Melbourne could soon lose its iconic music and entertainment venue Festival Hall, after plans were tabled to demolish the space to make way for a $65 million apartment complex.
Fairfax Media reports the building’s owners, the Wren family, have lodged a planning proposal with Melbourne City Council for apartments and retail and office spaces to be erected, including two towers — one nine storeys high, and one 16 storeys high.
The redevelopment plan reportedly includes demolition of much of the hall, but not from historic spaces like the Dudley Street entrance, the boxing ring and the stage. But, if approved, the proposal would likely see the end of live music and sport at the venue.
Aussie music legend Molly Meldrum has reacted to the redevelopment proposal by telling News Corp Australia, “We can’t afford to lose any live music venues, but especially not one with the history and memories attached to Festival Hall.
“So many great bands have played there and continue to play there. Personally I’d hate to see it go as it was the place I saw my first concert which was The Beatles — until I got kicked out.”
Meanwhile, Australian tour promoter and Destroy All Lines General Manager Chris O’Brien says many promoters have already moved their business to other venues.
“Very sad news about Festival Hall but it was inevitable unfortunately,” he writes. “All my tours of this level still go there but other promoters moved shows to Margaret Court Arena which doesn’t make it viable anymore.”
Very sad news about Festival Hall but it was inevitable unfortunately. All my tours of this level still go there but other promoters moved shows to Margaret Court Arena which doesn't make it viable anymore.
— Chriswhatavibe (@chriswhatavibe) January 22, 2018
Festival Hall has hosted the likes of The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Soundgarden, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Powderfinger and The Easybeats in the past. It was built by John Wren in 1915, and was rebuilt in 1955 after being destroyed by fire.
The venue is subject to some heritage protections, but the Wren family is reportedly confident that’s unlikely to be a major obstacle for the redevelopment.
At the time of writing, only eight music events are scheduled at Festival Hall between now and May, including the likes of Tiësto, Macklemore, Sleeping With Sirens and Angus & Julia Stone.
Concerns over Festival Hall’s future come after a campaign was launched to save Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, whose future is also under threat.