Ormond ‘sky tower’: call to cut car parking from project to boost train use

Adam Carey

A 13-storey tower proposed to be built on top of Ormond railway station could have minimal car parking to encourage its expected 600 residents to use public transport.

The car park would also be designed so that it could one day be converted to other potential uses, such as housing or office space, planning documents for the “vibrant transport hub” in Melbourne’s south-east show.

Level crossing removal fast tracked

The removal of level crossings is fast tracked just one day after the Victorian government received a huge cash boost.

The Andrews government wants to build the first high-rise building in low-rise Ormond, on railway land freed up by the recent removal of the North Road level crossing, to recover some of the costs of its $6 billion grade separation project.

The proposed high-density apartment, office and retail development is the first of several such projects likely to spring up along Melbourne’s rail lines in the next few years, as an add-on to the government’s program of 50 level crossing removals by 2022.

New details about the Ormond development have been published ahead of a planning panel hearing scheduled for February.

The hearing will give the public and the project’s proponent, the Level Crossing Removal Authority, the chance to debate the final form the project should take before approval is granted.  A deadline of December 9 has been set for submissions.

The proposal has not been universally embraced by Ormond residents, some of whom have set up a lobby group against it.

No Ormond Sky Tower spokeswoman Vivian Shannon said the government had alienated residents by failing to be up front about its plans for the site.

“If they had been transparent and said at the start, this is what we’re proposing, I don’t think they would have the backlash that they are going to get now,” Ms Shannon said.

The government did not announce its plan to build above Ormond station until after it had removed the North Road level crossing, leaving it to eagle-eyed observers to notice a large concrete deck being constructed over the tracks.

“We understand it makes sense that along the rail corridor that is where you’re going to have most development, but 13 storeys and access only from the two side streets is completely inappropriate,” Ms Shannon said.

The LXRA has contracted property developers DealCorp to produce a proposal for Ormond station.

The building is slated to have about 220 apartments that will house about 600 people, plus a supermarket and a handful of smaller businesses. An adult book shop has been ruled out in the proposal.

Construction of the building is due to start in 2018 and finish in 2021, the documents state.

It would generate between 660 and 800 extra car journeys a day, according to traffic modelling, and traffic speeds along North Road would be expected to slow by about 4 km/h as a result.

The traffic analysis, by GTA Consultants, also recommends that the development should break with statutory car parking requirements and have a “lower than standard” number of spaces, given it will sit above a station on the busy Frankston line.

Instead, 650 car parks would be included across four levels, with 120 of those reserved for commuters using Ormond station.

The building would be tallest at its southern end, facing North Road, and would taper down to five to six storeys at the northern end of the site, which would face onto quieter streets with detached houses.

The development will also generate 285 new jobs and about $67 million in retail sales in 2021-22, the first full year it is expected to be open, according to analysis for the project.

Traffic queues as a train crosses North Road in 2015, before the level crossing was removed. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

But one expert on railway stations criticised the Ormond proposal for being “underwhelming” in its intention to encourage its residents to use public transport, given it would still have hundreds of parking spaces.

Chris Hale, a sustainable transport consultant, said that given billions were being spent removing level crossings, communities and local governments “are rightly expecting meaningful outcomes in the realms of local transformation and urban renewal”.

“Passengers want better station facilities and more convenient access to rail, beyond parking,” Dr Hale said.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/ormond-sky-tower-call-to-cut-car-parking-from-project-to-boost-train-use-20161110-gsm7e9.html