Around 60 Ultimo residents attended two information sessions outlining plans for Auswin TWT’s prestigious mixed-use development at 495 Harris Street Ultimo, which is expected to have an end value of around $300-Million.
Strategically located opposite the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre and next to the Ultimo Community Centre, the 5,322sqm site was the headquarters of Tabcorp and offers one of the last substantial development opportunities in the area.
Residents were given details about the development and invited to ask questions of the project architects, landscapers, planners, traffic consultants and public art experts.
The most contentious questions centred around the perceived bulk of the development, which steps down from nine-storeys along Harris Street to six levels facing Bulwara Road, and the potential loss of sunlight for nearby residences.
Michael Harrison, the Director of Urban Design and Planning with Architectus which won a design competition for the development, was familiar with many residents, having previously been engaged by a local group who were initially concerned that a new building on such a prominent site could impact their amenity.
“We believe our scheme reflects many of the residents’ wishes for a development that doesn’t overpower the neighbourhood nor compromise their privacy, and which minimises the chance of overshadowing their properties,” Mr Harrison said.
“It’s a complex in-fill site flanked by historic terraces and a large community centre so we deduced early on that to best integrate with its surroundings the solution was for a group of buildings set around a large open air courtyard rather than one amorphous structure.”
Local residents, Duncan and Ana Rodger, came away from the consultations feeling positive about the development.
“I think it will be a good boost for the precinct,” said Mr Rodger. “I like the plan to have a laneway connecting Harris Street to the existing Bulwara Road community and I can see the public benefit in having café’s creating life and activity in these new throughways.”
Ana believes that the development’s modern architecture will improve the look of Harris Street, and ultimately lift property values for all Ultimo residents.
“I also approve of the plans for the landscaping, which maximise the privacy for in-house residents and should not impact on existing neighbours,” Mrs Rodger said.
Auswin TWT is planning a series of private landscaped retreat for residents with lush screenings, plus a rooftop community garden for the cultivation of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
The General Manager of Auswin TWT, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said he was pleased with the level of feedback from residents. “Some have lived in the area for more than 30 years and are extremely community focussed and are understandably sensitive to change,” he said. “We are mindful of this and will do everything within reason to become an inclusive part of the community.
“We will be calling our project New Life/Ultimo because we know it will help breathe new life into the suburb.
“Our company is committed to art and architecture, and our residential vision comes from a desire to provide open, flexible, creative living environments. Each of our developments must have a strong visual presence from street level and be inspired places in which to live and work.”
At New Life/Ultimo the public art will be focussed in a purpose-built pedestrian laneway between Harris Street and Bulwara Road.
“We intend commissioning a suite of artworks in the laneway, from small scale items like gates, paving, hand rails and seats to a larger scale sculpture,” said Merran Morrison, a specialist in public artwork who has been engaged by Auswin TWT. “The northern walls we share with neighbours may also be a canvas for art – not just to beautify the space but to also act as a deterrent to graffiti.
“We will continue to engage our neighbours in the creation of the community artworks.”
New Life/Ultimo will have a blend of architectural forms and modern detail. The lower levels of the building are brick to provide a solid look and feel in keeping with the former warehouses that once dotted Harris Street. By contrast, the upper levels seem to ‘float’ above the base – its linear form defined by metallic blade walls, silver-grey aluminium window frames and louvres, expanses of glass and recessed balconies.
An important element is the creation of a number of ‘slots’ and walkways into the development that allow passers-by to see in, and residents to look out, and which brings light and sunshine into the courtyard.
New Life/Ultimo comprises a total of 213 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, including two-level terraces with street level access. There also will be ground floor retail/commercial space and two basement levels for vehicles and bicycles, bringing the Gross Floor Area to around 20,000sqm.
“There will be a variety of accommodation to cater for a range of occupants, from singles to families, including wide-fronted apartments and ‘through’ apartments with dual aspects,” said Architectus’ Design Architect, Brendan Randles. “The terrace-style apartments along Bulwara Road and the new lane provide a visual and emotional ‘connection’ to the suburbs’ existing terraces.”
The history of the Harris Street site is interesting. It was originally owned by the Harris family who were the dominant landowners in the area for more than a century. Bushells Tea purchased the site in 1938 and built a four-storey warehouse to store its produce.
In 1964 the newly founded Totalizator Agency Board (TAB) acquired the property as its headquarters and nerve centre for its betting business. In 2004 TAB was taken over by the Victorian-based wagering and media company Tabcorp, which 10 years later sold the property to Auswin TWT.
Auswin TWT specialises in establishing quality residential communities that reflect its commitment to art and architecture - ‘Living works of Art’. It has established the TWT Creative Precinct at St Leonards to encourage and support the arts. This includes converting several commercial buildings in Chandos and Atchison Streets into creative spaces for the independent arts sector.
Auswin TWT is hopeful of lodging a Development Application for New Life/Ultimo before the end of March.