In Changing Times, Redevelopment by Clyde Mooney

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Despite last-minute attempts by Port Phillip Council to save it, in the wake of public outcry, St Kilda’s iconic 164-year-old Greyhound Hotel is currently being demolished.

Built in 1853, the Hotel has been through a number of transformations, renovated in the 1930s with an Art-Deco façade, later a popular live rock band venue and in the last couple of decades an institution for the LGBTIQ community, earning the description the “drag capital of Melbourne”.

Greyhound Hotel as it was recently

It was purchased in 2006 by a company operated by Chris and Will van der Linden and Karina Harcourt, who have long attempted to save it as an historic pub, applying for extended trading hours and a permit to increase capacity, with no joy from Council.

In June 2016, a permit was issued by Council to demolish the building for redevelopment, which Harcourt cited was more of a ‘back-up’ plan for if they could not get the Hotel profitable.

In January of this year it finally closed, citing financial strain, with the company seeking to exercise its approved demolition permit and applying to build an eight-storey residential tower on the site.

Port Phillip Council reportedly received 45 written objections to the development proposal, and a petition that has to date garnered around 2,700 signatures. It rejected the application on the basis that it was too tall, and should incorporate part of the existing building into the design.

The owners had never considered doing this incorporation, due to the extensive additional cost, and appealed the decision. This case will come before VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) in June.

Now pushing to save the building, Council commissioned an independent report on the Greyhound’s heritage value by consultants Context. The company’s 53-page report found the Hotel to be of historical, cultural and social significance.

Council lobbied further with the office of Planning Minister Richard Wynne, first seeking an injunction against the demolition and then presenting the Context report, in pursuit of a heritage overlay on the pub.

The demolition permit will expire 21 June, but 73-year-old Will van der Linden told The Leader – in an interview about the personal and financial stress the whole situation was causing him – he would not demolish the old building until the Planning Minister had ruled on the matter.

But the Planning Minister recently rejected the hail-Mary appeal for protection, reiterating previous comments that its Art-Deco makeover denied it architectural significance. Wynne has criticized Council for not acting on the matter before the demolition permit was issued.

“This is yet another example of the Port Phillip Council shirking its heritage and planning responsibilities,” said Minister Wynne.

“The council had every opportunity to assess the site for its heritage significance.”

The owners sadly report that in recent weeks the pub has been broken into “so many times” and the interior destroyed by vandals.

Demolition on the Greyhound Hotel began yesterday (11 May).

Artist’s impression of proposed development at site of the Greyhound