In a clear example of the sheer force of practically unlimited money taking absolute precedence over a city’s cultural heritage and artistic foundations, Melbourne’s Palace Theatre is set to be demolished.
Its loss will leave a gaping hole in Melbourne’s live music landscape, and more must be done to protect our other iconic venues before they meet the same fate.
It was recently announced the historic theatre has lost its long fight to maintain its operations following its owner’s, Chinese property investment firm Jinshan Investments, application to demolish the building and build a boutique hotel and apartment complex in its place.
The impact of this will be wide-ranging and hugely detrimental, but will hopefully inspire Victorian music lovers to unite and act now to stop this gentrification from destroying other crucial venues.
A dejecting and honest statement from the Palace Theatre’s management read: “Effective from the 31st May 2014 this building and its previous incarnations…which started trading in 1860, will cease trading to make way for a proposed apartment and hotel development”.
The new owners have continually refused to renew a short-term lease to allow live concerts at the Palace, and the last notes will fade through the towering theatre in less than two months.
The demolition of this historic and beautiful venue is another step in a worrying trend where Melbourne’s once world-renowned culture filled with vibrant, unique buildings, are torn down to be replaced with skyscrapers and high-class hotels.
Developers are gradually encroaching on Melbourne’s live music scene, and actions must be taken now to prevent it entirely eroding what was once a thriving city.
The venue, that has played host to some of the biggest international bands of our generation, will be replaced with a hotel and apartment complex which will most likely play host to wealthy international businessmen.
There is no other music venue in Melbourne like the Palace Theatre. With three levels, multiple balconies, and numerous vantage points, it is a luxurious and near-perfect way to see a band. Most of all, it is has character, something that is sorely lacking from many new venues. It has played host to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Wilco, the Killers, and countless more have been drawn to its distinctive facade.
The Palace Theatre holds a very important place in Melbourne’s live music landscape. With a capacity of just under 2,000, it is one of two venues capable of playing host to mid-sized international bands, ones that are unable to fill Festival Hall or the cavernous Rod Laver Arena, and far too large for the likes of the Corner Hotel or Prince Bandroom, which each hold less than 1,000.
The only other option is the Forum Theatre, another iconic, aesthetically-pleasing building that is in grave danger. It will soon be closed for huge redevelopments that include another towering structure to be built next to it. The similarly sized Palais Theatre in St Kilda is not a viable option, due to its fully seated layout, and lack of alcohol sales making it a less than enticing venue for touring bands.
The State Government, Melbourne Council, and Victorians need to take a stand in order to protect these sacred and distinctive buildings that define a city from becoming towering skyscrapers, blocking the sun and drawing no-one but rich internationals.
More than two million people have supported live music at the Palace over the last seven years it has operated as a music venue. Now the eye-catching facade at the end of Bourke Street will be demolished, replaced by just another hotel, towering over the adjacent Parliament House.
The loss of the irreplaceable Palace Theatre should be mourned. But it should also spur efforts to protect other venues that define our city’s much adored live music scene while we still can.