The Future Melbourne Committee of the City of Melbourne are soon to vote on a redevelopment of the Hotel Lindrum on Flinders Street. The proposal is yet another tower behind a retained facade, though better done than most.
It was only 17 years ago that the building on Flinders Street was rescued, restored and refurbished as one of Melbourne’s early boutique hotels, in an excellent example of adaptive reuse. (The was despite the building not being heritage listed, a situation corrected in in 2013). The facade was cleaned of paint, revealing old painted signs and brickwork, and rooms inserted into the brick and timber structure. In the future, all that will remain of this substantial building will be three outside walls and part of one central internal wall.
Positive aspects of the design are that a 25m length of the red brick side wall on Sparks Lane will be retained, and the new 20 storey hotel tower will be set on top of a 10 storey setback podium that will visually separate the old from the new. It was nearly halved in height so as not to overshadow Birrarung Marr.
Built in 1900 as the headquarters and warehouse for Griffiths Bros Tea Merchants, then one of Australia’s leading tea sellers, and designed by Ward & Carleton, it is one of the first examples of the local red brick version of the American Romanesque. The building was later famous as Lindrum’s billiards centre in the 70s and 80s, run by Dolly, the niece of Walter Lindrum. Walter was one of the most successful players in history, an Australian who dominated the game from 1933 to 1950. The name of the hotel, which will also be used for the new one in the lower levels of the development, retains a link to this history. The refurbished billiard table inside and memorabilia however is unlikely to remain.
That a building only effectively 17 years old is to be entirely redeveloped is an example of the incredible extent of change in central Melbourne over the last decade, largely a result of the boom in apartment towers in a context of few controls in their size or spacing. New rules mean that this tower will be tall and narrow, set back a few metres on each side, and 7m from the front, and have only two or three flats / floor, the front ones with unbeatable views. (the ones to the rear will have good views too, but only so long as the unprotected heritage buildings on Flinders Lane remain undeveloped). This development frenzy is set to continue in the area, with a permit issued by the Minister last year to replace the carpark building on the other side of Sparks Lane with a much taller tower, that will overshadow the park – an example of ‘before and after’ of the new rules right next to each other.