The Industry Superannuation Property Trust's plans to build an $800 million, 2,994-apartment block on the former Age site in the city’s CBD have been approved.
It is Melbourne’s largest-ever residential development, with six Bates Smart-designed towers between 39 and 63 storeys.
The site comprises 11,755 square metres on the corner of Spencer and Lonsdale streets.
The Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy gave his approval last week after the plans were first submitted in December 2011. The project will be staggered over eight to 12 years.
The eastern portion of the 250 Spencer Street mixed use site was sold in April 2010 to Central Equity.
"Optimum site utilisation is being worked up as well as the potential exit strategies available," ISPT's most recent annual report noted.
The site has been income producing with the office building leased to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the carpark leased to an independent operator.
It was in 2007 when ISPT and Axiom Properties Limited formed a joint venture to buy The Age newspaper’s Melbourne headquarters for $66.1 million.
The site at the time comprised nearly a whole city block of 15,200 square metres.
At the time the executive director of Axiom, Ben Laurance, said the purchase and scheme for redevelopment were part of the long-term vision Axiom’s major shareholder, Pivot Group.
“We think this is an opportunity to accommodate major office tenants and apartment dwellers with environmentally sustainable space in a village atmosphere with all of the transport access and retail conveniences everybody wants,” Laurance said in 2007.
Axiom Properties cashed in its stake in 250 Spencer Street in 2010 when its 50% was bought by ISPT.
ISPT described it as an opportunistic purchase of their joint venture partner’s interest in the site at "a discount to book value driven by their desire to exit in a timely fashion".
The Age – sometimes referred to as the Spencer Street Soviets – relocated to their new premises in December 2009 and formally vacated the 250 Spencer Street property in February 2010.
Crikey columnist Michael Vaughan wrote that the moniker Spencer Street Soviet came because of its left-leaning coverage as much as for the communistic-style brutalist architecture that was the old Age building.
When the building is demolished, the industry super fund developer must complete an environmental audit of the site given fears of soil contamination from chemicals used in the newspaper's printing presses during its four decades of operation from 1969.
Sean Hogan from ISPT told The Age that few would miss the old Age building.
"The building doesn't have any fans ... this is probably the last industrial part of the Hoddle Grid," Hogan said.