A number of parties are hoping to save Melbourne’s iconic Palace Theatre and keep the century-old venue as it stands, but the property’s current owners aren’t backing down from their plans to turn it into a boutique hotel.
Commercial Real Estate Services’ Mark Wizel, who negotiated the 2012 sale of the Palace Theatre to its current owner Jinshan Investment Group, has told Fairfax Media that he has been contacted by other parties who want to buy the theatre and leave the building as is. He said those offers were rejected by Jinshan.
One party who have put in unsuccessful offers over the years is Mint Group, who successfully relaunched London’s Camden Palace Theatre as KOKO London in 2004.
Community action group Save The Palace first brought Mint Group’s interest to public attention by posting on Facebook earlier this month, saying that sources had told them KOKO London made two attempts to acquire the Palace from previous owner Jerry Pilarinos in the last five years.
Mint Group owner Olly Bengough has told Fairfax that he’s been planning to reproduce the KOKO London model at the Palace Theatre, which was only saved from demolition in December, for a number of years. What’s stopping him is Jinshan, who is going ahead with its plan to build a new seven-storey hotel at the site.
Bengough’s company made a $12.5 million offer for the Palace in 2010, but were denied by Pilarinos. The group then made a lease offer in 2012, but were once again knocked back. The Palace Theatre was eventually sold to Jinshan for $11.2 million later that year.
A Jinshan spokeswoman told Fairfax they had received an enquiry to lease the building, but it was denied because the company is “continuing to pursue its vision for a boutique hotel in the site”. She also said the company had not received an offer from Mint Group or any other party to buy out the Palace Theatre.
Mint Group’s Australian spokesman, Guy Venables, said Mint Group have approached Jinshan to enter discussions, but were given “a resounding no” because they the developer sees the land as irreplaceable.
In December, a report released by an independent heritage consultant found that structurally, it is no longer worth saving the Palace Theatre.
Jinshan are taking the City Of Melbourne council to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for failing to decide on their demolition application within the required time period. The hearing will commence on 30th March 2015.