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“Opportunities Narrowing” To Save Palace Theatre

Written by Nastassia Baroni on October 3, 2014

Things have been quiet on the Melbourne Palace Theatre front for some time now, after the historic venue was forced to close the business in May when the lease ended, with new developers announcing plans to convert the site into a luxury hotel. The fight to save the venue still continues, but according to campaigners options are becoming increasingly narrow.

“Following Heritage Victoria’s decision in July not to list the Palace Theatre for the Victorian Heritage Register at a State level there have been massive developments in our campaign,” reads a statement from the Save The Palace Theatre activist group.

While Heritage Victoria decided not to acknowledge the building’s importance on a state level, they did acknowledge the Palace Theatre’s local significance, leaving the onus for heritage protection on Melbourne City Council.

Greens councillor Rohan Leppert has now submitted a motion asking councillors to pursue the recommendation. “The significance of this motion and the ramifications are indescribable,” say STPT. “This will be the first step in council officially acknowledging the significance of the theatre at a local level, thus recognising the independent cultural significance of the Palace Theatre.”

Not all is going well for the site’s new developers either. This week, as reported by Fairfax Media, plans to build Melbourne’s first W Hotel on the site look to have been abandoned, following numerous rejections by Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

When plans of constructing a luxury five-star hotel was first announced last year, Chinese property investment firm Jinshan Investments spoke of a 21-storey, 100-metre tower. Those plans have now reportedly been reduced to a seven storey, 78 room “boutique” hotel and it’s price tag downsized from $180 million to $20 million.

The site’s potential heritage listing will be debated at the council meeting on Tuesday, 7th October and STPT are asking supporters to get behind this motion by sending a a letter or email to councillors, outlining their case. They have already provided a draft letter and details of who to send it to and are hoping for a least 35,000 supporters.

Save The Palace activist John Petersen highlighted the importance of the campaign by sharing an image to the group’s Facebook page of an permit application sent to The City Of Melbourne for the demolition of the Palace.

Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies told Fairfax that approving the Palace’s heritage listing “would probably be a nail in the coffin for this development”. “Heritage listing doesn’t mean something has to be protected no matter what,” he added. “But it has to be taken into account.”

Head to the Save The Palace website for more information.

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