MHA has submitted an objection over the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Palace Theatre site at 20-30 Bourke St. We call on the minister to reject this proposal outright.
You can download the entire objection here MHA Palace 20-30 Bourke st Demolition Objection, including photos of the Palace interior.
A summary of the key points is below:
Melbourne Heritage Action strongly objects to this proposal and believe that the application should be refused.
We believe that it is :
1. completely unsympathetic to the heritage values of the Bourke Hill precinct,
2. destroys a building (and a part of a second building) of local heritage significance
3. ignores height controls designed to protect the low scale of the precinct, which help maintain its heritage character.
1. Bourke Hill Precinct
The site sits in the centre of the Bourke Hill heritage precinct (HO500), which was established in the early 1980s due to the high number, relative intactness, and coherent streetscapes formed by the older, mostly Victorian era, buildings.
While the precinct includes major landmarks, namely the Princess Theatre and the Windsor Hotel, and a portion of Little Bourke Street, it is obviously focussed on the streetscape of Bourke Street itself.
The Statement of Signifi cance for the precinct has not been reviewed since the early 1980s, and does not capture this fully. It highlights the major buildings and the Little Bourke Street buildings, and the vista to Parliament House (which has little to do with the precinct itself) rather than the character of the city block streetscape which forms its heart. It is important to note that many of the buildings (both Victorian and early 20th Century) have individual HOs, a situation that also dates from the early 1980s, and clearly is intended to further protect the whole of those buildings, and therefore the intactness of the precinct… (cont. see MHA Palace 20-30 Bourke st Demolition Objection)
Loss of facade
The demolition would remove a prominent historic element of the streetscape. While the facade is the result of alterations over the years, the main features, dating from the 1952 alterations, are ‘Art Deco’ in style. This is a style that now widely regarded as ‘historic’, a situation that did not prevail in the 1970s when it was assessed as ‘out of scale’ and ‘unsympathetic’.
Loss of entertainment venue
We also note that the demolition of the Palace Theatre would remove a place that has and still does contribute to the significant historical uses of the precinct as identified in the Statement. The Palace has a long history as a place of entertainment, whether as a theatre, cinema or live music venue since 1912, and must be seen as an essential element of the precinct.
Impact of demolition of 30a Bourke Street
As well as demolition of the Palace Theatre, the loss of the easternmost bay of the adjoining 3 storey 1892 Victorian terrace would have a detrimental impact on the Precinct, but more particularly on the building itself, protected by an Individual Heritage Overlay, (no 529). To demolish one bay of this symmetrically arranged terrace row will destroy its architectural integrity. It will also devalue one of the major Victorian era elements of the precinct, and so affect the precinct itself.
2. Individual heritage value of the Palace Theatre
A very comprehensive report in the history and fabric of the building is provided in the heritage report by Lovell Chen. The conclusion is that the theatre is a place ‘local interest’ which is essentially saying that the place has local level significance, and one that warrants its current place as a graded building within a heritage precinct, and therefore one that is ‘protected’. We believe that its significance is understated by this report, and that the façade is as much a part of the heritage of the precinct as other facades in the precinct, that the interior has significance in its own right, and that furthermore its historic and current use is an essential component of the heritage of the precinct. (cont. see MHA Palace 20-30 Bourke st Demolition Objection)
3. Height Controls
We believe the height controls on the site and the precinct in general are essential to the maintenance of the heritage values of the precinct, and should not be exceeded to the extent proposed. Thirty one storeys where the maximum is about 5 storeys is clearly way beyond anything envisaged for the area when the controls were written in the early 1980s. It is important to note that the controls were originally mandatory, indicating their original importance.
The proponents do not make a very convincing argument for exceeding these controls to such an extent. Instead they simply note that they are ‘discretionary’ and then quote the Ministerial Committee that was convened to assess the controversial Windsor Hotel proposal. That committee only heard from the Windsor owners, and the Department itself, and briefly from the National Trust. It was not a Panel, and did not hear from all parties, nor advise itself of the history of the development of the height controls. Therefore the Ministerial Committee’s view that “It is no longer clear (if it ever were clear) how the specified heights in DDO2 related to the objectives and outcomes to be achieved’ is not the last word on the matter… (cont. see MHA Palace 20-30 Bourke st Demolition Objection)