Proposed St Vincent's Hospital building faces opposition due to World Heritage concerns

St Vincent's Hospital recently lodged plans to demolish the building the corner of Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street, a building that overlooks Carlton Gardens. The hospital plans to replace it with a new 11-storey tower with glass façade with parts of the original façade at Daly Wing and Brenan Hall retained. The proposal already raising concerns that it would impact the World Heritage value of the Royal Exhibition Building moments after lodging the plans to City of Yarra Council.
 
According to a statement released by St Vincent’s, the $206 million project, funded by state and federal governments, private philanthropy and project partners, would house a research and training hub, a ground-floor cafe and boast additional rooftop and basement floors. The new building is set to be called the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery and aims to work towards "innovative healthcare solutions for complex chronic diseases”

The application was lodged with the City of Yarra on 21 Dec 2020, and is expected to be brought to a council meeting in Jan 2021. The proposed building falls within the World Heritage Environs Area, a heritage buffer zone for the Royal Exhibition Building and its surrounding Carlton Gardens that extends about block beyond the park's perimeter.

The Royal Exhibition Building (REB) and Carlton Gardens were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List on 1 July 2004. It was the first built heritage site in Australia to be declared World Heritage because they are the only remaining example of a Palace of Industry from a nineteenth-century world fair on its original site. The site is even more significant because it’s still being used for exhibitions. The heritage buffer zone was introduced by the state government under the requirement of UNESCO to prevent overdevelopment and protect views of the site.

The proposal is already facing opposition from the heritage community. Friends of the Royal Exhibition Building commented the new building design "seems intent on dominating and distracting". The World Heritage status of the Royal Exhibition Building is up for review this year and The Royal Historical Society of Victoria is "strenuously opposed" to the redevelopment over fears it could impact the review.

A heritage impact statement released by St Vincent's Hospital said the view of the dome of the Royal Exhibition Building from Victoria Parade would not be impacted by the development, because the view is already blocked by the Aikenhead wing. The new development would be 14.85 metres taller than the current building, but would not cast extra shadow on Carlton Gardens, according to a town planning report lodged by St Vincent's. The proposal is currently being assessed by the City of Yarra assisted by The National Trust as a referral party. Click Here for the full article from The Age

The proposed redevelopment of Aikenhead wing is not the only controversial the hospital proposed. A separate development at the hospital is yet to begin after it was approved with strict heritage conditions following an appeal in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2018. St Vincent’s Private Hospital has another 11-storey expansion approved further down Victoria Parade.

The proposal was criticised unusually strong by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria commenting it is “cavalier” and likely to “destroy” the precinct’s low-rise heritage.

“The RHSV is deeply concerned at the impact St Vincent’s proposal would have on the precinct and alarmed at the hospital’s cavalier attitude to the significant heritage value of the area in which it is located,” heritage committee chair, Emeritus Professor Charles Sowerwine, said back in 2018.

Click Here for the full article about the development in Fitzroy.

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