With the advent of high-rise buildings in Melbourne, views of the city from above are now accessible to everyone. And none more so, as Chris Beck discovers, than the residents of MY80 with its spectacular viewing lounge.
One of the most stunning features of Australia’s newest luxury high-rise apartment tower is a communal balcony on the 53rd level with sweeping 180-degree views over Greater Melbourne.
For residents of the recently-completed MY80 building, it’s a favourite spot to check out what’s going on in the city, catch some fresh air and show their friends their exclusive vantage point. And for apartment owner Chi Yan Li, it has even more special appeal.
One of her favourite pastimes is rustling up some snacks and spreading out with friends on the giant beanbags of the communal cinema on a lower floor to watch a movie on the big screen. And her favourite? Sleepless In Seattle, with its famously heart-warming ending … on the observation deck of New York’s Empire State Building.
“I like the romantic movies,” says office worker Chi, 25. “And it’s good to watch them here. The people are friendly and it’s great to come home from work, have all the facilities in the building to use, and feel at home but not alone.”
Those facilities, indeed, were a major selling point of the 54-storey MY80, designed by architects Hayball, for the city corner of Elizabeth and A’Beckett streets. With 487 homes in the building, which opened in September last year, there’s also a raft of lifestyle facilities.
The ground floor is set up for new shops to move in, while Level One has a relaxation and entertainment area, with a 12-metre heated pool and sauna, a residents’ lounge with dining area, and a business centre and the 20-seat cinema.
Then up on Level 53, there’s a sky lounge with European oak floors and ceilings, and minimalist cushioned bench seating lining the walls. There’s also a shared dining room with great views for entertaining, that’s serviced by a bright, funky kitchen with abstract light fittings, a fireplace and – even more inviting – a climate-controlled wine cellar.
Such ‘breakout areas’ allow residents to mix and mingle, and tend to encourage a strong sense of community. It’s that kind of friendly atmosphere that’s particularly cherished by MY80’s residents, many of whom were born overseas, in China, Malyasia, Singapore and Hong Kong, before coming to Melbourne for work or study.
Resident building manager Jeffrey Mok sees it as part of his role to help younger residents, some of whom are living away from their parental home, and sometimes country, for the first time.
After a career devoted to hospitality, including several years at the Grand Hyatt in Collins Street and the Sebel in Dockland, he’s found that apartment buildings may have similar amenities to hotels, but there is a clear difference in the managerial roles.
“When I worked in hotels, I managed guests and travellers who booked out after one or two nights,” says Jeffrey, 29, who’s lived in apartments all his adult life as he loves their practicality, cosiness, ease of living, and lack of lawns to mow.
“Now I build relationships with owners, residents and tenants as the face of the building and its community. There’s another difference too. There’s a saying about working in hotels, ‘The customer is always right’. But in a residential building the residents are not always right! There are always some rules for everyone.”
As a caretaker-manager, it’s also meant, for the first time in his career, that Jeffrey lives and works in the same place, which took a short while to adjust to.
“I am always at work,” he says, “As soon as I walk downstairs there are people asking me questions. It’s like I’m famous but no-one asks me for an autograph!”
That easy warmth won over student and barista Luca Cislaghi Lanzi, who lived in Fairfield before moving into MY80 to be closer to his college and his job.
“It’s great, and the building’s also made me more popular with my friends because they come to my place for for drinks before a night out in the city,” Luca, 21, says.
They can then all enjoy themselves at their choice of bars, cinemas and pubs in the vicinity without worrying about the scarcity of taxis or when the last train leaves from Flinders Street. “And I never tire of the night skyline from the window of my 30th floor apartment,” Luca says. “There is no comparison, no parallel.”
Joshua Kaw, 27, the chairman of the Body Corporate, bought his apartment three years ago off the plan as the first home he’s ever bought. Sometimes he misses the birdsongs of suburbia at his family’s home in Mitcham, 21km away from the CBD, but he loves the excitement of city life.
In compensation, Joshua, who works at a nearby ASIC office, points out he has the pick of more than 470 hectares of parkland, including tennis courts, around the city to spend quality rest and recreation time at lunchtime, after work and at weekends. It also means he spends far less time travelling between work and home.
“One of the main advantages of living and working in the city is that I have more time to sleep,” he says.
That makes living in the city centre now extremely attractive for a huge cross-section of people, believes LJ Hooker City Residential real estate agent Nay Baek.
I wouldn’t live anywhere else but in the city. For me, it means I don’t need a car,” says Nay, 30. “The demand for quality apartments is high in Melbourne. I’m now leasing out a two-bedroom corner apartment on Level 15, and they’re particularly sought after in MY80 because of the abundance of natural light.”
The tower’s position, close to Melbourne University, RMIT and city colleges, also makes it popular with academics and students alike. It’s quickly gained a reputation, too, for being very well-maintaned.
That’s a matter of some pride for Ravi Patel, 26, who has been scrubbing, dusting and vacuuming the MY80 Building on weekends since it opened. He relishes working there as part of the team keeping up appearances.
“We clean other buildings but people are very nice and friendly here,” he says. “They seem to trust us and have confidence in us. It’s a good experience.”
That’s echoed by Andrew Holgate, who’s just moved back to Melbourne after 20 years in Sydney, when he sold his business last year. On the 46th floor of MY80, high above the rumble of city traffic, the audiologist enjoys a magnificent view of the wonders of nature instead.
“I get to see the storms rolling in over the bay,” he says. “It’s also so close to everything, and just a short walk to the Victoria Market. If I want to go out for dinner I walk across the road and there are six or seven restaurants to choose from.”
A former trainer with St Kilda Football Club in the 1980s, “when we won five wooden spoons in a row”, Andrew, 58, regularly catches the free tram to Ethiad Stadium on a Friday night to enjoy a game. His plan was originally to rent in MY80 for a year in the city, to have a good break from the stress of running a business and think about he wanted to do in the future.
Now, he says, the experience has been so enjoyable, he will probably sign on for another year, enjoy city living and look out at that amazing view – either from his own apartment, or from that magnificent communal balcony above.