Nineteen years young but Melbourne Terrace Apartments by Nonda Katsalidis set for heritage listing

Only nineteen years old, the stylish Nonda Katsalidis-designed Melbourne Terrace Apartments have been deemed to be of historic and aesthetic significance to the City of Melbourne.

Standing as an important milestone in the architectural development of the metropolis, Melbourne Terrace is the 1994 apartment development with an assertive public presence at the corner of Franklin and Queen streets just near the Queen Victoria Market.


With almost a hand-crafted appearance, the tightly held complex holds 60 apartments within four buildings, Equus, Mondo, Roma and Fortuna. 

The project, with traces of early 20th-century European modernism, was deemed one of the top 20 Australian buildings of the last century by Architecture Australia. Its distinctive balconies were finished in oxidised copper with moulds cast by RMIT students. Its roofline has vertical slabs with serrated edges.

The council's proposed heritage listing documentation notes the apartment block is of historical significance because it was one of the first purpose-designed apartment buildings constructed in the city centre, representing the beginning of a phase of urban consolidation and marked residential growth in the CBD.

Its also being listed given the associations with the eminent architect Nonda Katsalidis, one of his noteworthy early works. Melbourne Terrace's design was influenced by the Veneto architect Carlo Scarpa. The development was a collaboration between the architect Nonda Katsalidis and developers Adrian Cleeve and Adrian Valmorbida. Valmorbida, whose family's wealth came from Lavazza Coffee and radio stations, was also involved in the early stages of the nearby Republic Tower development.

Council adds one of the notable elements of 408-416 Queen Street, Melbourne is the four entry sculptures by Peter Corlett including a colossal sculpture of an Adonis-like male figure at the Mondo entrance.


Photo: Sculture by Peter Corlett at the entrance to the Equus building

It's proposed to get a B3 grading. Demolishing or removing original parts of buildings, as well as complete buildings, will not normally be permitted in the case of  ‘B’ listings.

"Heritage is an extremely significant component of Melbourne’s attractiveness, its character and its distinction, and therefore its appeal as a place to live, work and visit," the review states.

"This policy is the mechanism to conserve and enhance places and areas of architectural, social or historic significance and aboriginal archaeological sites and to encourage development which is in harmony with the existing character and appearance of designated heritage places and areas.

"This policy is consistent with policy document Urban Conservation in the City of Melbourne, which has been in operation since 1985 and has contributed to the conservation of the character of places of heritage significance."

Its listing is part of the City North Heritage Review, by RBA Architects. On another front  the City of Melbourne is seeking UNESCO World Heritage listing for Queen Victoria Market.

There have been numerous studies estimating the impact of heritage listings but they relate to the traditional Federation era or earlier housing.

Nothing ever on contemporary heritage, but I'd hazzard a guess that no foreseeable harm would come from it - and I'd like to think that estate agents will soon be marketing the apartments with their heritage status as an actual selling point.

The last sale I can see was a two bedroom, two level Mondo apartment at 7/191 Franklin Street (pictured below) which was listed through Maher & Co with $925,000 plus hopes in 2010. It had been listed at $650,000 plus when previously offered in 2001.  

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The former pad of the late Melbourne impresario and festival director Clifford Hocking - a tri-level penthouse encompassing 68 square metres of balconies and terraces with three bedrooms and two car parks at 25/410 Queen Street - fetched $1,275,000 in 2007.

I recall on their early 1990s completion the apartments were mostly sold as empty spaces allowing custom fitouts by their first owners.

The building certainly faces huge competetion, albeit from less experimental proto-type apartment blocks. The Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has estimated that in the next 20 years the number of people living within 800 metres of Queen Victoria Market will almost double from 67,000 to 128,000.

The City North Heritage Review proposals are on public display with panel hearings scheduled to be held next May.

The list can also be inspected at the council website until November 7.

Oh and what was the reaction of Nonda Katsalidis on learning of the looming heritage listing? Apparently it made him feel "old."



Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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