At any given time, UPco is working on gaining planning permits for dozens of different apartment building proposals – but recently, there was one approval we were especially excited about. We talked to UPco Senior Associate Adam Haines, who can attest to the amount of attention required to get this one across the finishing line – balancing our client’s expectations and community resistance in the process.

The project in a nutshell

Four houses with heritage value once stood at 28-34 Service Street in Hampton. While their heritage protection was pending, a former developer had demolished the buildings regardless. While this wasn’t illegal, it eroded the trust of the community. Frustrated locals, empowered by collective opposition, vehemently opposed the plans for redevelopment – resulting in the planning permit application being refused by VCAT and the project being abandoned.  

Along came our client, Noetic Places, founded by Stephen and Lawrence Barrow-Yu. Though newcomers to the property development game in many respects, this duo has a personal connection to Hampton: it’s their home.

Despite the site’s tumultuous history, the Barrow-Yus were interested in purchasing it so they could build a development truly befitting the area. Having been negatively impacted by developers as Hampton residents, they took an unconventional approach to gaining community support for their project – embarking on the most extensive client-led community consultation process that UPco has ever seen.

The process (and its challenges)

With a genuine interest in stakeholder input, Noetic Places led intensive consultation from pre-acquisition through to post-lodgement. Community defences were appreciably up from the previous submissions. To remedy this, our client took the local residents along on the development journey and committed to co-designing the project with the collective.

Building these relationships took determination and an authentic interest in the community. Noetic Places hosted individual and group meetings and addressed the project’s impact on each household, which can be difficult to envisage just from looking at plans. The Barrow-Yus held steadfastly to their word – even when the co-design process proved a significant investment and doubled the usual permit application time.

Throughout the process, UPco proffered support and professional experience – but we were mindful of the investment’s risky nature, and the previous VCAT refusal. To overcome these challenges, we worked to reverse engineer a design based on VCAT’s (sometimes inexplicit) commentary and grounds for refusal. These design requirements then had to be considered alongside our client’s vision, the community input and the project’s underlying feasibility.

Why we love this project

We saw the founders of Noetic Places pour their energy into crafting a building worthy of Hampton and its community. Their tireless consultation and dedication to the quality of the finished product, even when that cut into profits, prove their connection to the place and community.

We also like that this developer is challenging the status quo – adopting a unique, hands-on approach that no doubt helped secure approval. Ultimately, the project has not only been approved, but commended by the City of Bayside Councillors and the residents of Hampton – a remarkable result, and a testament to the power of genuine co-creation.

Cover image courtesy of Fender Katsalidis