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Polaris Town Centre

Challenging the idea of the typical suburban neighbourhood shopping centre

THE IDEA

From the outset, the vision for Polaris was to create a vibrant, walkable urban village that challenged the idea of the typical suburban neighbourhood shopping centre.

As a 20-minute neighbourhood, it is characterised by a diverse range of medium density housing and community infrastructure set around a vibrant village centre. The mixed-use development revitalised the site’s former use as the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, which was famously uninhabited since the late 1990s and also became the first UDIA 'EnvrioDevelopment'.

“Polaris provides much-needed housing variety, especially for the growing student population with La Trobe University and RMIT nearby. It will also provide further employment opportunities in retail, education and business in what is an emerging employment cluster to Melbourne's north."

Matthew Guy, Former Planning Minister

THE SOLUTION

The planning concept focused on utilising the derelict, yet historically significant Larundel Psychiatric Hospital buildings to lend a sense of history, permanency and character to a new neighbourhood. This site had sat as dilapidated ruins for over a decade, and become a genuine local safety concern, attracting squatters, graffiti and damage. Buildings were set on fire with one damaged beyond repair. Understandably the local community was extremely supportive of plans to restore the buildings and reactivate them as community assets. 

The first stage of development comprised all major infrastructure and services across the entire site including the road network. This monumental investment allowed for the creation of developable super-lots that would each be future proofed upfront allowing developer, Dealcorp to develop each sequentially in response to changing market requirements. Stage one also saw the delivery of the town centre and community hub with core services such as the Blood Bank, a medical and dental centre, major anchor tenants, and retail with shop-top apartments critical inclusions to selling the project vision from day one. 

The masterplan takes advantage of a steep 8m fall across the site by incorporating most parking in under-crofts or basements to increase convenience, decrease visual impact and provide greater opportunities to add value to the ground plane through retail, community, commercial and residential.
Architectural character objectives set out in the planning phase took a focus on creating inherent diversity in styles. Individual buildings subscribed to a fine grain approach so that over time they would evolve like a traditional streetscape, as individual owners or owner’s corporations chose to renovate or modify their buildings.

“It is my belief that the process of urban development must start with a clear and collaborative project vision that aspires to achieve more people-focused outcomes.”

Dean Landy, ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects

THE IMPACT

Polaris represents one of Melbourne’s first examples of ‘main street’ masterplanning and has set benchmarks as a proven approach to urban design. The masterplan delivers a true mixed-use precinct providing housing diversity, community facilities and quality public realm.

It has already set benchmarks as a sustainable community. It goes beyond green to include social connection, aesthetics and functionality. Low-rise design is climate responsive for reduced energy and water consumption, construction practice and lifestyle amenity focuses on less waste and use of environmentally friendly building materials were selected.

Polaris was the first development to be awarded the UDIA’s 6 leaf EnviroDevelopment certification and was awarded the UDIA Award for Urban Renewal in 2016 and Environmental Excellence in 2017. This speaks to the developer’s commitment to sustainable design, not just in the built form but in the programming and activation of the precinct, as well as in the prioritising of alternative transport methods. Polaris is recognised as being above standard for its advances in the management of ecosystems, waste, energy and water conservation, use of sustainable materials and community engagement. Of particular note, Polaris was one of the first developments to pilot a new bio-detention system to filter water from site entering the storm water system.

"We understand it takes a long time to build something that will be home to many generations. We are privileged to have this opportunity with Polaris. It is not a burden but indeed a rare blessing to create a place that people want to call home!"

Andrew Wyman, Dealcorp

ADDRESS

1056 Plenty Rd, Bundoora VIC 3083

STATUS

Staged development

AWARDS

Built projects – local and neighbourhood scale (Shortlisted) - Australian Urban Design Awards, 2018

Environmental Excellence - UDIA Victoria Awards for Excellence, 2017

Urban Renewal Award - UDIA Victoria Awards for Excellence, 2016

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