Melbourne’s Festival Hall could be saved from demolition, after Heritage Victoria recommended the 100-year-old venue be registered, meaning any development of the site would first need special approval.
In January, the owners of Festival Hall revealed they were planning to sell the site to developers because they could no longer compete with larger, newer music venues.
They lodged a planning application with the City of Melbourne to build two 16-storey apartment buildings and demolish most of the original building.
Since it opened in 1915, the venue has played host to some of the biggest names in music, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Fleetwood Mac, and more recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ed Sheeran and Lorde.
Boxing and gymnastic events were held there during the 1956 Olympics, and later world-class bouts featuring the likes of Lionel Rose, and also wresting events.
Victoria’s Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, said a heritage listing would mean any development of the site would require approval to ensure the building’s character and history were preserved.
He said the venue was an important part of Melbourne’s social and cultural life.
“Melburnians are really passionate about their heritage, whether it’s the Queen Victoria Market or Festival Hall or many of our great historic buildings,” he said.
“To have Festival Hall listed is incredibly important.
“For so many of us we’ve been to Festival Hall for all sorts of different occasions. Its a really important part of our history.”
When Stadiums Limited announced its plans to sell the site, it said the venue was becoming unprofitable.
At the time, director Christopher Wren said, “I draw the analogy [that] an old boxer facing up to a younger, bigger, stronger opponent is going to get well and truly pummelled and with the opening of Margaret Court Arena, and Hisense [Arena] to a lesser extent, we’re being pummelled”.
“We can see the writing on the wall … in due course, as responsible directors we’re going to have to probably close the shop.”