Cox Architecture has submitted a development application for a new 144 metre skyscraper in Melbourne that will built around a historic church manse, built in 1859.

118-148 Lonsdale St is currently home to the Wesley Church and Wesley Mission Victoria Complex, and is owned by The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust.  It consists of ten buildings, developed intermittently between 1858 and 1938, including The Church (1858); The Manse (1859); and The School House (1859) all designed by Joseph Reed; a Caretakers Cottage (1914); the Princess Mary Club (1926), designed by AS Eggleston and Nicholas Hall (1938), designed by Harry Norris.


Cox has proposed to demolish four buildings on the site to make way for a new 39-level office and retail tower, and to repurpose the existing School House, Caretaker’s Cottage and Manse into retail and hospitality spaces. Approval from Heritage Victoria has been given for the demolition of these buildings and for the proposed works including the office tower.

The tower will reach 148.4 metres at the top of roof parapet and incorporate 55,000sqm of lettable office space. It will be wrapped by a glazed curtain wall, have a minimum five-metre setback (according to council approval conditions) and have a sweeping concave to its western facade that faces the church precinct.

<Buildings in yellow will be demolished. Image: COX

The tower will rise to 148.4 metres at the top of the roof parapet (39 levels). Image: COX
A carpark is incorporated in the podium (left) because heritage constraints made it too difficult to have basement carparking. Image: COX

The podium is generally five storeys (25 metres) high and built to the north, east and south boundaries of the site. Its materiality contrasts the glazed tower, Cox choosing sculptural steel columns and bronze aluminium screening to meet requirements from planning that it has a high architectural standard.

Key to the podium, and to the overall project, is the incorporation of the Manse within the new building. The podium and tower will be essentially built around the heritage building which will in turn be adapted and become part of the project’s retail offering.

The ground floor and upper ground floor of the proposed building also includes eight café/retail tenancies ranging from 40 to 86 square metres. Image: COX 5-1.JPG

Ground level activation is emphasised in the redevelopment, in that the original structures and uses are to be fused with new facilities in order to increase public utilisation of the site. Image: COX 8-1.png
Cox placed the lift core on the eastern façade so as to not negatively impact on the privacy of the neighbouring apartment building across the lane. Image: COX

Heritage Victoria accepted the podium design after Cox increased the clearance (void) between the Manse and the office tower and relocated structural columns further away from the heritage building.

Cox will need to make changes to the tower setbacks and provide further wind, landscape, access, traffic and waste reports before the plans are approved.