Twisted skyscraper makes way for straight design on Franklin Street

It was a bold plan for the building at 97 Franklin Street in Melbourne.

The proposed tower was to twist into the sky like a stack of Jenga blocks while giving neighbouring buildings "elbow room", architects Hassell said at the time that this 62-storey skyscraper was approved.

97 Franklin Street

But instead, in its place will be this.

New design for 97 Franklin St.

When former planning minister, now Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy approved the original design, officers at the planning department found that it would create a "simple but compelling landmark building".

The new plan for the site, however, will create a far simpler tower that is likely to be regarded as just another CBD tower.

The skyscraper to replace the "Jenga tower" will include more than 600 student apartments and 142 "city living" units for short stays.

They will be operated by accommodation provider Scape, which is planning to build hundreds of student apartments in Melbourne's CBD. Scape has student accommodation projects in Sydney and Brisbane too and has established itself as a big player in the fast-growing sector.

The proposed Franklin Street building breaks new rules for towers set last year by Planning Minister Richard Wynne because it is too dense for the site, but the developer can bypass this by offering office space in the building's lower levels as a "public benefit".

The Age understands that builders told developers behind the 'Jenga tower' that it could not be built for its $190 million estimated price tag. The developer had sold the site with Mr Guy's development approval in 2016 for $56 million.

Melbourne City Council will next week decide whether to recommend to Mr Wynne to approve the pared back $150 million plan on Franklin Street, the work of local architects Denton Corker Marshall.

The site is near the corner of Elizabeth Street, where a forest of towers has risen.

It is wedged between a 55-level tower now under construction on A'Beckett Street and a 67-storey skyscraper on Elizabeth Street. Both were approved by Mr Guy.

Mr Wynne said the changes made to the city's planning controls in 2016 would "spell an end to free-for-all approvals" compromising the CBD skyline.

The city council will consider the project at its meeting on Tuesday night. Officers at the council have recommended the Planning Minister approve the proposal.

This story Twisted skyscraper makes way for straight design on Franklin Street first appeared on The Age.