Ambitious plans to revamp popular Jam Factory



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The popular, but rundown, Jam Factory restaurant and entertainment precinct in Melbourne’s South Yarra will be gutted and rebuilt as a glitzy 15-storey, $1.25 billion retail and office complex under ambitious plans put forward by owner Newmark Capital.
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The landmark site on Chapel Street near the corner of Toorak Road will be transformed into a network of laneways with shops and restaurants on the lower levels, a central public square, and seven individual office buildings housing up to 5000 workers.

The new centre’s open, central public plaza will wrap around the historic factory chimney, now enclosed by the Jam Factory building.

It will cost $450 million to construct and be finished by 2020 if Newmark’s plans get a tick of approval from local Stonnington council and residents.

South Yarra’s Forrest Hill precinct nearby has been the centre of an apartment development boom over the past decade, but other projects along Chapel Street have proved more controversial drawing opposition from local residents.

The Jam Factory became a drawcard for film buffs in the 1990s when it was revamped to include a Village Roadshow multiplex, a feature that will also be key in the new complex.

Despite multiple attempts from different owners to reshape it, the centre languished with some tenants moving out.

The most recent departure was British retail giant Topshop which opened its first n store – covering 1300 square metres – in the Jam Factory in 2011.

Newmark project director Jonathan Bradhurst said the Jam Factory’s latest revamp, the most ambitious to date, was deliberately focused on providing offices rather than more residential towers.

“What is missing here are places for people to work close to where they live,” he said.

The Jam Factory’s current configuration was “compromised”.

“We’re the only ones who have proposed a complete transformation and rebuild. We will be making a place that is suited and focused on the 21st century with knowledge workers, people who live here and shop here,” he said.

About 50,000 square metres of office space spread across seven different sized buildings with floor plates up to 4000 sq m in size are planned for the site.

A similar size space will be devoted to shops and restaurants on the lower levels while the basement will have fresh food outlets and a supermarket connected to a 1300 space carpark.

The new design was attracting potential tenants. “We already have interest from some of the bigger players,” Mr Bradhurst said.

The size of the site, nearly two hectares, will allow development and construction to be contained onsite and not spill over onto Chapel Street.

Newmark Capital, a property fund run by Simon Morris and ex-Hawthorn AFL legend Chris Langford, last year purchased the Como Centre on the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel Street in a $236.5 million deal.

The smaller Como complex includes offices, shops, a hotel and car park.