Palace Theatre Auditorium Balcony

Planning Minister Must Intervene Now to Save Palace Theatre

Palace Theatre Auditorium BalconyJinshan Investments, owners and vandals of the Palace Theatre applied last week to the City of Melbourne to allow for construction of retail spaces behind the building’s existing façade.

“That will give them license to essentially gut whatever remains of the building’s interior,” Melbourne Heritage Action President Tristan Davies warned today. “That appears to be the entire pretext.”

The building’s facade is a recognised graded heritage structure, so Jinshan will require a permit for these works, however with the ground floor already significantly altered, MHA fears such a permit would be likely to be granted.

“To try and turn a quick retail buck while the future of this 100 year old theatre is being settled, is insulting to the people of Melbourne, and our heritage,” said Davies.

“It could have continued as a live music venue this entire time. This is a direct result of the failure of the City of Melbourne to list and protect the Theatre’s historic interior when they had the chance.”

The City of Melbourne declined to list the building’s interior after it was argued it had been significantly altered, following deliberate removal of key elements by Jinshan.

Exhaustive work was done by Council heritage officers which previously recommended listing the building’s interior. This was in stark contrast to the seeming speed with which a subsequent report decided Jinshan’s vandalism meant the interior was no longer worth preserving. MHA strongly contests this finding, as we believe a number of significant features including the ceiling rose and frieze above the main stage marble staircase  are still in place.

The building of course still retains its essential nineteenth century theatre form, with balconies and related decorative elements still largely in tact.

The upshot of the City of Melbourne’s inaction has been that the building’s facade, which is of course one of its less notable features is the only element accorded any sort of heritage protection.

Jinshan have submitted revised proposals for the building, which while still breaching the new mandatory height limit, would now retain only the facade. Melbourne City Council has been grossly negligent in allowing this situation to arise and as a result they are now left with almost no options for the preservation of this vital piece of civic heritage, short of purchasing the site themselves.

Minister Wynne is now the only remaining authority able to protect this essential piece of Marvellous Melbourne’s theatrical history.

We call on the Minister to act for the sake of the tens of thousands of Facebook fans who in turn speak for tens of thousands and no doubt many more Melburnians.

We call on the Minister to immediately place interim instant heritage controls on the building interior to prevent any further destruction. These are powers which that office has exercised in the past, although notably to intervene against rather than for heritage retention.

FURTHER READING: MHA Palace Theatre Campaign

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