from the taskforce, as a part of recommendations to help businesses survive and fast-track investment.

The taskforce will be co chaired by former Property Council (Vic) president and current Lendlease senior executive Roger Teale, Victorian Planning Authority chair Jade Munro AO, and Victoria Public Service CEO Stan Krpan.

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