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Seek's new office suffers planning setback

The City of Yarra has rejected Seek’s proposed $200 million new office building in the burgeoning Cremorne commercial precinct.

Cremorne Properties, the developer responsible for the landmark 20,000 square metre campus, designed for the online jobs website, referred the building to the Victorian Civil and Appeals Tribunal shortly before Christmas.

Despite a positive report from council planning officers, the building at 60-88 Cremorne Street was rejected by Yarra councillors on the grounds its height and scale was inappropriate and created unreasonable visual bulk and overshadowing in the area.

The proposed building butts up against Cremorne's residential pocket. The area has become a hot office market and key component in the tight 2.94 vacancy rate recorded for the city fringe office market.

New developments are mushrooming in the formerly industrial precinct attracting major leasing deals and rising rents. Seek will join other tech companies, MYOB, the REA Group, Carsales, Tesla, Uber and Vinomofo in the precinct that stretches from Church Street to Hoddle Street between the Yarra River and Swan Street.

Colliers International agent Rob Joyes said the tight vacancy rate in the CBD is driving rental growth in the metro markets.


“City fringe precincts are highly desirable alternatives to the CBD because there is limited compromise in terms of retail and public transport,” Mr Joyes said.

Leasing deals and renewals made up around 20 per cent of the 40,000 square metres of deals struck at the end of last year, including Carsales’ 6000 square metre renewal.

While the December 13 meeting of the Internal Developments Approvals Committee rejected the Seek building, it approved Alfasi Property's 18,000 square metre proposal with some variations and Peregrine Projects’ proposed 10,500 square metre building in 175 Burnley Street. A spokesman for Cremorne Properties declined to comment on the planning setback.

Alfasi Property is on the verge of signing two 5000 square metre leasing deals for its building at 510 Church Street, according to development manager Laurence Peck.

Net rents are being struck at $580 a square metre with incentives running at 20 per cent, Mr Peck said. A year ago, new buildings were renting at around $400 a square metre.

Yarra council reduced Alfasi’s proposal to nine storeys from 10 but allowed the group to reduce one level of basement carparking in compensation. Alfasi has also created a 70 metre by 2.5 metre shared space along its boundary on Hudson Lane to be used by the ground-floor restaurants, pedestrians and cars accessing the basement carpark.

“We’re only 150 metres from East Richmond station and 500 metres from Richmond station and there are buses and trams all around us,” Mr Peck said.

Peregrine Properties’ Joe Chahin is also in talks with potential anchor tenants for his nine-level building that won approval with some changes to opening hours for its 400 square metre hospitality space.

His project, north of the Cremorne precinct, offers better amenity and proximity to the eastern suburbs, Mr Chahin said.

“Cremorne is over-developed and sanitised. Everything looks the same,” he said.

The building sits on the edge of an industrial precinct in Richmond, near the Yarra River, but opposite a residential area which elicited some objections.

“I made an effort to sit down with them to understand their objections. Anyone can put in a breakfast bar on their ground floor but we are trying to do something else,” Mr Chahin said.

The restaurant will have a micro-brewery and specialise in “slow intervention wine” - a term that covers preservative-free wine, he said.