The owners of a North Fitzroy supermarket who want to redevelop the property and surrounding buildings into a seven-storey mixed use development say it will reinvigorate the local community and that the size of it would be much more modest than if another developer had the job.
Piedimonte’s Supermarket, along with eight adjacent retail properties, would be redeveloped as part of a $45 million project that would include 89 apartments on top of a retail component incorporating a revamped supermarket.
But vocal residents are concerned the proposal would not only spoil the area’s character and heritage, but set a precedent for other developers.
The supermarket was previously a wholesale butcher which Giuseppe Piedimonte and his wife Anna turned into an Italian delicatessen in 1958. It has since expanded and continues to be operated today by the family’s second and third generations.
The Victorian and interwar period shops form part of the 3715-square-metre site at 27-45 Best Street and 102-114 Scotchmer Street. The buildings will be partially demolished, with their facades retained, to make way for a five-storey and a seven-storey building.
The former J Fisher and Co. motor engineers workshop at 31 Best Street, built in 1926 and heritage-listed with the Yarra City Council, is one of those shops, and will be converted to an 877-square-metre bottle shop.
Joseph Piedimonte, director of Piedimonte’s Supermarket, told Commercial Real Estate that the family decided to redevelop the site as they saw it as “a long-term benefit to the area”.
“We still want to maintain the heritage side of the supermarket, the look and feel, but we also realise that we need to improve our offer so that we can continue into the future rather than being reactive,” he said.
The new supermarket will include a wine cellar and a three-level underground car park.
But 11-year resident Fred Purcell, from the Fitzroy North Residents Action Group, believes the redevelopment would damage the character of the historic precinct.
“In Fitzroy North, most of the shopfronts are two-storey where this is a seven-storey building overshadowing pretty much the whole village,” he said.
“A strong aspect of Fitzroy North is those single-fronted shopfronts that you walk from one to one whereas this is going to be dominated by one big facility.”
The scale of the development and height of the buildings were another concern.
“There are strong concerns about the precedent of a seven-storey building going into the middle of this village,” Mr Purcell said.
“The compromises to heritage value open up the opportunity for a lot more development in that area to then just continue to ruin the fabric of Fitzroy North (and) what’s iconic for that area.”
Fellow action group member Maya Park said the group was not opposed to development.
“But this proposal is too big, too high and too inconsistent for this community,” she said.
But Mr Piedimonte said they had been “extremely sensitive to the area”.
“We think that if it was someone else, it may be a completely different picture that residents are looking at.”
Peter Brook, from Peddle Thorp Architects, which are heading up the project, said they were exploring “different options of scale”, but didn’t see the proposed buildings to be too high.
“In the area, there are a few higher buildings much higher than this, and I think the client has been very conscious of trying to not push it to some of the limits that you see around the suburb now,” he said.
He added that the design was likely to be changed along the way.
“What we’ve done is put in a planning application and we’re involved in a consultation process that we’re very serious about and we expect feedback to come back from that process.”
Mr Brook said he wasn’t surprised the community had reacted this way but believed change in older suburbs was “inevitable, given the way the city is developing”.
“We’re conscious that some of the passionate (rejections) are about people finding change a bit threatening and I think it’s up to us to really convince people that we can manage that in an effective way.”
A spokesperson for the City of Yarra Council said they had received more than 100 objections to the plans as of this week, confirming that a decision would be made “likely early in the new year”.