Melbourne’s former German Club approved to become a 23-level office

A new boutique office tower is coming to Melbourne’s ‘Paris end’.

On Tuesday, City of Melbourne councillors unanimously supported an application to develop the 23-level building at 7-13 Alfred Place.

The Chris Connell designed complex would incorporate the Renaissance revival German Club, designed in 1885 by JAB Koch as a single-storey structure, but extended to four after 1918 when it was acquired by the Naval and Military Club.

The proposed tower superimposed between the landmark 52-level 120 Collins Street (left), 100 Collins Street and 90 Collins Street.

Between 1984 and 1995, Mietta’s restaurant occupied the property: the late Mietta O’Donnell moved in 10 years after opening her first eatery in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North.

In recent years the property has been tenanted to Rockpool Events.

The proposed building will rise 19-floors into the airspace and contain 4997 square metres of office area. The average floorplate will be 263 sqm. The overall height will be 80 metres. The complex will provide no car parks or bike storage.

First mooted in 2017, the application was negotiated between council officers and the site owner, Seafirst, with drawings submitted last year.

Seafirst is directed by members of the Calvert-Jones family. Matriarch, Janet Calvert-Jones, the daughter of the late Dame Elisabeth and Sir Keith Murdoch, and brother of Rupert, was between 1989 and 2009 the chairperson of the Herald & Weekly Times – the same organisation her father ran from 1929 until 1952.

City of Melbourne requested that Seafirst’s proposed tower have a five metre setback (given planning guidelines, it could have built the tower 1.5 metres from the street).

The owner will also retain and refurbish the historic building’s interior including a grand staircase. These components are not heritage protected so could have been razed.

As part of the redevelopment, the lower storeys will be refitted predominantly for hospitality use.

Alfred Pl is not one of the city’s most light-filled laneways. Towering over it is the 52-level premium-grade office, 120 Collins St, co-owned by Investa (which submitted an objection to council about Seafirst’s proposal), the 13-storey Stamford Plaza at 123 Little Collins St, and 90 Collins St, which rises 22 floors.

The 10-storey Gilbert Court strata-office, designed by JA La Gerche and completed in 1955 at 100-104 Collins St, is at the south-west corner of Alfred Place.

In approving Seafirst’s proposal, councillors noted the application “isn’t a bland glass box on top of a heritage building”.

Contour Consultants Australia, which is representing Seafirst, said the boutique nature of the office, and small floorplates, will contribute to the diversity of commercial space within the eastern pocket of the Melbourne CBD.

Melbourne Heritage Action, an advocate group supported by the National Trust, also commended the proposal, in particular the interior retention.

Council requested, and Seafirst accepted, to set the proposed office (centre) five metres back from the street .

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of