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End of an era as demolition of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre commences

End of an era as demolition of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre commences
February 21, 2020

Demolition of popular Melbourne music venue, The Palace Theatre on Bourke Street, has commenced this week, ending a seven-year public battle to save the venue.

The venue, which has operated under many names over its 108-year history, is to be redeveloped into a Marriott hotel after a lengthy battle over its future.

Purchased by Chinese developer Jinshan Investment Group for $11.2 million in 2012, the site is now to be converted into a Marriott hotel.

Promoted as "Australia's premier live music, entertainment and function venue located in the heart of Melbourne's business and tourism district", The Palace was home of The Metro nightclub for over 20 years from 1987, as well hosting live performances from artists including James Brown, The Prodigy, Slash, Jane's Addiction, Arctic Monkeys and Queens of the Stone Age, it was closed in 2014.

During its history it had also been used as a cinema, theatre and Pentecostal church venue, operating under a range of other names - Metro Theatre, St James Theatre, The New Palace, Apollo Theatre and Brennan's Amphitheatre.

Its demolition has been described by Melbourne newspaper The Age as “an indictment on Victoria's heritage laws, which (failed) to properly recognise the cultural value of the state's venues.”

Following the Jinshan Investment Group’s purchased of the venue, Melbourne City Council approved plans to build a hotel in 2013. Closing the venue in 2014, developers commenced demolition of the venue while the venue’s future was still being decided by Melbourne City Council.

With the illegal demolition halted, objectors unsuccessfully opposed the redevelopment in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2016, with the Tribunal approving the controversial 12-storey development.

Since then, the site has been dormant.

Melbourne City Councillor Rohan Leppert, who leads the Council's heritage division, said the 3000-capacity Palace was not previously granted heritage status because renovations had created a "mish-mash of architectural eras", telling The Age “even though the demolition that's happening inside the theatre is perfectly legal, it's still morally outrageous.

"Our heritage regime still rewards architectural purity above everything else, but the thing that makes The Palace special is the social history of the place, which is so extraordinary. I hope we are never in a situation like this again."

Music Victoria Chief Executive Patrick Donovan said The Palace closure left a "massive gap" in Melbourne for a medium-sized venue with a late-night licence.

He advised "it was an absolutely pivotal venue in the Melbourne music scene.

"It was a popular weekly alternative music nightclub called Goo for university students, then they had live music shows up to five days a week. I really do believe our heritage laws need a good look at."

Peddle Thorp Architects have been appointed as architects for the project - having taken over Bates Smart who were involved in the initial planning stages - while LU Simon have been appointed as builders.

Media reports suggest that the new building will keep the former venue’s façade although the Victorian Government approved complete demolition of the venue.

Images - courtesy of the Save the Palace - Metro Nightclub Facebook page - show the site this week.

Related Articles

23rd December 2019 - Marriner Group unveils refurbishment of Melbourne’s historic Regent Theatre

8th July 2019 - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre looks to stage live music events

28th September 2018 - Global study reveals the importance of live music in escaping digital overload

23rd July 2018 - Review to assess future Live Music Office operations

12th April 2018 - Study shows Melbourne as live music capital of the world

1st June 2017 - Music Victoria releases 10 Point Plan for live music

5th August 2016 - Live Music Office creates mapping tool to support artists and industry

8th July 2016 - Musical theatre has a major impact on Victoria’s economy

23rd April 2016 - Planning tribunal approves demolition of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre

19th September 2015 - Melbourne’s Palace Theatre being turned into shop units

13th August 2015 - Live Music worth over $15 billion to Australia in 2014

14th February 2015 - Campaign group reveals rebuffed attempts to save Melbourne’s Palace Theatre for live music

15th December 2014 - Melbourne City Council denies demolition of Palace Theatre

22nd November 2014 - Demolition of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre begins without permit

2nd June 2014 - Live Music Strategy to make Melbourne the ‘music capital of Australia’

16th April 2014 - Closure of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre confirmed

26th March 2014 - Live music venues threatened by new laws and noise complaints

8th July 2013 - Luxury apartments to replace Melbourne’s Palace Theatre?

25th February 2010 - Laws relaxed for Melbourne’s live music venues

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