Daniel Besen calls in premium international architect for Fitzroy HQ

The Besen proposal from the corner of Gertrude and Nicholson streets.


Daniel Besen has submitted plans for a mixed-use building which will dub as the Besen headquarters, in Melbourne’s inner north Fitzroy.

The brick proposal with five inset levels is shorter than many agents were expecting when the developer paid $8.91 million for the 899 square metre Commercial 1 zoned plot at 1-9 Gertrude Street a year ago – a fortnight after it was listed.

Any upper level development of 1-9 Gertrude Street would enjoy Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Garden and Melbourne CBD views over Royal Terrace and the former Cable Tram Engine House.

Designed by Oslo-based Snøhetta, it includes five ground floor retail tenancies, the biggest measuring 164 sqm, three storeys of offices (a total 1654 sqm) and a penthouse with a self-contained unit. A 150 sqm art gallery will be accessed off Royal Lane.

The asset will also feature a two level basement car park, storage, end-of-trip facilities and terraces with views to the Royal Exhibition Building, 100 metres to the west, and Melbourne CBD, twice that distance, south.

Besen is presently based about 1.2 kilometres away at the Harry Seidler designed 1 Spring Street, at the south east tip of town.

The Fitzroy application comes two months after we reported publisher and developer Morry Schwartz sought permission to build an eight level headquarters incorporating the historic British Crown Hotel at 14-18 Smith St in neighbouring Collingwood.

That proposal is also smaller than expected (the area’s discretionary height limit is nine storeys).

New future for heritage precinct site

Mr Besen acquired 1-9 Gertrude St from executives associated with hairdressing supplies business Turnleys, which paid $840,000 in 1987 (story continues below).

Granite Terraces, pictured 62 years ago, occupied 1-9 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, for more than a century after 1853. Image: University of Melbourne.

The existing office/warehouse was constructed 13 years earlier.

From 1853, the site accommodated Granite Terraces – a row of five three storey homes, said to have been one of the few Melbourne buildings to have had a ground floor colonnade.

The parcel is surrounded by historic buildings including the former Cable Tram Engine House, across the road to the south.

Developed in 1974, and occupied by Turnleys as its headquarters from 1987, the office at 1-9 Gertrude Street is earmarked for a five level replacement.

The Royal Terrace complex, at 50-68 Nicholson St, abuts it to the west.

According to a town planning report, the Besen redevelopment has been designed to protect views toward the Royal Exhibition Building’s drum, dome, lantern and flagpole.

The ground floor tenants will be “a hand-picked collection of retailers, restaurants and makers in fitting with the Fitzroy context”, it added.

Støhetta received a World Architecture Award for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria and Oslo Opera House.

Since 1987, according to Mr Besen, the designer has penned “remarkable and bespoke projects that have often involved the introduction of contemporary interventions in heritage and culturally sensitive settings alike”.

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of realestatesource.com.au.