Final approval for the $260million building now lies in the hands of Planning Minister Justin Madden, who is expected to make an announcement about the project next month. Last year he verbally approved the project, conditional on the building meeting high energy standards.
Melbourne City Council objected to Macquarie’s proposal on grounds relating to height, overshadowing and vehicle access. VCAT’s decision effectively dismisses the claims and the request of prominent architect John Denton that the 88-metre-high building be modified.
Macquarie’s proposed tower challenges a long-standing strategic vision implemented by former Cain government planning minister Evan Walker, that the area around the Swanston Street spine remain height restricted to 40 metres.
Macquarie has been keen to build a 33,000-square-metre office building on the former Mayfair building site, which it bought for $27.6 million two years ago.
Its plans include a high-end office building that would tower over neighbours, including the KPMG building next door at 161Collins Street, the Regent Theatre and City Square.
Though St Paul’s Cathedral did not lodge a formal objection about the building, it voiced concerns it would "crowd out" the Flinders Street church, which has been slowly dwarfed by high-rise office buildings over the past 20 years.
Macquarie had previously said, if approved, it planned to develop 171 Collins Street on a speculative basis (without a tenant pre-commitment). However, sources say present market conditions may have changed those plans.
Macquarie chief executive Adrian Taylor was unavailable for comment.