Construction starts on Melbourne’s Younghusband in Kensington

Younghusband in Kensington heritage site.

Three developers have begun construction on Melbourne’s Younghusband in Kensington heritage site to upgrade it into a carbon-neutral adaptive reuse precinct.

Built, Ivanhoé Cambridge and Irongate joined forces last year to acquire the historic woolshed site and have since been working on upgrading plans to improve the design and sustainability aspects of the 1.57-hectare precinct.

Built Managing Director and CEO Brett Mason said tenants are being sought for stage one, which offers first-mover advantage in the Macaulay precinct and flexible floor plates.

“Younghusband will create Melbourne’s largest carbon-neutral adaptive reuse precinct, reimagining and revitalising one of the city’s largest heritage sites and creating a connected and sustainable destination for work and play,” Mr Mason said.

“With a design and construction principles guided by sustainability and heritage preservation from the ground-up, Younghusband will create an environment where the past is respected and engineered for a sustainable future.”

Designed by Woods Bagot, the upgraded precinct will deliver a destination village that blends office and retail with a focus on sustainability and urban regeneration.

Stage one of the plans preserve and showcase the heritage of the 122-year-old architecture of the two existing woolsheds, while transforming them into 17,560 square metres of office space. It will include the addition of a new town centre, village-style food and beverage offerings and an activated retail laneway.

The first two stages of the project have received planning approval, with construction underway on the first stage ahead of a mid-2024 completion.

Stage two will include a further 14,000 square metres of net lettable area across two new buildings. This includes a new-build contemporary office building with a permeable curved façade spanning seven levels, and an adjoining glass-clad extension with hipped roofs.

A third stage, pending approval, is proposed for the corner of Chelmsford and Elizabeth Streets, featuring a further 13,300 square metres of office space across a six-level building with cascading greenery and a large public zone.

Younghusband is set to achieve high sustainability targets when completed, including 5.5 Star NABERS Office Energy (Base Building), 4.5 Star NABERS Water, 6-star Green Star Design, WELL Core v2 Gold and WELL Platinum, as well as being fully carbon neutral.

Rodney Fung, Head of Portfolio and Asset Management, Asia-Pacific, at Ivanhoé Cambridge, said the company is pleased to be a part of the sustainable development.

“The beginning of the construction of this mixed-use project is tangible evidence that Australia is a key part of our commitment to making all our development projects net-zero carbon from 2025,” said Mr Fung.

Woods Bagot Principal Peter Miglis said the redevelopment would restore the iconic red brick exteriors of the warehouses and their hipped roofs, with minimal changes to façades.

“For generations, these buildings have been impenetrable heritage monuments that people couldn’t access,” said Mr Miglis. “This design flings open that history for the first time, creating a community asset and modern workplace that utilises an incredible location and the demand for authentic, contemporary office environments.”

“Sustainability might have been challenging to achieve for existing buildings in the past, but our approach has taken into account the retention of existing materials to reduce waste, the use of sustainable new materials where required and 100 per cent renewable energy including rooftop solar, battery storage and no gas.”

Younghusband was built in 1901 at the height of Victoria’s wool trade, when Australia was the world’s largest producer of wool. While it was built by wool sellers R Goldsborough Row and Co, it was wool broking agent Younghusband & Co who gave the site its name and remained there in operation until the 1970’s.

Since those heady wool days, Younghusband has seen a variety of uses and, in more recent decades, has housed arts and creative businesses as well as the Australian Ballet’s various goods.

Irongate CEO Graeme Katz said the refreshed development team had rebalanced the commerciality of the project to ensure its delivery to market.

“Younghusband is one of Melbourne’s boldest and biggest adaptive reuse projects that needs to balance the requirements of community, commerciality and heritage carefully,” said Mr Katz. “Getting this right is of upmost importance and has resulted in the rebalancing of the scheme, which we believe strikes the right balance and will produce a successful asset for both the community and investors for years to come.”

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