DEMOLITION DERBY

By ROBERTO CHUTER

As a follow up to my last article, “Threatening A House With A History“, there have been some fearful updates not to mention a potential demolition derby. The developer Nick McKimm’s representative recently requested an adjournment at VCAT to represent amendments for the development of 1-5 Tiuna Grove, Elwood into a monolith of 19 apartments. So, apparently to stay within the guidelines of No. 3 and No. 5’s interim heritage overlay the new plans are to be presented at VCAT later this year.

The plans are as equally horrible as the previous ones. Perhaps worse. The development proposes retaining the facades and the front two rooms of each house demolishing the rest and replacing with smaller footprint double storey additions. There is then a massive building which wraps around the two properties on the left and rear. “This monstrosity has no relationship to the surrounding environment. May as well stick a skyscraper in!” wrote a Tiuna Grove resident and St. Kilda artist Josie Wadelton stated “These Heritage sites must be preserved at all costs.” “Elwood needs to be able to breathe – there is no air left with over-population of apartments and too little regard of local residents. The scale of development utterly inappropriate to neighbourhood,” stated another local.

Now, you would expect that VCAT, the City of Port Phillip and the developers, knowing that there are now 2,300 (and climbing) signatures on the petition against this development, surely there is a realisation that the residents and the wider community do not want this development in their community. Why aren’t they listening? The residents and the community , I repeat, do not want this disaster to occur in their community. It’s a pretty clear message.

“As a resident of Elwood, just a few streets from this development, I’m gobsmacked that such a monolithic, monstrous building that lacks any empathy for neighbourhood character and impact on its surrounding residents, buildings and streets would even be considered…” stated another longtime local with a firm passion.

Is it just all about developers’ profit and greed? If so, haven’t they stuffed their wallets enough already in Elwood. So many beautiful and unique dwellings vanishing virtually overnight.

And what about the historical and cultural significance of these properties, in particular No. 3? Facades will suffice? Really? I think not. Aesthetically, these two beautiful homes are excellent examples of post First World War in the bungalow’s style and are of great value to the Heritage of Elwood and the greater City of Port Phillip and for future generations. Minor changes have occurred to both of these two homes but these are relatively small and reversible, and have not impacted upon their importance and significance whatsoever.

“‘Heritage’ is what you end up with AFTER you save anything that is historic and that is building, streets-cape and trees.” wrote an objectioner.

In particular, the destruction of the rest of the No. 3 dwelling conflicts with the Heritage requirements surely? The former dining room, has always been known as ‘The Red Room” since the early 20s, it has been painted over white during the intervening years but was faithfully restored to its original colour in the mid-90s under the then lessee, well-known playwright Julia Britton. It has now recently been repainted over again (yes, in white), most likely to make it more conservative and/or more saleable to buyers by recent owners. This precious room has nurtured, created and played host to many historical and cultural events over the last hundred years. Too numerous to mention. From discussions about the current political scene, war, to art and painting, to theatre, to filmmaking and radio, to poetry and was a room that magically inspired and bore many famous stage plays, films, music and art throughout the 90s and 00s. It became a legendary room amongst the Melbourne artistic community. Designed beautifully by the architects Richardson & Wood in c. 1912 (dates vary to 1917) in a mock Tudor style highlighted with wooden beams and stunning panelling, this room needs to be preserved.

At the exterior, ajoing The Red Room’s large bay window, it features an authentic verandah in which the famous artist Mirka Mora and Britton once sat together, one afternoon, in blue deck chairs, nibbling green grapes and sipping from small bottles of soda water. Many years later the legendary La Mama Theatre staged an extraordinary open air theatre production entitled “The Murderer’s Barbeque” in the rear garden of No. 3 for the Elwood residents and the general public to see. And did they see. The seven performances were entirely packed out – even during a thunderstorm and downpour one particular evening. The production garnered a number of award nominations for its actor and its genesis at No. 3. This authentic, untouched Australian back garden/yard, its ancient Canary Palm tree and verandah is proposed to be ravaged, the old tree relocated.

Locals JT of Elwood said “The destruction of both these valuable houses must be should be totally protected. What is the Port Phillip council doing?” Karen Boyle added “The minute the neighbours see demolition vehicles approaching put the word out… there will be many happy to protest with a chain, padlock and a muesli bar to keep us going as long as it takes!” and lastly Sonny Day remarked “(A) beautiful house. If all else fails we chain ourselves to the front.”

The final hearing for this inappropriate development is scheduled at VCAT for 7 days from 2-10 December. Please have your say and help rescue part of our precious and vanishing heritage. It is simple to object but it is urgent, so go to the link below and submit. Hopefully, future generations can stroll down Tiuna Grove, past these two wonderful properties and say: “Thank God, they saved these beautiful homes”. We do need to save Elwood for over development, especially in one of Elwood’s most historical streets, Tiuna Grove.