Melbourne has an abundance small commercial and mixed-use buildings stretched along our beloved tram routes. Many of these lend great heritage character and appeal to the streetscape, but behind the facade are poorly maintained, inaccessible and in some cases even dangerous. The owner of this 19th-Century shop in Hawthorn asked us to replace the existing building with a larger and more flexible retail tenancy that complied with today’s higher standards of accessibility and workplace health and safety. At the same time we were asked to investigate the economic and regulatory feasibility of additional development on the narrow site.

In consultation with Construction Planning and Economics and WSC Planning we investigated options including up to four apartments above the ground floor shop. Ultimately it was decided that the best financial investment was to build a single dwelling above, with access from a rear laneway. This allowed us to comply with all the heritage and town planning requirements, while developing the site in a cost effective manner. The generous apartment is a simple but effective space, flooded with natural light. The exposed back face of the retained heritage facade gives character to a great private terrace at the front, while the offset brick staircase and cedar-clad rear gate help to give a sense of address to the dwelling.

Downstairs, the retail unit was designed as a shell with required essential services, to be fitted out by the tenant (design by others). Builders Rodine Australia were great to work with, delivering the project with efficiency and professionalism in a short timeframe.

Shop Top House

  • Year: 2014
  • Location: Hawthorn
  • Builder: Rodine Australia
  • Photos: Matt Irwin Photography + Jim Stewart + Katie Skillington

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