Acacia Place, Abbotsford

Client: Hamton Property Group
Project type: Mixed use (apartments, fitness studio, food & beverage)
Stakeholders: City of Yarra, Yarra River Action Alliance Group, local and wider community
Value: $160 million

Image courtesy of Hamton Property Group

The project
UPco was approached by Hamton Property Group to provide pre-acquisition advice on the development potential of a site in Abbotsford. At a bend in the Yarra River, there was Richmond to
the south and conservative Kew to the east and north. This made for some contrasting physical context – with a low-scale former industrial precinct on one side, Victoria Gardens on another and the low-scale low-density leafy residential area of Kew.

A somewhat confronting proposal in terms of scale and intensity, Acacia Place was bound to have its challenges.
679 Victoria Street, Abbotsford

The challenge

There was some guidance in the planning scheme around the interface with the river – heights, setbacks and so on – along with some preeminent design objectives for how development should occur.
There were, however, some requirements we felt were unnecessarily prescriptive and would not achieve the high-quality outcomes befitting such an important location. UPco drew something up that complied with all the City of Yarra’s specific requirements – but Council could see that, while it complied, it wasn’t a great outcome.

We then collaborated with Council and a skilled project team to develop  a design concept that would deliver on the planning scheme’s objectives, albeit in a different way. Key considerations were protection of the river environment and incorporation of pedestrian connectivity.

Even still, with 1,400 objections, community consultation was fraught. Despite support from local councillors and a permit granted with slight alterations, we proceeded to a VCAT hearing that went for nine days due to three objector appeals. Ultimately, the Tribunal agreed with Council – the outcome was far better for our client in the end.

The outcome

Acacia Place now houses three apartment buildings: Eden, Haven and Sanctuary. Though primarily residential, there are two anchor hospitality uses and complementary commercial uses. The project more than delivered what it promised, with design and development outcomes infinitely better than the assumptions that underpinned the acquisition. It provides connection to the river and genuinely complements the emerging character of the northern end of Richmond. In 2015, Acacia Place won UDIA awards for best site masterplan and best high-rise apartment development.