Highrises and high-fashion: 171 Collins Street

Highrises and high-fashion: 171 Collins Street
Highrises and high-fashion: 171 Collins Street

Visiting 171 Collins Street and entering in, it's a little like a maze, but with crisp white walls and suggestions of technology from every corner. Property Observer was given special access to see the building.

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With a total net lettable space of 33,500 square metres, the project, completed in late May 2013, has already been a place where prestigious tenants have set up camp.

Key tenants

BHP Billiton (mining company headquarters)- 13,510 square metres over Levels 11–18 of the office tower and 802.8sqm for their Business Centre on the ground floor

Evans and Partners (stock brokers) - 1,700 square metres across seven levels of the Mayfair Building

Egon Zehnder (global executive search firm) - 986.9 square metres on Level 10 

Dolce & Gabbana (fashion outlet)

Andrew McConnell (restaurant)


It's not just that the air conditioning is in the floor and can be individually altered, or the efficient elevator design that groups people together, but a combination of small elements that makes the building stand out. The floor-to-ceiling windows, tilted slightly, also have a special ceramic frit covering that helps with energy efficiency and internal temperature and also acts as a shade screen. The axis helps reflect light to provide a backdrop for the Cathedral.

Key players in the project

Cbus Property

“We have delivered a genuine, new Premium Grade asset for Melbourne to admire and be proud of; a building to keep.  Bates Smart was commissioned to design the building because of their long history and portfolio of buildings that are unashamedly modern, but with a timelessness, credibility and integrity about them.”

(Truman Dare, Senior Development Manager)

Charter Hall

“We are extremely proud of this significant achievement which solidifies 171 Collins Street’s position as a world leader in sustainable design; a building that is superior in both architecture and environmental credentials.”

(Adrian Taylor, head of Wholesale Partnerships)

Bates Smart (Architect)

"This is a landmark development for Melbourne and one which heralds a new era of office building design in Melbourne and Australia. The crystalline features of the design exemplify the rich and prestigious status of this site and are brought to life in an elegant and refined vertical woven sculpture.” 

“The historic Mayfair building is embraced by the new tower through the atrium, which is wrapped by a nine story curtain of glass that pulls everything together and makes the old and new work in harmony.”

(Kristen Whittle, director)

Umow Lai (ESD and Services Design)

“171 Collins Street is an excellent example of a refined design for a well-engineered building that we were involved with from the concept stage right through to the end.”

(Eben Simmons, sustainability expert and associate director)

Brookfield Multiplex (Builder)

APP Corporation (Project manager)

URBIS (Town Planner)

Knight Frank (Property Manager)

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Click to enlarge

On the ground levels, two windows of every four are frosted to help fit in with the outside laneway feel. This was a requirement from Council. We are also shown around the carpark (with 137 car spaces and 24 motorcycle spaces), and the bicycle rank (where there are 280 bicycle spaces).  It’s the first new PCA Premium Grade office development on this end of the Street for the last two decades.

There's a hotel feeling. Not only are there couriers, and assistance available - we're later told that if someone needed sold out P!nk tickets or similar these are the staff members that would know how to find them - but the bathrooms, change rooms and fresh towels all feel like overnight luxury, not a working week in an office highrise. With showers, lockers, a courier drop-off zone, there are so many features that it’s hard to keep up.

Then there's the retail area downstairs. As we walk through, they're not yet completed. Instead, it's bare concrete walls and floors. They're waiting on tenants, and are not too worried about leasing the space. In fact, we're told that they recently said no to a retail tenant that they felt just didn't quite fit the feeling of what they're trying to achieve. What it is that they are after is fairly clear - preferably a cafe or a restaurant tenant, with a specific Melbourne dim-lit laneway feel that caters to an upmarket crowd.

Having already secured Dolce & Gabbana as a tenant, at which Property Observer attended the preview, it’s not surprising they’re confident.

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On September 9, at 4pm, media were invited along to see the inside of the 350 square metre Dolce and Gabbana fit out. With canapés and champagne in the room, as well as clothes on display, it was said to be a ‘perfect’ site for the store due to not only the street front location on prestigious Collins Street, but also the ability for it to appear as though there is a separate male and female store – despite both being in the one shop.

In fact, we’re told that they’ve been searching for a site of this caliber for the past five years. It’s well decked out now, with patterned wallpaper that seems as though it’s made out of thick fabric, and all assumptions are that they’re paying a pretty penny for it. This ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street, where big-brand names include Prada at 77, Gucci at 161, Chanel at 209 and Tiffany & Co. at 267, rents for around $4,000 per square metre. 

But now we’re in the office building, a world apart from high-fashion. Winding down towards the retail end beneath, we’re shown into the bare bones of Andrew McConnell’s restaurant. There’s nothing here yet – except for white tape marking out where the chairs and tables may be. The restaurant, ‘Super Normal’ will be open in early 2014 and has a storefront on Flinders Lane. It’s very easy to imagine an upper end foodies haven, with a basement feel about the space, and many will be familiar with other popular restaurants from McConnell, such as Cumulus Inc.

The pop-up "Supernormal Canteen" will open on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy for Good Food Month, which may give some sort of suggestion as to what to expect at 171.

We also had the opportunity to ask the senior development manager for Cbus Property, Truman Dare, some of his thoughts on the project. See over page for his responses.


Q&A with Truman Dare, Senior Development Manager at Cbus Property

How do you select the tenants?

Prior to constructing 171 Collins Street, BHP Billiton committed to the building for their global headquarters. Cbus Property and Charter Hall are also currently actively marketing 171 Collins Street to lease. We undertake a number of marketing initiatives to ensure the asset is well known to potential lessee’s, and that the attributes of 171 Collins Street are promoted appropriately. We also have strong links with the Tenant Representatives throughout Australia, who are all aware that 171 Collins St is the first premium building constructed in Melbourne in 20 years and who promote the asset to their clients accordingly.  

Walking around the building I was certainly very aware of how individualised each of the office spaces felt – how much interest do different features garner for different spaces e.g. terraces? 

The efficient floor plates enables tenants to individualise their fit-out, and we have seen great results with the fit-outs currently in the building. Level 6 has a terrace which is for the exclusive use of the tenant on that floor, which adds a point of difference. Generally, tenants are also attracted  to the base building amenities, with high quality shower and change rooms, destination control lifts, and PCA premium grade finishes, services and building management. 

Are retail tenants difficult to select?

We have been fortunate to secure retail tenants of the calibre of Dolce & Gabbana and Andrew McConnell to 171 Collins Street. We are currently targeting restaurant and café operators who we believe will add amenity to the building and complement our existing retailers. When assessing potential retailers, we carefully examine the previous experience of the operator, their proposed fit-out for the tenancy and the product that they’re proposing to sell so that we’re comfortable they are the right fit for the building.  

Can you explain the thought process behind the overall feel of the building, and how you intend to maintain this?

In terms of maintaining the overall feel of the building, we are diligent in selecting materials, furniture and signage that is consistent with the feel of the building. We have an on-site management team who are responsible for managing the building to a PCA premium grade standard. We also select service providers who understand the concept of a premium building. Our cleaners and security staff wear a 171 Collins uniform, and we have a concierge service that all our tenants can utilise for restaurant bookings, dry cleaning, theatre tickets and many other services such as what a five star hotel operator would be able to provide. We also expect that tenants fit-outs are consistent with the feel of the building. 

The sustainability aspect

Bates Smart provided this list of the sustainability credentials of the building:

Nine storey atrium for natural light

Floor to ceiling double glazing

Ceramic frit on glass façade to reduce heat gain and glare

Dedicated waste storage area for separation, collection and recycling

Advanced rainwater and grey water reuse system

Highly flexible under-floor air conditioning system

Integrated lighting and security

Low VOC and formaldehyde emissions

End of trip facilities

Destination controlled lifts


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Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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