Beacon Cove resulted from the Bayside Development Project, and is located on a formerly contaminated industrial waterfront site (BP site, rail yards). The lengthy development process, which commenced in 1984 when the Bayside area was nominated as a State Government “Action Area”, included much community consultation and a change of design following the dismissal of the first developer, Sandridge City Development Company Pty Ltd, and their replacement with Mirvac in 1994.
Details of the first phase of the process are available in the March 1986 “Port Melbourne Bayside Development Project Interim Assessment of Environmental Effects and Draft Development Brief” produced by the Ministry of Transport. Most of the requirements developed for this phase were retained in the 1994 tender process. This phase included a geotechnical study by the Port of Melbourne Authority that was completed in August 1986 (Port Melbourne Bayside Development Project Geotechnical Information). Basically the Bayside Project site contained fill material of dark clay and silt underlain by sand (Port Melbourne Sands) to ~ 8m, then silty sand clay (Coode Island Silt) to 18-29m, then clayey silt (Fishermen’s Bend Silt) then interbedded sands, gravel and silts to depths of at least 40m (Moray Street Gravels) then a sequence of siltstone, limestones and conglomerates of Tertiary age, then Silurian age mudstones. The geotechnical constraints mean that the site is most suited to low rise development. Medium and high rise structures are likely to impose sufficient stress on the Coode Island Silt to produce unacceptable settlements so that deep piled foundations would be required. The ground water level is found within the Port Melbourne Sands layer in the range RL 0 to RL +0.3m, i.e. about 2 to 2.5m below ground surface at the east of the site. The groundwater flow across the site is towards the south-east.
Given the coastal context, and the community wish that the Port Melbourne beach side not look like part of “Surfer’s Paradise”, the height limit was set at a maximum of 12 storeys rather than the initially suggested 20 storeys. It was stipulated that:
- Tall buildings were to be clustered or spaced so as to minimise their impact (though overshadowing and other effects).
- Buildings which adjoin beach and residential areas or certain conservation areas should conform with the predominant building height of existing development.
Furthermore, the Bayside Project should:
- exhibit exemplary and exciting design and aesthetics for all components ensuring they are compatible with the adjacent bayside.
- provide a major tourist precinct in the concept which will have unique characteristics to ensure it has the continuing ability to attract tourists.
Community requests included a retirement village, a good shopping complex, retention of the charm of the area, and public access. It was specified that a minimum of 15% of land be publicly accessible open space. The City of Port Melbourne was not totally supportive of the tourism aims for the Bayside Project as they had plans for further development of Bay St and saw a conflict between the two areas from a tourism perspective.
Overshadowing was defined as shadow between 11am and 2pm on the 22nd June. It was stipulated that:
- Buildings should not cast shadows outside of the development boundary between 11am and 2pm in mid winter.
- Overshadowing of the beach would not be accepted.
- Building form should consider microclimate effects and the amenity of public areas within the development.
- Building height on the edge of the development area shall match the height of existing buildings (2-4 storeys).
- Community services need to be considered by the developer.
- Maximum building height of 42m (12 storeys).
The project was put out to public tender in October 1986 and five submissions were received. The SCDC proposal was selected. This ambitious proposal included canals, and public facilities included a marina, an immigration museum, aquarium, skating rink, special effects theatre and a festival market place. The SCDC proposal was based on the Government assurances that there was no environmental contamination of the site. This subsequently turned out not to be the case.
Following the collapse of the SCDC scheme, planning for Beacon Cove recommenced in 1992 with a community consultation, the Bayside Open Planning Forum that is documented in the Bayside Development Project Port Melbourne [1992?]. This forum produced design concepts and principles for a walkable, mixed use, street-based precinct that mirrored most of the 1986 requirements and included the stipulation that access to Station Pier was to be maintained at all times for TT Line and other pier users. It was also recommended that the project include community facilities that would be available to all residents within the municipality, such as child care, indoor recreational facilities and some outdoor sporting facilities such as tennis courts or bowling greens. The latter recommendation was included because the City of Port Melbourne had identified that there was a significant deficiency of these services within the area, and that the “social/recreational/integrational benefits of addressing this issue in the Bayside site would be considerable“. It was further recommended that land uses with low rates of return (e.g. community services) should not be left until last as these facilities have more value to the community so should be provided as the development proceeds. The project was put out to tender in September 1992 by Major Projects Victoria with tenders due December 1992. Mirvac won the tender and was appointed as a joint venture partner with Major Projects Victoria in 1994. The original Mirvac plan entailed developing a minimum of 850 dwellings, providing a range of medium density housing types, and appropriate amenities in an attractive and comprehensively planned environment. The plans also included a redevelopment of the pier with shops, offices, a new home for the Alma Doepel training ship and, on an adjacent site, a sports and aquatic centre including a 25-metre swimming pool. The recreation centre containing the sports and aquatic centre and childcare centre was an early feature of life in Beacon Cove.
Whilst Beacon Cove was being developed it was zoned as a Comprehensive Development Zone (CDZ1). The main purpose of the CDZ1 classification was to ensure the orderly staging of subdivision, construction and development of the Beacon Cove 32 ha site. The CDZ1 did this by requiring all buildings and works be in accordance with the 1995 Bayside Precinct Plan No. 1 and the Bayside Residential Component Guidelines No. 1 (October 1994). Beacon Cove was built between 1996 and 2006, resulting in a total of 1,517 residential units and 4.5 hectares (11 ac) of open common space and recreational amenities. The orientation, height, and density of the residential structures give primacy to water views and staggered building lines, and strategic placement of windows, balconies, and terraces maximize views to the bay and the lighthouses. The 1995 requirements stipulated that Waterfront Place be designed to function as part of the civic square for Beacon Cove. The Beacon Cove architects, Henry Pollack and Associates, designed a recreation centre including a gym, swimming pool and tennis courts, and a child care centre for 1-7 Waterfront Place. They also designed an architecturally complementary building incorporating a food-store for 103 Beach St. The 1-7 Waterfront Place Beacon Cove Recreation and Child Care Centre was build by Buxton and received a High Commendation from the Australian Institute of Building Victorian Chapter in 1997. The food-store and buildings on 1-7 Waterfront Place were designed to be sympathetic with the heritage railway station (another requirement of the original design).
Restrictive covenants protecting the retention of appearance and function, and also preventing any inappropriate future development, were placed on both the 1-7 Waterfront Place and 103 Beach St sites by Mirvac. The covenants burdening 1-7 Waterfront Place state that development of the site may only occur “in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by Henry Pollack and Associates Architects Pty Ltd lodged within the City of Port Phillip”. The Henry Pollack and Associates Architects’ plans (the Pollack plans) are the original building plans that were used for the current buildings on the site. Mirvac, as the arbiter of the covenant, is currently the only party that may approve a development or use which differs from the covenant.