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“A sad day”: Melbourne Festival Hall faces demolition

The family owned 105-year-old venue, still a popular touring stop, is set to make way for a new apartment complex as its owners sell up

By IQ on 23 Jan 2018

Smashing Pumpkins at Festival Hall in 2010

Smashing Pumpkins at Festival Hall in 2010

image © Josh Illichmann

Historic Melbourne venue Festival Hall is to be demolished to make way for a A$65m apartment complex, after being forced out by “younger, bigger, stronger” rivals, its owner has said.

The 5,400-capacity music and sporting venue, which dates from 1913, is an “old boxer” unable to compete with newer  venues such as the 7,500-seat Margaret Court Arena and the 10,500-cap. Hisense Arena, owner Chris Wren – a descendant of famed Australian businessman and underworld figure John Wren, who took over the venue in 1915 – tells the Sydney Morning Herald.

Acts who have played the Festival Hall include the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Sex Pistols, Frank Sinatra, INXS and, more recently, Queens of the Stone Age, Liam Gallagher and Gang of Youths.

It was largely destroyed by fire in 1955 but was rebuilt in time for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

The proposed new development would comprise 179 flats across two towers, along with retail and commercial space.

“It is a sad day, but we’ve made the decision”

“It’s a sad occasion for us in many respects,” says Wren, “but it’s a decision we’ve had to contemplate now for some time. As responsible directors we’re going to have to close the shop. So a bit like an old boxer hanging up his gloves, we’re going to be doing that in the near future.

“It is a sad day, but we’ve made the decision.”

Patrick Donovan, CEO of industry association Music Victoria, urges developer Rothelowman, along with local authorities, to “retain and protect this iconic music venue.”

“Festival Hall is such an iconic and important venue to Melbourne and Victoria,” he says. “It is versatile, and provides a unique offering of world-class local and international live music and other entertainment. […]

“Music Victoria will continue to support live music venues, and work with local and state government and the music community to protect the health and longevity of Victoria’s live music scene.”


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