Premium architect designs waterfront Sorrento aged care complex

Rothelowman said its aged care complex intends to treat residents with more dignity – starting with a AAA-address.

Australian Aged Care Group Pty Ltd is proposing a luxury low rise complex opposite Sorrento’s front beach.

The $50 million project, earmarked for a 4052 square metre Point Nepean Road block near the town centre, would appear as two levels from the street and western boundary, increasing to three storeys over a basement in its middle, where the land dips.

The federal budget response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care accepted 85 per cent of recommendations, aiming to improve everything from a resident’s mental health to visitation.

Branded Sorrento on the Bay, it would be near another waterfront parcel with a four level apartment complex, Raffles Court, which stares down Sorrento Pier.

Buildings of at least this height have also recently been completed in Morce Avenue, in the suburb.

At 21 Constitution Hill Rd – a few hundred metres from the AACG site – a four floor residential development over an underground car park was constructed in 2007.

A seven storey tower – again over a multi-level basement – is taking shape behind the Hotel Continental.

Sorrento’s only aged care home – Sorrento Lodge, with 37 beds, closed in 2019, leaving the closest asset of this type in the council area at Rye, 10 kilometres away.

The commonwealth government has granted AACG the majority of bed licences required for the proposed Point Nepean Rd facility.

The developer has in the last decade completed high-end complexes, at Kew and Phillip Island.

It is directed by John Matthies, who has been in the industry for five decades; his parents, Betty & Keith established one of Victoria’s first nursing homes, in Canterbury, in the 1960s.

Sorrento on the Bay

Sorrento on the Bay is earmarked for 3233-3235 Point Nepean Rd – a Category 1 thoroughfare – though it is accessed from a service road, meaning movements in and out won’t affect traffic flow.

Designed by boutique architecture firm Rothelowman, it would contain 84 suites (many up to 48 sqm, which is generous for this kind of product) and three large courtyards.

The complex covers just over half the site (the zoning allows for 80pc coverage).

A basement car park – for staff, visitors and residents – is in excess of the regulatory requirement.

Nearly one third of the block would be landscaped including a 23 metre garden between the road and building.

“The design will adopt a high level of building articulation through to stepping of the built form…achieved through the centre of the site and to the rear where large recesses and building separation is provided with the height largely concealed by the slope and the lower building forms that frame the frontage and rear abuttals,” according to the submission.

If not here then where: applicant

Sorrento on the Bay is expected to employ about 120 staff including some which may travel via the Queenscliff-to-Sorrento ferry; residents might come from the Bellarine Peninsula too.

“The site is walking distance to the Sorrento activity centre and other communal facilities located on the foreshore,” the submission added.

Two bus routes connect the parcel to Safety Beach and Portsea.

The property is in a designated area affected by the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Mornington Peninsula Localised Planning Scheme 2014 – which factors in economic and social considerations in land use planning (story continues below).

Sorrento on the Bay is one of the first proposals of its type since the Royal Commission Into Aged Care.

Council’s Guiding Future Township Development report seeks to add housing diversity in areas close to services and transport. 

The Point Nepean Road complex aims to “extend the occupant’s world” with activity rooms, a cinema, cafe, library, three courtyards and water view.

It also encourages construction types that meet community needs – which in this case would include respite services, palliative care, and Sorrento’s first dementia-secure environment.

Victorian planning laws permit the building of aged care facilities to 16 metres irrespective of whether surrounding structures are restricted to a lesser height.

According to council, 21pc of Mornington’s population is over retirement age, compared to 15pc for metropolitan Melbourne.

The application adds:

  • That in the Portsea-Sorrento-Blairgowrie catchment, known as SA2, 30.3pc of the current population is over the age of 70 compared to that of Mornington Peninsula (17.3pc);
  • Growth of residents in this age bracket (70-plus) is set to rise 35.6pc in the 10 years to 2026;
  • It is forecast that the population of those aged 80-plus will increase 3.2pc in that period “indicating a picture of immediate need, as this is the cohort most likely to require residential aged care in the short term”.

“This is a significant variation and demonstrates an intermediate need for more places in the area, particularly as there is a further 24.4pc of the population in the 60-69 aged cohort that will be requiring aged care services in the medium term,” it said.

“Further, the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s Community Profile indicated that the age group with the highest net migration to the area will be 65 years and over, driven by older people from the eastern and south eastern suburbs moving into the area”.

Comparing the Sorrento catchment with the ABS’ Aged Care Provision Ratio (calling for 78 places per 1000 people, over 70), 230 beds are needed by next year.

Better environment, connected to the area: architect

Sorrento on the Bay is one of the first projects proposed since the release of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, which identified that much of the existing product won’t be appropriate moving forward.

“We entered aged care because we don’t see it as a quasi-sector but instead an extension of the residential work we do,” Rothelowman’s Chris Hayton said.

“In that regard, the work is over-pinned by the ‘generous eye for life’ elements we adopt in all our projects,” according to the architect.

“The result [at Sorrento] is a far more humane way to look after the ageing in our society.

“A vast majority of people don’t choose to be in residential aged care, they are there because they have to be – it may be too dangerous or difficult to live at home.

“We need to be cognisant of that, making the environment for residents as good as possible.

“Positive consequences can range from improving an occupant’s mental health – through to creating a complex which encourages visitation”.

Extending the occupant’s world

“In reality, an aged care resident might only travel a minimal distance, say from their suite to the dining room – that becomes the extent of their world,” Mr Hayton said.

“If we expand the boundaries of that world – so there are several destinations they can access – activity rooms, onsite cinema, cafes, communal lounges, libraries, reflection rooms – then they can feel like they have an outing available to spend a couple of hours of their day,” he added.

“We think the Sorrento project, which has spaces overlooking the water, also allows residents to connect to their community in a far better way than traditional, more institutionalised villages, which are often in remote locations visitors are less likely to come.

“We are proud of the design, which demonstrates that aged care accommodation can be offered in a humane, generous way, which celebrates and respects its occupants, who in many cases, won’t be able to leave the site boundary”.

The proposed facility is walking distance to Sorrento’s town centre.

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Marc Pallisco

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