It is a pretty safe bet to assume that Sunday’s annual general meeting (scheduled for 2.30 pm) is going to be one of the most massively attended in the Greek Community of Melbourne’s recent history, especially given that it will be preceded by a special meeting on the ‘Bulleen project’ at 1.00 pm. Both meetings will take place at at The Andrianakos Centre at Alphington Grammar.
As stated in the notice addressed to the GCM members, the purpose of the special meeting is to approve and adopt the proposed motion regarding the development of the Community’s property in Bulleen:
“In accordance with Section 45 of its Articles Association, the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria agrees to the sale of the land known as Lot 1 on the proposed Plan of Subdivision PS748634K being part of the land known as 49 Greenaway Street, Bulleen, Victoria and more particularly described as Lot 1 on Title Plan TP680239D and being the land contained in Certificate of Title Volume 7940 Folio 190”.
This meeting hopes to settle once and for all the looming debate over the property, which has been the cause of dispute for 30-odd years, reportedly costing more than $500,000 in consultant reports alone.
The announced project will allow the usage and exploitation of the site, bringing in funds by the sale of one-sixth of the site for $11 million, but also the building of a new ‘Greek Centre on the Yarra’ (designed by Billy Kavellaris of the acclaimed KUD architects), which will host aged care facilities, schools, community and function spaces, retail and hospitality spaces and sporting fields.
The GCM announcement was met with enthusiasm by the majority of its members, but also among the broader Greek community, however, there are some who remain in opposition.
Former members of the Community board, such as Leonidas Argiropoulos and Apostolos Kounelis, have been vocal about the issue, buying space in Neos Kosmos to present their views. They are both in favour of exploitation, but insist on delaying any action, in order to thoroughly examine every alternative.
More importantly, they claim that behind the board’s proposal lies its desire to sell the property in order to pay out the $6 million loan it took out for the construction of the Greek Centre on Lonsdale Street, something the GCM dismisses. Speaking to Neos Kosmos, GCM president Bill Papastergiadis said on the subject:
“The centre is fully leased and the annual rental of approximately $1 million. This easily services the loan. The loan as publicly declared is approx $5.9m and is easily serviced by the annual rental. In addition, we have retained an extra floor (a fifth floor) which could be leased for $120,000 per annum that we have not rented. Hence the total amount of rent exceeds $1.1m per annum. This is well above what was expected.” This is supported by the GCM financial report which was made public and is part of the AGM agenda.
As for the Bulleen project, the GCM board claims that, in order to allow the realisation of the proposed facility, a solution needs to be found regarding the removal of the overlays on almost 2.35 hectares of the site.
This work has now led to a comprehensive proposal for the redevelopment of the entire site that will see the sale of 1.22 hectares (approximately one-fifth of the site) for no less than $11,000,000. This has been part of lengthy negotiations with the state government, resulting in the sale being conditional upon:
a) The gifting to the state of approximately 2.19 hectares of the site (approximately one-third of the site) to be converted into wetlands to feed the Yarra River as well as a bike path along the river’s banks (‘wetland’). This land cannot ever be rezoned to mixed use because of flood risk.
b) The relevant authorities removing all the overlays on 2.35 hectares of the site and convert it into a ‘Mixed Use Zone’, the most versatile zone available. The overlays which will be removed include, as part of the negotiated outcome, the cost of the earthworks associated with the creation of the wetlands, estimated at $2 million, will not be borne by the GCM.
Among those opposed to the proposed plan is renowned architect and town planner Epaminondas (Peter) Tsitas, who had been involved in past design projects about the Bulleen property.
“I argue that the new Greek Centre on the Yarra, as presented by KUD Architects, is not the best solution for our property in Bulleen,” reads Mr Tsitas’ statement.
“The current proposal seeks to make $11 million from the sale of over half of the usable area on the site. The land that has been allocated for sale will significantly block the line of sight to the proposed building from Bulleen Road. This will negatively impact the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) centre with reduced exposure to the general public. The GCM will have created a ‘landmark’ building at significant cost only for it to be hidden and out-developed from view within a few years of completion.”
The design concept by Peter Tsitas and Associates is presented in other pages of this edition.