In Redevelopment by Clyde Mooney

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Council is expected to approve plans tomorrow for a $15m 26-storey tower atop the 153-year-old Great Western Hotel in Melbourne.

Described as one of the most intact goldrush era pubs in Melbourne, the Great Western was built in 1864 on a squat 325m² block on the corner of King and Little Bourke Streets.

The pub closed in March citing declining trade, joining the ranks of forgotten Victorian hotels. Freehold owner, Chinese developer Jin Yi P/L submitted plans that involved demolishing the historic hotel, which despite its age holds no heritage protection.

Melbourne City Council (MCC) pushed back and got Jin Yi to retain the Hotel’s façade, and went outside the Andrews Government’s density limits on proviso two levels of office space were built above the commercial ground floor. Above those will be 64 apartments.

While the embossed façade will remain, the internals of the two-storey pub will be demolished, which Council says will “make for a much better development and the preservation of the Great Western Hotel at the ground level”.

Lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action is not so sure, with vice-president Rohan Storey telling The Age it may have been “better to demolish it completely” than live with the bastardisation.

“Facadism like this is a far less than ideal practise. Heritage isn’t just keeping the outside walls.”

MCC meet tomorrow (4 July) to vote on the plans, which are expected to be approved.

Artist impression of proposed tower

Image: Courtesy State Library of Victoria