Melbourne’s Palace Theatre set to be demolished?

Melbourne’s Palace Theatre is set to be demolished and replaced with a $180 million, five-star hotel and apartment complex.

The Age reports that under a plan submitted to the Victorian government by Melbourne’s Jinshan Investments, owned by businessman Xuan Xu, the venue will be demolished and replaced by a 30-storey building that would house a 205-room “W Hotel” and 145 apartments.

The W hotel chain of boutique hotels currently operates over 50 hotels in 24 countries. Development manager Tim Price of Sinclair Brook claims that a W Hotel would attract big spenders willing to drop over $1000 for every night they stay in Melbourne. “It will really help to revitalise the ground level of the site, with an introduction of a new laneway from Bourke Street through to Little Bourke Street,” he said. If approved, construction on the project could start as early as next year and be completed in late 2016.

(Artists impression of the development, The Age )

However, the developers will face opposition from The National Trust who say that the controversial Hotel Windsor development has set a dangerous precedent on exceeding height limits on Bourke Street. “The Windsor has opened the door, now all the developers are rushing through it,” conversation manager Paul Roser told The Age. “I think in 20 years this precinct could be transformed unless the minister draws a line in the sand.”

The Melbourne Heritage Action group notes that the 30-storey building would be “way over 23m height limit meant to protect the area [and] even taller than Windsor tower.” Rohan Storey, a spokesman for the lobby group told The Age that the venue’s interior dating from the 1920s and ‘30s is more significant that it’s façade but that the city of Melbourne doesn’t offer any protection for interiors.

Jinshan Investments purchased the property last year after owner and “colourful nightclub identity” Jerry Pilarinos’ company Kefi Nominees was forced into administration in February. Pilarinos had paid $9.8 million for the site in June 2007, but in May 2011 he listed the venue for sale as a residential development site with an asking price of $20 million. Reports suggested that the venue would be bought by developers and torn down to make way for a new shopping centre and a 140-metre apartment tower and that Pilarinos had offered the property for sale without a building permit to allow those developments.

When The Palace was listed for sale last year the landlord issued a statement to note that the venue and its activities would “continue as an operating business into the foreseeable future” and that they would be working with new owners as “a matter of priority”.

Upcoming shows at the venue include Bernard Fanning, Foals, Parkway Drive, Devin Townsend, Amity Affliction, and the Hits and Pits festival in late November.

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