‘Unacceptable’: Martin Place twin towers proposal angers neighbours

The Macquarie Group’s unsolicited proposal to build two towers either side of Martin Place has angered the owners of a neighbouring skyscraper, who complain it will be overshadowed and its views ruined.

The owners of the MLC Centre say Macquarie Group’s proposed tower on the south of Martin Place represents a “tipping point” and the “critical site in determining the future” of the pedestrian mall. The MLC’s owners argue the centre’s sky views will be “significantly impacted” if Macquarie’s proposal is approved.

The bank is seeking significant changes to the local building controls in order to build commercial towers on either side side of Martin Place – one more than 40 storeys at the “north site” and the other at least 28 floors on the “south site”.

The MLC centre, which sits at the corner of Martin Place and Castlereagh Street, is located directly opposite the proposed south tower.

In order to build the towers, the bank needs approval from the Department of Planning to increase the maximum floor space possible under the local environmental plan by more than 154,000 square metres, or 54 per cent.

To build the south tower, the bank is asking for a 76 per cent increase to hand it an extra 18,000 square metres of floor space.

It claims the increase is needed “to develop high-quality commercial floor space on an otherwise constrained south site, which if developed under the current controls would produce very small tower floor plates that are not preferred for office uses and would limit the viability of the site.”

But the MLC Centre’s joint owners, property management firms Dexus Funds Management and GPT group, have slammed the increase as “unreasonable and unacceptable.”

They hired prominent architectural firm Harry Seidler and Associates to conduct an analysis of the buildings’ impact on the MLC Centre and to prepare a submission objecting to the proposal. The MLC Centre was designed by Harry Seidler.

According to the submission, which was submitted to the Department of Planning this month, both of the towers will “reduce the amount of sunlight received by the MLC Centre public plaza in the morning, throughout the year” compared with the current situation.

The submission accused the bank of failing to “adequately quantify and address impacts on the [centre]”, despite its close proximity to the proposed south tower.

Macquarie claims its unsolicited proposal will deliver “a single, fully integrated Martin Place Station”, in line with the government’s $20 billion-plus Sydney metro line linking the city’s north-east to Bankstown via Chatswood, the CBD and Sydenham.

Five towers will be demolished at Martin Place to allow for construction of the metro station, which will connect to the existing station.

The bank’s proposal, which is currently being assessed by the department, enables its headquarters at 50 Martin Place to be incorporated into the design of the new station. It also includes an “all-weather” walkway from Martin Place to Hunter Street, with an option to connect further north to O’Connell Street.

“This future development will support the advancement of modern workplaces and resilient office accommodation, improve access to jobs, and strengthen ‘Global Sydney’ as a centre for economic and cultural activity,” the bank’s proposal said.

The MLC Centre’s concerns add to those raised by the City of Sydney and the n Institute of Architects, which lodged separate objections with the planning department earlier this year.

The City claimed the proposal in its current form would result in a “poor urban outcome for Sydney, reducing amenity levels,” while the Institute submitted that such significant developments should be decided through a competitive tender process.

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