Phil Borelli celebrating 40 years

November 2017

As a founding director of SJB Planning, Phil Borelli studied at RMIT and completed a Diploma of Applied Science (Town Planning) (Hons) in 1981.  He studied part-time while working with the then Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW). In its Southern Depot, located in Warrigal Road, Moorabbin, he quickly demonstrated his considerable capabilities.

By 1982, Phil was part of a new Ministry of Planning where he worked under the late Evan Walker and his Department Secretary, David Yencken, and led an inner area team which would, amongst other projects, prepare the first Structure Plan for Southbank – the plan which laid the foundations for its transformation from the inner industrial blight it was on the south side of the Yarra to the vibrant and populous place that it is today.

It wasn’t too long before Phil’s talents were recognized and rewarded with promotion. He was soon advising the Minister on Central City Planning matters and implementing a relatively new and innovative central city planning scheme.  In the second half of the 1980s, he was assessing a significant number of major office building projects and lending his support to the City of Melbourne’s Postcode 3000 initiative; it was designed to promote the CBD as a great place to live and build the vibrancy of city after hours.

Ready for a new challenge, Phil moved into the private sector in 1989.  He responded to a curious newspaper advertisement for an in-house planner at a well-regarded architectural practice; the name of which would be later revealed as Synman Justin Bialek Architects. His early days in business were a challenge; the heady days of the 80s were coming to an end and the recession of the early 1990s was taking hold. Never one for giving up, Phil, together with founding architects Alan, Michael and Charles, kept the faith. With the solid support of some very loyal and experienced property developers, he managed to grow the business, even in the flattest of times.

Since then, Phil has assisted a wide range of public sector and private clients in meeting their land use and development objectives. He has been, and still is, favoured by his many clients for his savvy strategic advice, problem-solving and negotiation skills.  He has also had a long and successful career as an expert planning witness (in VCAT and the Courts) and is behind the planning approvals for many significant Melbourne projects.

In the last 25 or so years, Phil has been influential in growing SJB Planning from a business of two people to one that now employees at least 35. This year, confident in the skills and experience of his well-regarded partners and the team, Phil has repositioned to a consultancy role at SJB where he continues to be actively involved with the firm’s many planning projects.

In acknowledging Phil’s career, we would also like to pay tribute to his family; wife Cathy, and daughters Laura and Emma. The hardest and most dedicated professionals cannot work happily and successfully without the support of colleagues and certainly not without the support and encouragement family.


Phil was recently interviewed for the PlanningXChange series of podcasts prepared by Jess Noonan and Peter Jewell.  Take the opportunity to listen to Phil’s interview by going to and downloading PX31.

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