WARRNAMBOOL’S skyline could be in for a dramatic change thanks to a proposal for a nine-storey building at the corner of Gilles and Merri streets.
The corner block, currently home to Madden’s Lawyers and a couple of old Warrnambool Shire storage sheds set into a grassy knoll, has been on the market for more than a year with a current asking price of $1.75 million.
But Wilson Real Estate agent Mark Wilson put the no-sale down to a lack of imagination. “I think we really needed to paint a picture of what you could do with the site,” he said.
Enter Design 2 Build, which has drawn up plans for 21 apartments in a stepped block rising six storeys from the service road along Merri Street or nine storeys from Gilles Street.
Mr Wilson estimated the project would cost between $12-$15 million.
Design 2 Build senior designer Graeme Schultz said the total height would be about 26 metres from Gilles Street level.
“It probably would be the highest (building in Warrnambool) if you measured it from Gilles Street,” he said.
“But if you measured the real height from the service road, it wouldn’t be the highest — it would be in the top five probably.
“So much of the building is not going to be visible (from certain angles) by virtue of cutting into the ground.”
The lower three levels, which will be set into the hillside, would included car parks and offices. The six upper levels would contain the 21 apartments.
The proposed design leaves the current Madden’s Lawyers building — formerly the Sandilands Guest House, built in 1939 — relatively untouched, with suggested options of using it as a boutique hotel or remaining as office space.
Only an addition made to the western side of the building in recent decades would be removed under the proposal, despite the owners having council permission to demolish the whole structure.
This demolition order was the subject of a contentious 4-3 council vote, which ultimately rejected a heritage panel recommendation that the former Sandilands Guest House be added to the heritage register.
No approval has been given for the nine-storey development, although a presentation of the proposal to the Warrnambool City councillors and officers “was positively received”, Mr Wilson said.
The block is owned by five current and former Maddens Lawyers partners — Brendan Pendergast, Gren Skewes, John Madden, Stan Carroll and James Nicol. The law firm has been on the site since 1968.
“We’re very proud of this site,” Mr Carroll said.
“It’s an iconic location.”
Mr Carroll said it would be up to the buyer whether to follow through with the proposed nine-storey development and turn Maddens Lawyers into a boutique hotel.
“There’s still the option to knock it all over,” he said.