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Profit Over Parking

Artist impression of proposed development at Serpells Lane

At a Boroondara Council meeting on 13 November 2023, Councillors agreed to sell Serpells Lane carpark, located next to Glenferrie Station at 399 Burwood Road, Hawthorn (the Property) to Swinburne University by private treaty for $16 million. Council will now finalise negotiations with the university.

Last year, on 25 July 2022, Council explained that they “initiated the Serpells Lane Strategic Property Project, which included rezoning and exploring potential sale of the Property. Subsequently, Council was approached by Swinburne, which led to an offer being received to purchase the Property.”

Boroondara Council-owned Serpells Lane carpark is 2,950sqm and currently provides 89 open air car parking spaces including two disabled spaces, three loading zone spaces and one Flexi-car space. Traffic analysis reports by Council showed that the Serpells Lane carpark is mostly used by people associated with Swinburne University and that the public use 29-32 spaces.

On this basis on 25 September 2023, when Councillors resolved to to give notice of its intention to sell the Property to Swinburne and call for submissions on the proposed sale, the sale included a Section 173 Agreement stipulating that Swinburne are to make an additional 37 spaces available for community use in its car park.

Community engagement was conducted from 3-17 October and invited submissions about the sale, Council received 109 submissions:

81 (74.1%) opposed the proposed sale of the carpark.

21 (19.4%) supported the proposed sale of the carpark.

4 (3.7%) considered mixed.

3 (2.8%) considered neutral.

At the Council meeting on 13 November 2023, twelve local residents spoke in opposition of the sale and a Swinburne representative spoke in favour. Ultimately, a majority of six councillors voted 'for' and three 'against' the sale of the property to Swinburne, however two councillors were absent and did not vote. Arguing against, Glenferrie Ward Cr Wes Gault highlighted the Boroondara Council's Property Holding Principle that says “Assets will only be considered for disposal where there is no clear Council or community need for that asset in the foreseeable future.”

Cr Gault and some other Councillors questioned if this principle had been followed in this instance and if all options for community use of the land had been considered thoroughly.

Representations to Council by Swinburne University about the future development of the property included a concept design for approximately a ten-storey building. A spokesperson for Swinburne confirmed that “The new high-tech teaching, research and student spaces on Serpells Lane will enhance educational opportunities for students, staff and the community” and that “the decision by Boroondara Council was the first step in the process and Swinburne is excited about engaging with the local community as planning progresses.”

With regards to parking alternatives, they stated “Swinburne is committed to ensuring any future development will provide at least the same number of carparks as is available from the Serpells Lane carpark today.” It is unclear if the 37 parking spaces will be incorporated into the proposed new development or at another site.

The university claims that “the future redevelopment of Serpells Lane will provide continued economic and social benefits to Glenferrie, with students, staff and visitors to campus frequenting local businesses.”

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