A design competition to shape the future of the fire-ravaged Stokehouse restaurant site has been ruled out, in a decision architects say is a lost opportunity for a landmark building.
Many in Melbourne's architecture community had urged the Napthine government to seize the chance to give St Kilda's waterfront a facelift.
Debate begins over rebuilding the Stokehouse
Locals are divided on what should replace St Kilda's Stokehouse restaurant which burned to the ground in a huge weekend blaze.
The restaurant was on Crown land, and Planning Minister Matthew Guy said on Monday he would like to see it replaced with a ''more unique'' design.
But he did not believe an open design competition was necessary.
Melbourne University architecture expert Philip Goad said Mr Guy seemed to be ''washing his hands'' of involvement in the site's future design.
''It would appear to me to be a great shame if a building that has been so much in the public consciousness as a favourite St Kilda destination is not vested with some greater ideals of public good,'' he said.
Professor Goad said ruling out a public design competition was wasting an ''exceptional opportunity for an exceptional site''.
Since the well-known restaurant burnt down on Friday night, public opinion has been polarised over what should be built in its place - whether to enshrine the past with a heritage replica or opt for a modern aesthetic.
Architect and former Port Phillip council designer Jim Holdsworth is among a chorus calling for the restaurant to be rebuilt ''as it was''.
But Steve Calhoun, founding director of Tract Consulting, which created the St Kilda foreshore master plan in the late-1970s, said the site presented a ''great opportunity'' to continue reinventing StKilda.
''The Stokehouse was a totally internalised building, so it gave nothing back to the foreshore and the community,'' he said.
''It would be much better if we could get a new building where people can dine out.
''There is no point rebuilding a moderately mediocre building just for the sake of building an old building.''
He said a design competition would have helped ''continue the renaissance'' of the suburb, and the decision against one was wrong.
Landscape architect Chris Sawyer, who designed the St Kilda promenade between the pier and Brooks Jetty, hoped new plans for the Stokehouse site would enhance open space by the waterfront.
''In considering what may go back on that site, a building of a larger footprint should not ever be considered.''
Albert Park Labor MP Martin Foley said the state government ''cannot avoid being part of the conversation'' on the site's future.
He said the dilapidated St Kilda lifesaving club next door should undergo its long-awaited rebuild at the same time as Stokehouse.