The campaign to save Melbourne’s Palace Theatre continues to swell following news of plans to demolish the 2,000 capacity venue to develop luxury apartments in submissions made to the State Government for the construction of a $180 million 5-star hotel complex.

Community initiatives swiftly sprung up late last week when owner Xuan Xu, of property investment firm Jinshan Investments, revealed plans to raze the Palace to construct Australia’s first ‘W Hotel’: a 205-room, 145 apartment complex built across 20,000 square metres.

‘Save The Palace Theatre’ Facebook group, with 26,000 ‘likes’ (and still growing) and an online petition to rescue the site of the former Metro Nightclub at the top end of Bourke Street with more than 17,500 signatures have been the twin movements spearheading the fight for the Palace.

Now the Grammy-winning Gotye has joined the cause, with Wally De Backer using his internationally-recognised level of exposure to cast a light on the venue’s plight, as FasterLouder points out, tweeting to his 378,126 followers to sign the online petition to stop the proposed 30-storey development.

Another high-profile musician joining the fight is Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones, sending a message to fans ahead of the popular Welsh rockers’ Australian tour this month, which includes two shows at The Palace on the 21st and 23rd of July.

“It would indeed be a real shame,” said Jones of the potential closure, “I’m sure it’s something that the band will hear about when they are there. In the meantime, I have signed it personally to get one more signature on the petition. We need to keep these great historical music venues for future generations!”

The Facebook group also has a statement from Greens Party member Adam Bandt throwing his support behind the cause. “It’s been great to see Melbourne’s live music fans raising their voices about the threat of demolition facing the Palace Theatre in Bourke St,” says the local Federal member of Parliament for Melbourne. [do action=”pullquote-2″]”We need to keep these great historical music venues for future generations!” – Kelly Jones, Stereophonics[/do]

“Let’s see if the state planning minister is true to his word that he won’t approve the proposed development,” added Bandt, referring to Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s recent comments that he would not approve the submitted plans for the 30-storey apartment complex under their current conditions.

“The developer is dreaming if he thinks the government is going to approve this in the form in which it has been submitted,” Minister Guy told ABC reporters on Saturday according to the Melbourne Heritage. “It is too tall, it is in the wrong location.”

The Planning Minister’s comments aren’t confirmation that plans by developers can’t be shaped and sculpted until they do satisfy Government approval, as the Greens MP Adam Bandt points out. “Even if he does (not approve submissions), it won’t be the last development application of this kind to come across his desk – we need better systems to protect the cultural value of our great live music venues,” said Bandt.

Another group have also shown their interest in putting together a public rally against the residential proposal in a Facebook group put together by politically-minded musician Ezekiel Ox (of Mammoth, Ox & The Fury, and The Nerve fame) and local “writer, socialist, spoken word artist and blogger” Benjamin Solah.

“Many Melbourne music, art and culture lovers marched on Parliament on February 23rd 2010, successfully pressuring the Government to acknowledge that Melbourne people love their live music, and their venues. It is time to march again.” reads the public protest page’s description, referring to the SLAM Rally’s fight for Collingwood’s The Tote Hotel.

The Palace is partially listed as a Melbourne Heritage site, but only its facade is protected as heritage while its interior remains vulnerable. As Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan emphasises, it is “one of the few medium sized venues that can host the bigger Australian acts as well as international touring bands. Its absence would leave a huge gap for 2,000 capacity standing room venues,” leaving only the likes of the 1,050 capacity Billboard, the 1,500 capacity Forum Theatre, and the 2,896 seats of St Kilda’s The Palais for promoters left to choose from, either downsizing or upsizing their capacities, while competing with other cultural events like the comedy and film festival.

(Photo: Andrew Briscoe. Source: The Flaming Lips Gallery)

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