Melbourne’s live music scene is undergoing a dreadful bout of déjà vu.

It’s been barely two weeks since live music supporters were celebrating the news that plans to raze Melbourne’s Palace Theatre to construct a $180 million luxury hotel complex had been denied.

On 30th January, Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected the controversial permit application by property developers Jinshan Investments, who were hoping to erect Melbourne’s first ‘W Hotel’ – containing 200 hotel rooms and 91 apartments – on the top-end of Bourke Street in place of the iconic live music venue.

“Whilst this is a win and we’d love to dance around and celebrate, we also need to recognise that it isn’t a victory,” cautioned the Save The Palace group after the plans were rebuffed by the State Government’s Planning office. Their warning that the Palace remained vulnerable to “subsequent proposals that may satisfy the planning requirements” now has an air of prophecy to it.

A new planning application from Jinshan Investments has surfaced that does just that, altering their top-tier residential project to a size and design that bypasses the Victorian Planning Minister’s office and instead goes direct to the City of Melbourne for consideration. In essence, the resubmitted proposal circumvents Planning Minister Guy’s objections to the tower being “too tall” and “in the wrong location.”

Despite ongoing pressure from live music advocates and industry figures clearly opposed to the five star hotel project, the new application – which can be partially viewed on the City of Melbourne website – calls for demolishing the Palace in favour of a “multi-level basement and building.” Tone Deaf has also obtained documents from the Melbourne Council Planning office that details some of the specs of the alternate Palace Theatre plans.

In essence, the resubmitted proposal circumvents Planning Minister Guy’s objections to the tower being “too tall” and “in the wrong location,” finally knocking back the proposal because it “will adversely impact the low scale character of the Bourke Hill Precinct.”

The new plans however proposes a shorter apartment tower that takes more of its construction underground, including four levels of basement car parks, leaving 15 levels above ground (including the ground floor) with a floor space of around 23,650 metres. That puts the altered plans underneath the 25,000m threshold that would refer the project to the State Government and the Planning Minister, going direct to City of Melbourne for potential approval.

The proposed height of the new building is 50.65 metres and is setback 5 metres from the street – a significant reduction from the original 99.75 metre tall, 8 metre setback plans that first threatened the Palace when they surfaced last June. Then, last October, developers altered their plans once more, resubmitting a new reduced height of 72.25 metres and a 5 metre street setback. The proposed height of the new building is 50.65 metres and is setback 5 metres from the street – a significant reduction from the original proposal

The Save The Palace group have also picked up on the new application, alerting their 31,000 Facebook followers to the new proposal, noting it “is small enough to go straight to council without Ministerial approval needed… We are investigating and will provide further information as soon as possible.”

The City Of Melbourne may not necessarily give carte blanche to the property developers, after all, the Napthine Government made the unprecedented move of lodging an appeal to challenge the Palace redevelopment once before, following pressure form Melbourne City Council and Melbourne Heritage Action.

The latter group have also been long pushing for a more permanent solution to protect the historic 1,855-cap theatre.

While the Palace’s facade is protected under current heritage listings, Melbourne Heritage Action have been pushing for an update to the listing that would protect the remainder of the building that is still at risk of further residential applications that have the live music venue in its sights.

In related news, Minister Guy still has the final word on approval of another (though supposedly less controversial) construction proposal, a $70 million redevelopment of The Forum Theatre that includes the construction of an adjoining 32-storey boutique hotel and office complex to the rear of the live music venue put forward by the site’s owners, the Marriner family.

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