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CBD | The Forum Theatre | 150-162 Flinders Street | 107m | 32L | Mixed use

Mark Baljak's picture
#1

Forum Theatre redevelopment includes 32-storey tower

December 22, 2013
Chris Vedelago

>> The Forum Theatre is set to be completely refurbished as part of a $70 million development bid that promises to return the iconic venue to its heyday.
The ambitious plans will also see a 32-storey boutique hotel and office complex built behind the Flinders Street property and the creation of a new thoroughfare connecting Russell Street to the street art mecca of Hosier Lane.
The Sunday Age can reveal that the Marriner family, owners of the Forum, Regent, Comedy and Princess theatres, have sought state government permission to overhaul the National Trust-listed building.
The plan is being mooted as a way to secure the future of the Forum, one of the few remaining large-scale live music venues in the city.
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The proposal will involve a full renovation of the interior and exterior of the 84-year-old Gothic-Romanesque building, which includes returning heritage features common to its original use as a 1920s-era ''picture palace''.
Among the promised changes are fixing the clock tower, replacing the original sign on the roof, re-creating the entry doors, installing poster boxes and repairing the copper domes.
It is believed to be the first major refurbishment for the ageing complex since it was bought by David Marriner in 1996 and converted from a religious revival meeting centre into a live music and cabaret venue.

>> The proposed hotel and offices would be built behind the Forum on the site of an empty building that was formerly used by the Melbourne Theatre Company.
The tower, which will violate the area's height restrictions, features a glass curtain that flows down to meet the roof at the rear of the Forum in what its designer says will be a ''sympathetic'' connection to the theatre.
''The new building is designed to respect the Forum and will provide a curtain backdrop wall framing that building,'' said Bill Kusznirczuk of Clement-Stone Town Planners, who filed the planning application on behalf of the Marriner family.
The plan also calls for the creation of a new 50-metre thoroughfare connecting Russell Street to Hosier Lane, a graffitied bar and restaurant precinct that has become one of the city's most recognised landmarks.
But the plans are likely to be scrutinised by heritage protection advocates following a string of proposals that have seen landmark CBD buildings targeted for redevelopments that violate height restrictions.
Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies said improvements to the Forum were welcome but the group would reserve judgment about its support or opposition to the project until it had seen the plans.
''Anything that restores the Forum Theatre is great because it needs a lot of work and it will cost a lot of money,'' he said.
''But we'd be concerned that the proposed height of the new building would overwhelm the heritage streetscape in the area as well as dominate Hosier Lane, which has become enormously important to the street art scene in Melbourne.''
The application was filed with the Victorian Department of Planning on Friday and the decision about the proposal will ultimately rest with Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
A move is already under way by another developer to replace the Palace Theatre on Bourke Street with a high-rise hotel and apartment complex in a controversial proposal that was bitterly resisted by the Melbourne City Council. Minister Guy is yet to rule on the application

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/forum-theatre-redevelopment-includes-3...

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

looking at the Westpac tower going up or BP tower on Flinders Lane compared to how they were made to look in plans, there's no way the proposal will be as opaque and respectful to the streetscape as the render makes it look

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Adam Ford's picture

amen. This would be a total carbuncle on that stretch of Flinders, totally unsympathetic to the existing building ("curtain wall" my arse!) and for some reason tries to make a virtue of reducing the Hosier Lane art space by the width of a new thoroughfare.
the forum frankly needs very little restoration, and you can bet that is a tiny fig leaf portion of the supposed $70m.

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Dean's picture

It surprises me that so many seem unable to compromise in any way shape or form. The complete restoration of one of Australia's most important buildings of the inter war period, in return for a disused and derelict bomb site turned into a 30 level glass tower set well back from Flinders Street, is in my opinion a win win.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Was the Forum sympathetic to anything else in Melbourne when it was built?

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MelbourneGuy's picture

I'm happy with the whole development. As far as I'm concerned it's an excellent compromise. Without the development at the back the Forum would have deteriorated to a greater extent and it needed something like this to preserve it because, let's face it, there wouldn't have been any money coming from the MCC.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

Well yes Nicholas Harrison, The Forum is in a colour scheme and eccentric inter-war style as well as height that's sympathetic to the surrounding area and current planning controls, the same can't be said about the proposal

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Melbman's picture

I like this proposal.

The only way that some of the heritage buildings can be saved and made to prosper is to make some sacrifices. This is a decent outcome to achieve the goals of restoration and to make the site pay for its owners.

Some won't like it, but the reality is that we won't love everything.

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Nicholas_Barbone's picture

Is there anywhere to find more info on the development?

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Mark Baljak's picture

at this point only by viewing the planning application

the planning application will be covered probably late January in depth on the UM website

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Adam Ford's picture

horseshit.
firstly, tell me what aspect of the Forum is in need of restoration?
beyond opening up the secondary cinema space and fixing the awning, there's little more to do.
restoration is just a fig leaf to cover the carbuncle behind.

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Adam Ford's picture

and on what basis do you make that assessment? You read it in Mariner's press release?
Mariner has made money from the Forum for every year he has owned it. The venue is not in trouble or at risk, he's trying to make money out of a bomb site he has owned for the same length of time.

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

I think the article spells it out pretty clearly:

"The proposal will involve a full renovation of the interior and exterior of the 84-year-old Gothic-Romanesque building, which includes returning heritage features common to its original use as a 1920s-era ''picture palace''. Among the promised changes are fixing the clock tower, replacing the original sign on the roof, re-creating the entry doors, installing poster boxes and repairing the copper domes."
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Dangerous Beans's picture

...it's probably better to wait until more detail is available and then judge the proposal on it's own merits (or lack there of) rather than passing making blanket statements of approval or disapproval based on a single render and press release!

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Anyone who has extensively photographed the exterior of the Forum would notice that a lot of the render has fallen off and has been patched up in a very poor way.

A full renovation of the interior to turn it into a single theatre again will not be cheap either.

I collect, therefore I am.
thecollectormm.com.au

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Adam Ford's picture

right, so you ARE essentially quoting the press release. How much of the $70 mil is for restoration? Those details listed are very minor aspects that nobody could argue the building is exactly crying out for.

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

Well at this stage it's all we have to go off. And how can they be minor if you referred to the building as a bombsite in an earlier post?

Those are not minor works - they are a major refurbishment.

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Bilby's picture

It is undoubtedly a cynical exercise to link the restoration of one of Melbourne's great interwar buildings with a commercial development proposal that seeks to flout existing recommended height controls in a heritage precinct. The old MTC building could comfortably be developed to half the height proposed and still make a great deal of profit for the developer, allowing the restoration of the theatre building in turn (if that were really the aim). If one were to be really cynical, there would be an argument to say that a wealthy business owner failing to maintain their iconic heritage building might be a wise strategy in order to get approval for (otherwise unpalatable) heritage outcomes on the site. The Yorkshire Brewery site in Collingwood, or The Argus Building in Melbourne come to mind.

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Dean's picture

The old MTC building could comfortably be developed to half the height proposed and still make a great deal of profit for the developer, allowing the restoration of the theatre building in turn (if that were really the aim)

Drivel. How do you know what sort of a return a developer will make on this development or what'll be if it was half the size??? Pure fantasy, speculation and assumption. ie. Your comments mean absolutely nothing.

Peoples' unwillingness to compromise in the slightest is just as ridiculous as your comments.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

How is saying he could still develop something half the size and still profitable yet more sympathetic not a comprimise? saying people are ridiculous is they oppose anything but the biggest thing a developer wants thats breaking current planning guidlines and calling them ridiclous if they have a different opinion to yours is unwillingness to comprimise if anything.

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Dean's picture

^^ No he said he could still make a great deal of profit from a building half the size... How the hell would he know? Or you for that matter? My point was he doesn't have the first damn clue so his comments are moot.

So I don't say his comments were ridiculous because he disagrees with me. I said it because when it comes to the restoration costs vs development costs and ROI on the project he doesn't have a clue. There's a big difference.

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Adam Ford's picture

the old MTC building is the bomb site.
If The Forum is falling apart and crying out for restoration, please list all these major refurbishment works. you must have privileged information from the developer none of the rest of us are privvy to.

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Mark Baljak's picture

why don't we just wait and see whats in the planning application

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Mark Baljak's picture

alternative design for the site, date unknown

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Adam Ford's picture

And there you have it.
Ten storeys, totally contextually valid. Thirty storeys there is COMPLETELY inappropriate.

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Fedsquared's picture

The development will include a 220 room 4-star hotel with sky lobby, commercial office, retail and penthouse apartments.

An 8 storey podium maintains the streetscape context while the tower is articulated into two elements which step in response to the gradient of the street.

The facade concept for the new building interprets the ornate and decorative facades of the Forum Theatre, while the rectilinear massing forms a backdrop to the exuberant character and language of the heritage building.

The faceted curtain-wall facade system under development utilises modern glazing technologies to give the building subtle modelling and articulation.

Town planning approval has been applied for.

http://journal.batessmart.com.au/#sthash.Lpe6KKYE.dpuf

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