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'Green' project, greed outcome

Don Edgar and Patricia Edgar

September 16, 2011

OPINION

An ''eco friendly'' apartment block ignores the ''eco'' aspirations of neighbours.

DEVELOPERS and architects intent on trumpeting their own efforts to introduce environmentally sensitive projects to the inner city seem to have no regard for anything beyond their own boundaries and hype.

That is the conclusion for residents of Rose Street Fitzroy, at least, who face being overwhelmed by one of the ''green'' developments highlighted recently in The Age

What the developer has chosen to call ''Raw House'' we have renamed ''Godzilla Towers''. Promotional material shows architectural ''greenery'' drawn over every floor on this grossly oversized building, designed to squeeze every dollar of profit from a small heritage site.

Our neighbours, who have lived in their heritage cottage across the street from the proposed Raw House development for 37 years, fear their small sunny front verandah and thriving garden strip will be completely overshadowed. Their olive tree which bears profusely over the footpath each year and the large fig tree in their backyard will struggle for sunlight.

Our own green front courtyard garden, with roses and bougainvillea, is similarly threatened. Sunlight is a precious commodity in this narrow street, yet the ''green'' architects have completely ignored the wider impact of their ''eco-friendly'' plans.

With more than 1500 new citizens coming to Melbourne every week and a likely total population of 5.6 million by 2028, we agree with the goals of Melbourne 2030: encouraging higher density housing, reducing dependence on cars and more use of public transport. We also support the design of buildings that recycle water, use passive solar energy and make for a more vibrant urban environment.

Unfortunately, such building proposals are premised on having efficient public transport, clean air, a street where pedestrians can walk safely, and a state government that will deliver infrastructure that would support such a greener high-density environment. But try to walk past the rubbish, recycling and large bins already in the street, especially if you are disabled as two of our neighbours are; try to raise children in a pocket handkerchief-sized apartment when no more sun will ever come through the window, and see how much common sense that makes.

Green advocates must be challenged to think beyond their narrow drawing boards, and their briefs from rapacious developers, and consider the communal amenity.

Raw House in Rose Street, Fitzroy is to be built on top of an old single-storey warehouse on a small block, zoned ''mixed use'' but not used commercially for decades, in a street that is entirely residential and in a zoned heritage area.

It will be totally out of scale to its surrounds - a six-storey, 12-apartment block over a licensed restaurant, with no residential parking (a free myki card and bike racks in the foyer are to substitute), no air conditioning (just ''natural ventilation'', off traffic-heavy Brunswick Street), no loading bay for deliveries and no space provision for rubbish and recycling bins. They will block the footpath in front of a building that is only 13 metres wide and delivery trucks will exacerbate an already-slow traffic flow in this narrow street.

The proposed licensed restaurant with the open balcony will be entered off the residential street. The ''setback'' is just two metres.

This design is supposed to improve the local environment, to enrich an area already overcrowded with Brunswick Street eateries. No assessment of ''cumulative impact'' is provided.

Nor do these ''eco-friendly'' architects provide any shadow drawings of what will happen to houses on the south side of the street once their six-storey monster rises from the rubble. In fact, it will overshadow heritage-listed houses opposite and destroy gardens that currently keep the area truly ''green''.

No one on the south side of Rose Street will be able to make use of solar panels; instead their electricity bills will soar as they try to light their darkened rooms and warm their interiors. As well, they will have the noise and intrusion of restaurant patrons in an area already over-serviced for eateries and night life.

This architect's vision is not ''green common sense'' as The Age labelled it (10/9). It is greed, opportunism and spin run riot, dismissive of the community and the very environment it intends to exploit. It is ''green wash'' aimed at conning urban planners who should know better, city councillors and bureaucrats trying to get their heads around the myriad complex planning regulations that are in place.

 

Don Edgar and Patricia Edgar are both sociologists. Don was founding director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Patricia was founding director of the Australian Children's Television Foundation.