By David Schout
Melbourne City Council has sought protection for the 164-year-old Metropolitan Hotel in light of a recent planning application from a developer for the site.
Councillors voted unanimously on June 5 to request Planning Minister Richard Wynne apply a heritage overlay on the historic pub on the corner of William and Little Lonsdale streets.
Should this move prove successful, it would prevent the Metropolitan’s partial demolition by developer Colin De Lutis.
Despite its long-standing history as one of Melbourne’s iconic corner pubs, it has no heritage protection.
Cr Nicholas Reece said the pub’s significance could not be understated, and stepping in was “completely appropriate”.
“Melbourne has simply lost too many of its heritage pubs,” Cr Reece said.
“In the 1920s central Melbourne had over 100 hotel-style pubs like the Metropolitan. Now there are only about 12.”
The pub was identified as a “building of significance” in 1985, 1993 and more recently in the Hoddle Grid Review.
Just last year, it was announced that King St’s 154-year-old Great Western Hotel was yet another historic CBD pub to be demolished.
If the developer has its way, only the front of the building will be kept to make way for a 26-storey apartment tower, an outcome Cr Reece said would not be good enough for the Metropolitan.
“The last thing that Melbourne needs is another featureless, glass tower that is nothing more than a spread-sheet in the sky. And the last thing that Melbourne needs is another one of its historic pubs to be turned into nothing more than a facade that’s as deep as a Hollywood movie prop,” he said.
After submissions were made at the meeting from the National Trust and Melbourne Heritage Action, Cr Rohan Leppert said more protection should have been in place years ago.
“It is a problem of former councils that not all the recommendations of the 1985 or 1993 (City of Melbourne Heritage Review) studies were incorporated into the planning scheme,” Cr Leppert said.
He said the council’s current Hoddle Grid Heritage Review aimed to maintain elements of the city that people held close to their hearts.
“Pubs are becoming increasingly rare,” he said. “Corner pubs are quite a significant part of the social heritage of our city and we are losing quite a lot of them.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said he could appreciate why some may question the council’s consistency on the issue.
“When we look at the Quiet Man (pub) in Kensington – we supported the demolition of that pub,” Cr Wood said.
“So I can understand if a developer is looking at this … and saying ‘why this site?’.”
However, he said the Metropolitan had a “much higher level of significance”, including the fact it has been labelled “rare” by heritage authorities.