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20 May 2021

Can you improve a local icon? An expert evidence case study

For many years, Piedimonte’s Supermarket in North Fitzroy has been a popular local icon, renowned for its product range and friendly service.

Yet the supermarket needs improvement and modernisation, and the site (being large, commercially zoned, in an activity centre and effectively abutting the Principal Public Transport Network (PPTN)) has significant redevelopment potential.

With the heritage fabric on and surrounding the site; the fine-grain residential abuttals to the rear, and the need to realign an existing laneway, invariably any proposal to substantially redevelop this site was likely to be challenging and contentious.

Nevertheless, the long-term family owners decided to press on and engaged quality architects Jackson Clements Burrows with a swath of legal and development experts to guide the project through the approvals process.

The City of Yarra was substantially comfortable with the project but maintained concerns regarding the proposed 5-7 storey height of the building and heritage considerations. Many locals were similarly concerned with what they perceived to be the loss of a local icon and an overdevelopment.

The redevelopment proceeded to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). 

The application for changes to the Piedimonte’s Supermarket site highlighted the inevitable tensions faced in municipalities like Yarra where most of the employment and housing growth is directed to typically linear activity centres with heritage constraints. Achieving the right ‘balance’ between the desire for urban renewal/consolidation and greater development intensity on the one hand, and ‘restraint’ on the other, is never a straightforward exercise and requires an experienced multi-disciplinary approach.

David Crowder (Director at Ratio:), assisted by Alice Maloney, Senior Associate, gave expert town planning evidence for the proponents. David suggested that it is not necessarily the case that ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. Rather, depending on the nature/context of a site, and the specific nature of a design, it is possible to have activity centres where continuums of heritage facades remain ‘prominent and proud’, in front of or alongside sites redeveloped with markedly taller and larger buildings that are also ‘prominent and proud’ and add character to a place.

All town planning applications are guided by the principle of ‘net community benefit’ and David further noted that the proposal would:

  • Consolidate, modernise and improve an existing supermarket offer on zoned land (including the number of items sold, the types of retail offer, on-site parking / loading etc).
  • Create direct and indirect, short and long-term, employment.
  • Create 66 new dwellings, or varying typologies, sizes and layouts.
  • Make significant improvements to the public realm.
  • Improve the performance and vitality of the overall centre.

On the basis of this evidence, and separate evidence and submissions addressing a range of issues including urban design, traffic and heritage, VCAT recently determined that a planning permit should issue (with relatively limited changes).

Further information on VCAT’s decision can be accessed here

We’re ratio: a team of planning and engineering specialists located across Victoria. Our integrated team of experts works across urban & regional planning, social & economic impacts, transport planning, traffic engineering and urban design. If your project could benefit from these disciplines to realise the development potential of your site, drop us a line and see what Ratio: can do for you.

Author: David Crowder, Director

piedemontes website