Plans scrapped for Hotel Windsor redevelopment

Melbourne ‘icon” The Hotel Windsor.

The curtain has come down on the long-running saga of the redevelopment of Melbourne’s historic The Hotel Windsor, with ambitious plans for an overhaul of the city’s last grand 19th century city hotel scrapped for now.

The Andrews government says it has refused to extend a permit to redevelop the 1883 hotel, which has been at the centre of planning wrangles for more than a decade.

The five-star hotel on Bourke Hill in Melbourne’s parliamentary precinct is a city landmark and the long-running development dispute had prompted concerns about its future.

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In the latest twist, Victorian planning minister Richard Wynne denied an application for an extension by its owners, The Halim Group, which had proposed demolishing part of the hotel’s rear and building a new 26-storey luxury hotel behind it.

“The Windsor Hotel is a Melbourne icon and we’re protecting it – and the unique character of the Bourke Hill precinct,” Wynne says.

The government called time on the project after approving three previous extensions of the development permit. The Halim Group had nine years to complete construction since their first permit was granted.

The Hotel Windsor’s rooftop in 2015. Picture: Mike Keating.

Wynne says “almost no progress” has been made since the last extension three years ago, but the market has proven tricky for hospitality developers.

A series of high-profile apartment and hotel schemes have been dumped in favour of higher returning plans to keep office buildings in place, or build modern skyscrapers, as rents soar.

The Halim Group had wanted to have a planning permit until August 2023, which would have dragged it out for 13 years, which the government said defied industry and community expectations. The developers still have until the end of March next year to complete the work but the time frame would be too tight, experts said.

The Halim Group’s proposed 26-storey hotel would be almost 92 metres high, and nearly 52 metres taller than the current 25-metre mandatory height control on Spring Street and the 40-metre height limit at the rear of the hotel in Windsor Place.

The Victorian government said that amendments to planning rules made since the permit was first granted in 2010 meant the project would be refused today.

“If the same application for development was brought to me today, I would have to reject it immediately – planning rules and community expectations have changed,” Wynne says.

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