Hobart’s height limit plan could result in ‘concrete block’ future, developer warns
Architect Leigh Woolley’s proposed height control planes and view cones for Hobart, with “non-conforming” structures indicated in red. (Supplied: Leigh Woolley)
Hobart could become a city of precast concrete block buildings if strict height limits are imposed, a developer has warned, ahead of a critical meeting on the future look of Tasmania’s capital.
Hobart’s new city council, fresh from being elected in October, will make the final decision. (ABC News)
Tonight, five members of Hobart City Council’s planning committee will decide whether to approve or reject the recommendations of the Building Heights Standards Review by architect and urban design consultant Leigh Woolley, which returned from the public consultation phase.
The Woolley review divides Hobart into 10 different height zones, designed to preserve “important views” of iconic landmarks, such as kunanyi/Mount Wellington, the waterfront, cenotaph and other sightlines.
In North Hobart, the limit is around 18 metres, but in undulating terrain of the city core, buildings can reach as high as 60 metres — although some in the city already exceeds that.
The new Royal Hobart Hospital K-block stands at 68.5 metres, while the casino takes out Hobart’s tallest building, standing at 73 metres.
The consultant architect’s original recommendations suggested some developments could go as high as 75 metres, subject to heritage and detailed townscape provisions, but council planning officers had revised it to a maximum height of 60 metres.
Reaction to the proposed height limits have been mixed. Property developer Quinten Villaneuva said placing strict height limits on developers could result in generic low-lying buildings.
“What do we want our city to look like? The height is one part, but do we want it all just to look the same? Just a precast concrete block structure? I think the answer is no,” he said.
Mr Villaneuva believes the height debate is just one part of the puzzle when considering developments.
“By capping height overall, they don’t assess what the impacts are to feasibility for developments. They don’t assess what the economic and social outcomes will be,” he said.
“You end up with a city that doesn’t have much diversity and richness [and] a lot of projects that are just focused around commercial outcomes.
“The things that make buildings beautiful are the aesthetic differences and intricacies that property developers don’t really get a return on.”
Leigh Woolley’s plan for the proposed inner core precinct of Hobart, where “some locations height could rise to 75 metres without impacting primary view cones”. (Supplied: Leigh Woolley)
Commercial real estate agent Mark Devine said Mr Villaneuva’s point was valid, but commended the council on actively addressing height limit concerns raised by increased interest from developers.
“From a developers’ point of view, when you’re acquiring a parcel of land, clearly if you can go higher it means the economic return that you can generate out of the development potentially will be higher and maybe that flows to actually improving the quality of what you can deliver, because you can afford to deliver a better project,” he said.
But Mr Devine doesn’t think height limits will diminish the appeal of Hobart.
“In some respects, the whole debate is around trying to retain that important character that Hobart has, which makes it an attractive place to live, and for people to come and visit. That is really bringing this development activity to the city, so we need to make sure we protect that as well.”
A proposal by a Singapore developer to build a 55m hotel tower was met by fierce local opposition. (Supplied: Hobart City Council)
Deputy Mayor Helen Burnet, chair of the planning committee, said a height limit did not result in sameness.
The Fragrance Group revised its plan for a glass tower, reducing it in height. (Supplied: Xsquared )
“We’re really looking at what the look and feel of the city of Hobart will be into the future and having maximum building heights will give surety to not only the community, but developers, so they know what they can go up to,” she said.
“I believe Hobart deserves quality development, if there are restrictions in building heights, those are the rules. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s going to be a limit in quality. I’d put it back on developers to think about what they can do for this fantastic city of ours.”
Alderman Marti Zucco said he also supported the review, but is concerned how these changes will affect those who currently own property.
“I think it’s totally, absolutely unfair on any person that’s purchased land or is a landowner that can see their valuation on their property dramatically decrease by changes to the Hobart City Council plans.”
He would like to see the review analyse potential economic impacts on the city.
“We need to look at which properties it will have a dramatic impact on by reducing height, and what that costs, in the sense of the devaluation of the property.”
The review returns to the planning committee tonight for potential amendments and will go before the full council on December 17.