The Number 2 Goods Shed in Docklands, near Southern Cross Station, is one of the most significant buildings in Victoria’s rail and industrial history. When it was built in 1889, it was then the longest building in Australia (385 metres, with twenty six doors on the east side and twenty eight on the west side).
Despite its listing on the Victorian Heritage Register, in the early 2000s it was cut in half by the extension of Collins Street into Docklands. To allow for the extension, nine bays in the middle of the Goods Shed were demolished, and since then it has existed in two parts, known as Goods Shed North and Goods Shed South. Modern office buildings were constructed on either side of Collins Street extension (the Pavilion building and the Lantern building at 710 Collins Street and 707 Collins Street) and these provide access down into the retained sheds. The sheds themselves underwent extensive conservation and adaptation between 2006 and 2013 and both now accommodate mainly offices but with some food and beverage retail outlets and a childcare centre.
In 2022 a developer applied to Heritage Victoria for a permit to demolish the two existing modern office buildings on Collins Street and build two larger office towers in their place. This would have involved some demolition, dismantling and reconstruction of Goods Shed North and Goods Shed South to allow for the construction of the new towers, and to accommodate the larger floor plates proposed for the two new towers.
Photo: Museum Victoria
Goods Shed South, taken from Collins Street extension. (Photo: Jeff Atkinson)
Goods Shed North, taken from Collins Street extension. (Photo: Jeff Atkinson)
In its submission to Heritage Victoria opposing the development the RHSV said that, although some reconstruction was proposed to bring the two parts of the shed closer together, this would not compensate for the major changes proposed to the form and character of the building through the need to provide for supports for the twin towers. The RHSV believed that the height and bulk of the two towers would overwhelm the heritage building. In a supplementary submission, the RHSV pointed out that an estimated 19 percent of the length of the goods shed had already been lost to the Collins Street extension and the buildings to the north and south of the street. The new proposal involved a minor extension to the central bay on the southern side of Collins Street and no extension to the central bay to the north. This would bring the total extent of the demolition of the shed to an estimated 41 percent of its original length, with partial reconstruction of only the central bay.
Despite the loss of its middle section, the Number 2 Goods Shed is still the largest and most architecturally elaborate nineteenth century railway building in Victoria. It clearly demonstrates traditional late 19th century goods handling facilities and the role played by Victoria’s railways in the economic development of the State in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The huge scale and grand style of the sheds graphically illustrates the population and economic growth in Victoria during the 1870s and 1880s and the consequent increase in goods traffic. The RHSV considers that a development that involves such an extensive loss of fabric should not be contemplated for such an outstanding State registered building.
Fortunately, in January 2023, the application for redevelopment was refused by Heritage Victoria. Among the reasons given were:
- The demolition and partial reconstruction of additional bays of the Goods Shed on either side of Collins Street would cause substantial visual and physical harm to the cultural heritage significance of the place. It would permanently, irreversibly and further diminish the understanding of the place as Victoria’s longest and most substantial goods shed.
- The construction of two towers on either side of Collins Street would have significant physical and visual impacts on the place. They would further disrupt the already compromised understanding of the visual and physical connections between the north and south sections of the Goods Shed.
- The scale and bulk of the proposed new towers would overwhelm and dominate the Goods Shed and obscure views to the north and south sections from Collins Street.
The RHSV applauds this decision by Heritage Victoria.
Click here to read the RHSV submission.
Click here to read the latest expansion on the RHSV submission.
Click here to read RHSV Heritage Committee President in The Age.