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Big Percy St development plan

THE development boom in Portland is poised to move into the business sector with plans finally on display for a prime site on Percy St.

A planning application has been lodged with Glenelg Shire Council for a mixed-use development at 55-57 Percy St (between Planet Kaos and Voyage Surf, Ski and Skate and in behind the latter shop) that would contain two buildings containing two retail shops (which could be converted to four) in one, two offices in the other and six apartments of between one and three bedrooms spread over the upper levels of both buildings.

The $4.9 million proposal is the brainchild of the Percyland Partnership, which is under contract to buy the land from the council. The land went under contract in late 2020 so the council is still the owner.

 Councillors voted in May last year to sell the 2779 square metre block for an undisclosed price on condition a planning permit would be issued for a proposal such as that planned, but which also needed formal access from the Aldi/Uniting Church car park next door.

“The site is one of only two substantial areas of vacant commercial land in the town centre (the other area being the land at 115-117 Henty St to the west of the Catholic Church),” the planning application says.

“The proposal will provide increased choice and diversity for tenancy opportunities for small retail businesses, commercial start-ups, small consultancies, and other businesses.

“The proposal will provide increase choice and diversity for households in Portland, particularly one-person and two-person households. The proposal will result in the highest and best use of the vacant land.”

It shows a driveway to be built from Percy St to access the retailers and dwellings, while the laneway to the east of Quest Portland on Julia St would also be used to access the office building at the back of the block.

It is actually the third proposal to build apartments at the site, and while a permit is required to build it is also needed for the reduction in minimum carparking spaces at the site – under local planning laws 55 spaces are required for the office and retail component of the development, but just 14 are provided.

The planning application says it would not be economic to provide the 55 spaces on site

“The primary development constraint for the site is the challenge to achieve the optimum number of on-site car parking spaces, balanced against the on-street parking demand in the central business district of Portland, with this being balanced against the optimum net yield of the site, and the net community benefit of unlocking the economic and social potential of the undeveloped land,” it says.

There will also be 10 spaces for public bicycle parking.

Public car parking was the issue raised when the matter first came up in 2017, with the land a possibility to be used in that capacity.

But a council report for the May 2020 meeting said that while the Aldi and Uniting Church car park was sometimes full “this only occurs on a few occasions throughout the year”.

“There are significant additional car parks available within a reasonable walking distance to the precinct (including) Hurd St and Henty St as well as the council-owned part of the car park behind Woolworths,” the report said.

If more parking was required in the future, the council owned a large parcel of land next to the IGA car park that could be developed.

Former councillor Geoff White, when speaking at last year’s council meeting, said the council had owned the blocks for several years after buying them off the Aitken family.

“We held the property for some time with the aspiration that the right purchaser would come along with the right proposals at the right time with the right sale price and that’s happened,” he said.

The 55 Percy St site last had buildings on it about 10 years ago, when the BF Aitken and Co furniture store was located there, while the land behind Voyage has been vacant for many years.

The council will not decide on the application before Monday.

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