Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel, located opposite Victoria’s Parliament House at “the Paris end of Collins Street” is set to close within two years.
That’s the dismal prognosis after the Victorian government dumped the hotel’s planned tower redevelopment.
The Windsor, marketed as “Australia’s most cherished grand hotel”, is arguably Australia’s only remaining grand hotel. It’s certainly Australia’s only surviving grand 19th century city hotel.
Owner Halim Group delivered news of the impending closure after Planning Minister Richard Wynne confirmed he would not grant the company a permit to extend the allowed construction time for the project, the Melbourne Age reported.
Wynne has imposed a mandatory 25-metre height limit to parts of Spring Street including the Princess Theatre and the front of the Hotel Windsor. At the rear of the Hotel Windsor, a preferred height limit of 25 metres will apply, with an absolute maximum height of 40 metres.
The proposed tower was to be more than double that height.
Wynne says the new approved heights will permanently replace the interim controls which currently apply to the precinct.
The height controls underpin the minister’s decision to refuse an application to extend a permit for refurbishment of the Hotel Windsor until 3 September 2018.
The current planning permit, granted in 2010, remains in place until 10 January 2017.
Some reports say the Windsor’s future is to become student accommodation.
It seems a downbeat end for such a landmark property and Melbourne icon, meticulously restored in the 1980s and long since classified by the National Trust.
Built in 1883 and designed by architect Charles Webb, The Windsor (originally called The Grand Hotel and then The Grand Coffee Palace) is actually older than Singapore’s renowned Raffles. The doorman at the Windsor still wears a top hat, the Grand Ballroom boasts its original brass gasoliers and seven great ceiling domes, decorated with stained glass and 24-carat gold leaf.
The proposed tower at the rear of the hotel uses a formula known to other historic hotels, retaining the heritage nature of the main property while greatly increasing capacity. In the Windsor’s case, only minor work on the tower has been completed.
The Windsor developer warned previously it would miss the January 2017 deadline to build its 26-storey tower. With only minor works completed so far, they had requested an extension until September 2018.
Halim Group spokesman Michael Smith said the heritage-listed hotel would now most likely shut its doors within two years, more than 130 years after the grand institution first opened in 1883.
Celebrities old and new who have stayed at the hotel include: Vivien Leigh, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Robert Helpmann, Katherine Hepburn, Gina Lollobrigida, Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck, Muhammed Ali, Meryl Streep, Kylie Minogue and Barry Humphries.
Written by Peter Needham