VCAT has approved the demolition of all but the front facade of the Palace Theatre, in a decision that deals a devastating blow to the heart of Melbourne’s live music and heritage communities.
VCAT concluded in its determination that leaving standing little more than the building’s front facade was an ‘acceptable compromise’ for a 100 year old music venue whose beauty and heritage is all vested in its interior. We strongly disagree.
Melbourne City Council now appears to have one final opportunity to appeal this decision, and MHA strongly urges Council to pursue this course.
Despite numerous opportunities to do the right thing by the community and sell or lease the building to those who would restore the Palace as a live music venue, the developers Jinshan Investments seem hell-bent on delivering a project that maximises only their return on investment.
One of the most shocking events in this saga was the deliberate and cynical stripping of interior elements just days before a City of Melbourne vote where heritage listing of the building interior seemed likely to prevail. This destruction resulted in Council officers recommending against listing the interior.
The developers also appeared to send rent-a-thug counter-protesters to disrupt peaceful protesters outside the venue.
And most recently, Jinshan undertook supposed ‘shopfront works’, clearly targeting heritage elements they couldn’t get to the first time for removal immediately before a scheduled VCAT site inspection.
These were deliberate and transparent moves to thwart democratic planning processes, and this has now been given an effective rubber stamp by VCAT, creating a precedent for other developers to similarly vandalise subject sites prior to any proper heritage assessment.
This slideshow provides only the merest sliver of the scale of the tragedy here.
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We now appear set to lose one of Melbourne’s few mid-sized music venues, one of our oldest and most unique theatre auditoriums, and a vital part of the Bourke Hill precinct for an as yet unbranded low rise hotel.
But we can keep the facade standing for all time, to remind us of the failure of the City of Melbourne and Lord Mayor to seize the many opportunities they had to protect a building that almost every Melburnian acknowledges is a valued piece of heritage.
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