Council supports office tower at “sleazy” corner

By David Schout

New plans for a 20-storey office tower at an “unloved” CBD intersection have been endorsed by the City of Melbourne.

The proposed development, on the site of the heritage-listed Kilkenny Inn and former Goldfingers strip club, would pay “a lot more dignity” to the 1915-built pub than previous plans according to councillors.

New plans submitted to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne for the $100m development at the corner of King and Lonsdale streets were “high quality”, according to planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece, and would contribute to the transformation of the precinct. 

“The site is located at a very important intersection in our city,” Cr Reece said at the May 18 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.  

“For many years I would say that was known as an intersection of sleaze here in Melbourne but in the past couple of years we’ve seen some really exciting applications coming forward and I think over the next couple of years, probably led by this landmark development dare I say, we’re going to see a real transformation of this intersection and this whole precinct.”

The development would retain the front portion of the Kilkenny Inn and include retail outlets on ground and first levels, with office levels above.

The office building is proposed to be set back seven metres from the Kilkenny Inn facade, which allowed the 106-year-old pub to be “appreciated in three dimensions” according to Cr Reece. 

Deputy planning chair Cr Rohan Leppert said the three-storey brick hotel would now be more visible and given greater respect. 

“[It)] now has a much more significant setback and is treated with a lot more dignity than it perhaps was in the first iteration of the plans.”

Previous plans submitted in 2019 were described by Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies as “yet another example of facadism”, but said the new plans represented a “great improvement”.

“It’s great to see that the new heritage guidelines are really being brought to the forefront in terms of planning matters like this.”

The City of Melbourne recently completed the most comprehensive review of heritage buildings within the Hoddle Grid since the 1990s.

The Hoddle Grid Heritage Review recommends 137 new individual places and five precincts be protected in the Melbourne planning scheme. 

However, the 1929-built Paramount House — one of many “exchange” centres set up by American film companies around Australia in the 1920s and responsible for the distribution and marketing of films — will be demolished as part of the works. 

Despite the improved plans Mr Davies said this was “fairly needless”, and was overall disappointed about the plight of another heritage CBD hotel. 

“It’s a bit of a shame to see one more pub in Melbourne’s CBD permanently disappear after quite a number have gone in recent years to developments.”

Simon Haussegger from the development’s architects Cox Architecture said: “For us, this is really an exercise in revitalisation of a corner of the city we fell has been unloved for some time.”

The plans are now before the Minister for Planning for approval •

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