Written on the 17 August 2015

IT'S one of Melbourne's quirkiest urban renewal projects, and for architectural firm ClarkeHopkinsClarke it has been a balancing act between a sense of history and purposeful design.

The once degraded red-brick buildings of the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital are being restored through a $500 million urban renewal project that will transform the former mental asylum into a vibrant mixed-use development.

Stage one of the development, The Village Centre, was completed and opened last year.

Now developer Deal Corporation is about to launch the Stellar Townhouses and Capella Apartments in the emerging precinct dubbed Polaris 3083.

The project, adjacent to La Trobe University, aims to capitalise on strong growth expected in Bundoora which is set for a 48 per cent population increase over the next 12 years.

Yet, for ClarkeHopkinsClarke partner Robert Goodliffe, the brief has been as much about keeping an eye on the past as it is about creating an urban landscape of the future.

"This historic site has a unique sense of character that will be reimagined in an exciting new context and richly woven into a contemporary urban fabric," says Goodliffe.

"Preserving the heritage buildings and existing trees has been important for lending a sense of an established neighbourhood to what is essentially a brand new development.

"This historic site bounding La Trobe University and abundant parkland has a unique sense of character that will be reimagined in an exciting new context and richly woven into a contemporary urban fabric."

Larundel Psychiatric Hospital operated from 1953 until the early 90s, when the property fell into disrepair.

For more than 15 years the neglected mental asylum site had been a stomping ground for trespassing urban explorers, intrigued by the history of the abandoned buildings.

Deal Corporation is restoring five of Larundel's original red brick buildings, with four of these being repurposed into apartments, and the remaining building readapted as a community centre.

Stage one consists of 64 apartments as well as cafes, restaurants and retailers including Woolworths and Dan Murphy's.

Further expansion is underway with more retailers, medical, childcare and recreational facilities to come, as well as a community park.

When completed, Polaris 3083 will comprise 1100 townhouses and apartments.






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