Time to be Called on Festival Hall as Development Looms


The owners of Melbourne’s Festival Hall have announced plans to sell the site to make way for a $65 million apartment complex, which would close the curtain on over 100 years of concerts and events at the landmark building.

The Wren family announced plans to sell the West Melbourne site – furnished with a planning permit – on Tuesday.

The venue has hosted hundreds of concerts including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash, as well as many pro boxing and wrestling bouts, earning the venue the nickname the “House of Stoush.”

A planning proposal was lodged with City of Melbourne before Christmas for two apartment towers – one reaching 16-storeys – shops and an office space at the site in preparation for sale.

The redevelopment plan includes demolition of most of the hall but the retention of the Dudley Street facade, the boxing ring and stage.

Festival Hall

The proposal features 179 apartments in various configurations, 243 basement carparks, 650 square metres of retail space and 700 square metres of commercial office space spread over ground floor and mezzanine levels. It allows for generous residential amenity including gym and external entertainment and landscaped areas, including monuments to Festival Hall’s historic use as a sporting and music venue.

Live music supporters immediately took to social media to express their disappointment and opposition to the decision.

Chris Wren, director of Stadiums Pty Ltd, the operators of the venue, confirmed the company’s intention to sell the site and move on from the business.

“Festival Hall is nearing the end of its life, and its viability as an entertainment venue continues to diminish. We have begun planning for the coming closure and sale of Festival Hall,” Wren said.

“It is clear to us that the future of Festival Hall as an entertainment venue is nearing its end, and so we will likely seek to sell the property within the next few years,” he said.

"We believe we need to harness the emotional aspects of this venue and apply it through a filter of what it means to live harmoniously in order to create an apartment building that embodies the principles of well-being,” Rothelowman wrote in their architectural statement for the redevelopment.

Festival Hall will continue to operate until such time as it is sold.

The Wren family have owned the venue since it was built in 1915. The building was destroyed by fire in 1955 but rebuilt in time for the 1956 Olympic Games where it was host to the gymnastics and wrestling competitions.

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