Windsor: the Duchess of Melbourne $260m fair dinkum refurbishment plan
Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor has announced a $260 million development proposal aimed at securing the future of Australia's only 19th century grand hotel. This time it looks quite convincing.
By Andreas Augustin
Over the past decades we have seen more than one proposal to renovate, extend or even demolish the grand old lady of Melbourn. Now the Halims who own the Windsor present a plan with all the elements of a working formula including predicted creation of jobs, employment multiplier effects, attraction of new visitors, etc. The proposal, lodged with planning authorities including Heritage Victoria, aims to ensure the long-term commercial viability of the hotel and re-establish the Hotel Windsor as the pre-eminent Melbourne hotel.
Adipoetra Halim, director of the Melbourne-based Halim Group which owns the hotel, said: “We want to recreate the Windsor as one of the world’s great hotels. But it cannot survive as a leading hotel even in its local market without a major improvement in facilities, services and space.”
The Windsor opened as "The Grand" hotel in 1883.
Highlights of the plans include:
• Refurbishment of the original hotel building and its key historic features. The exterior will be restored more faithfully to its original appearance, including the reinstatement of the Spring Street colonnade.
• A slim and elegant 25-storey tower (picture) – set back 25 metres from Spring Street and Bourke Street – that acts as a “curtain” draped behind the original historic hotel building it presents a distinctive form and finish that acts as a backdrop and “frame” for the hotel. The tower will include additional guest rooms and suites, meeting rooms and health and leisure facilities.
• A new corner building to replace the 1960’s north wing addition. The ground level would be fully glazed with retractable openings, allowing al fresco dining and refreshments. The upper levels will include new banquet and function facilities, meeting rooms, guestrooms and an indoor pool.
A Statement of Heritage Impacts by Lovell Chen heritage consultants says the development “has been approached and designed in a manner which seeks a balanced outcome in which key heritage values of the place are maintained and its future as a grand hotel better assured.”
The hotel will have an extra 152 rooms, bringing total accommodation to 332 rooms and suites.
An economic analysis prepared for the Hotel Windsor by Essential Economics says the project will create 560 jobs a year during the 30 month construction period. Once built, the hotel will employ 135 more people and create another 175 jobs through the employment multiplier effect. The refurbished hotel will generate additional visitor spending of $14 million per year in Melbourne.
The plans, prepared by architects Denton Corker Marshall, replace a previous submission for the renovation of the historic hotel. Refurbishment plans for The Hotel Windsor were previously approved by Heritage Victoria in March 2008. Since then full ownership of the property has been acquired by the Halim Group, which began a full review of long-term options for the site and its economic viability. The review included an analysis of comparable landmark hotels around the world.
Hotel Windsor CEO and general manager David Perry said: “The Hotel Windsor is at an historical crossroads. It was born during the Marvellous Melbourne period when this was one of the richest cities in the world. But today the old duchess looks tired and dowdy.
“To maintain relevance in the contemporary tourist market, she needs a modern makeover like some of the great other old hotels around the world.”
Mr Perry said the Hotel Windsor was built just before the Ritz in London, the Ritz in Paris, the Waldorf Astoria in New York and Raffles in Singapore. But the Hotel Windsor had slipped behind these hotels because it had not expanded and adapted like the others. (see timeline of famoushotels, openings during this time include:
- 1881: opening of the hotel Des Indes· Den Haag, Netherlands
- 1883: opening of the hotel The Hotel Windsor· Melbourne, Australia
- 1883: opening of the hotel Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky· Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 1883: opening of the hotel Sagamore· Bolton Landing, USA
- 1884: opening of the hotel Grand Hotel Kvarner-Amalia· Opatija, Croatia
- 1884: opening of the hotel Parkhotel Adler· Hinterzarten, Germany
- 1884: opening of the hotel Chelsea· New York, USA
“Most importantly, the plan delivers a world•class luxury hotel, providing the range and number of guest rooms, dining options, function rooms, indoor pool, gymnasium and spa areas commensurate with the world’s great grand hotels.”
The proposed renovation and re-development is subject to planning and financial approvals. Subject to these approvals, preliminary work is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2010.
We like the presentation on this website very much (we appreciate the sense of history, and the frank Australian way of calling a spade a ... shovel). Fair dinkum*.
* fair dinkum originates from Chinese. It means real, and is used to allay any potential disbelief about some claim the speaker is making. Apparently, Chinese gold miners in the nineteenth century would tell others of any discoveries of gold using the phrase din gum meaning ‘real gold’ in Chinese.