Wednesday 29 July 2009

Melbourne's Hotel Windsor Reveals $260 Million Plan to Return to Greatness

Melbourne's Hotel Windsor has announced a $260 million development proposal aimed at securing the future of the city's only 19th century grand hotel.

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.

Mr 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."

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 – 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.

Mr Perry said the Hotel Windsor had the best afternoon tea experience in Australia – and it was staying exactly the same – but no swimming pool. It had a magnificent Grand Ballroom, but no space for big functions and guest rooms considered too small by modern standards. It had a magnificent past, but an uncertain future unless it was expanded and improved.

He said: "This concept is an exciting major project for the hotel, for the City of Melbourne and for Victoria's tourism sector. The proposed new design is an exceptional piece of contemporary architecture that complements and highlights the original Hotel Windsor, which regains its dominance and elegance against the new backdrop.

"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.

Book Your Travel with Wego