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Why Melbourne Is The World's Most Liveable City - Part 3: The Arts

Domain, Joanne Brookfield - Published December 2015


There’s a famous adage in real estate: location, location, location. “While filming The Block, I saw first-hand how people were prepared to compromise on house size and numbers of bedrooms just to live in an area which they felt connected to or loved,” Steve O’Donnell, one of the winners of the reality renovation TV series says.

O’Donnell, with then-girlfriend Chantelle Ford, won The Block Fans v Faveslast year. Their renovated Albert Park apartment sold for $2.47 million, setting the series record at the time for both highest sale price and most profit, earning $636,000 above their reserve.

As a contestant on the Channel Nine series, he had no say in the location of the apartment block chosen, but in real life O’Donnell’s location of choice is St Kilda.

When he moved there eight years ago, it was to be close to Fitzroy Street, where he worked at the time.

“[Now] I couldn’t imagine a better place to live,” he says. “There’s a vibrancy to St Kilda that comes from having a diverse range of characters from all walks of life, but the pace is quite chilled and free flowing.”

Actor Bev Killick, who regularly tours Australia performing stand-up comedy, has lived in St Kilda for more than two decades and raised both her children there. “St Kilda is a creative hub with many and varied artists choosing to live here. I’m one of probably 20 or 30 even comedians who have placed their children at St Kilda Primary. You never have to travel far to see a mate or fellow performer for a meet up,” she says.

Killick doesn’t drive, and enjoys the fact that St Kilda’s many lifestyle and entertainment options are all within walking distance.

“You can have dinner on Fitzroy St or Acland St, take a short stroll to Theatre Works to catch a show, have an after show wind-down drink at The Vineyard and an ice-cream for the walk home via the beach – you’re just getting started. Then plop into bed knowing you can rise to the smell of the perfect coffee and pastry waiting for you less than a minute away, stroll along the Esplanade Markets, a bike ride along the beach, and a catch up with friends at yet another cafe,” she says of what a typical weekend in the seaside suburb can offer.

Matt Steadman works in radio and has lived in the area for 16 years. He enjoys the “social diversity, proximity to the city, awesome public transport, the beach in the summer, and the fact that it’s probably the best-known suburb of Melbourne around the world”.

Fitzroy Street, arguably the suburb’s best-known strip, with its mix of retail, restaurants, cafes and bars, has a new residential development planned to maximise these lifestyle options. Pace Development Group is transforming the former site of the Australian Institute of Management building into 160 apartments.

“181 Fitzroy Street was one of the most sought-after development sites when we bought it. Most notable about the site is the stunning views across Albert Park Lake, to the CBD and Port Phillip Bay – views that are not only spectacular now, but will also never be built out due to the huge 2.25 square kilometres of Albert parklands and lake,” Pace managing director Shane Wilkinson says.

“It’s a great position and what more do you need there in terms of that inner-suburban lifestyle?” Domain group senior economist Andrew Wilson says of the location. He says St Kilda’s prospects are “very, very positive”, especially as demand grows with people being priced out of neighbouring suburbs.

“I think that St Kilda has been a bit of a sleeper, it’s squashed in between Elwood and St Kilda West, and those two areas have been among the strongest growing suburbs in Melbourne over the last two years,” he says. “We’ve seen so much gentrification in inner-city Melbourne and I think St Kilda is a bit of a no-brainer really,” he says.

Wilkinson says 181 Fitzroy is pitched to “professionals and people who enjoy real luxury”. The building, designed by SJB Architects, with interiors by Carr Design, will be 10 storeys tall with two street frontages and is designed to “gracefully recede” from the street. Levels one to six will extend out to the property’s boundary, while levels eight and nine will be set back to take full advantage of the views.

“It was really important for the design of 181 Fitzroy Street to be an artistic design in keeping with the Art Deco facade of the grand St Kilda surrounding buildings,” Wilkinson says.  “The Fitzroy Street facade I think is perfectly respectful to the history of St Kilda, also with inspiration from Soho/New York. The Pattison Street facade has a more residential personality, and almost a vertical garden feel, and incorporates an Urban Art installation by Matthew Johnson,” he says.

All residents will be able access the rooftop infinity pool and lounge, and the views that level will have of Albert Park Lake and the city. Residents will also have “concierge amenities like messaging service, cold, dry and frozen stores and considered extras like ice machines on the upper levels and two share cars,” Wilkinson says.

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