Row over plan for Hotel Windsor tower

The National Trust of Victoria says a proposed 25-storey tower to be built behind Melbourne's iconic Hotel Windsor could   threaten the heritage character of the area.

The glass tower, which the architects describe as looking like a "shower curtain" draped behind the original hotel on Spring Street, is part of a $260 million redevelopment of the historic building.

National Trust chief executive officer Martin Purslow said that while the Trust supported the need to modernise the existing building, it did not see the need for the massive tower, which would breach mandatory height controls in the city precinct.

"The Trust regrets the proposal to demolish the rear wing of the original building, and replace it with a 27-storey tower that far exceeds the height limit for the area," he said.

The tower will house guest rooms and suites, meeting rooms and health and leisure facilities. In the Windsor's publicity material, it is described as a "slim and elegant" backdrop for the hotel.

Architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall has proposed an innovative wavy all-glass "shower curtain" to diminish the visual impact of the tower.

Architect Bill Corker said the tower would be a 11.5 metre wide glass curtain that would be "floating discreetly" behind the original hotel.

"It literally is a sheer, curvy glass curtain wall that's literally a backdrop," Mr Corker said.

Mr Corker said the giant curtain would be "a very interesting facade".


But the National Trust is concerned about the high visibility of the tower from Spring Street, claiming it could threaten the heritage character of the area.

The Windsor's proposed redevelopment will also include a major restoration of the original building, including the reinstatement of the Spring Street colonnade.

The Spring Street frontage will also be reopened to create walking space between the windows and exterior columns, while the 1960s Bourke Street corner is marked for bigger changes.

A new corner building will also be built to replace the 1960s north wing addition as part of the hotel's plans to add 152 rooms to the 180-room five-star hotel.

Windsor chief executive David Perry said the hotel's owner, the Halim Group, was committed to returning the Windsor "to her position of glory as one of the world's great grand hotels".

Mr Perry said the redevelopment would restore the hotel's status as one of the great grand hotels of the world - not just a good place for afternoon tea.

"If you have afternoon tea, you have it at the Windsor - or you're not having it at the best establishment," Mr Perry said.

"But when it comes to hotel accommodation, we used to be the choice for royalty, we used to be the choice for the legends of the screen, politics, the world stage, and we now have competition."

The plans have been received by Heritage Victoria and the Department of Planning and Community Development.
Jim Gardner, acting executive director of Heritage Victoria, said the proposal's impact on the cultural heritage of the area would be of high importance.

If approved, the redevelopment of the Hotel Windsor will commence late next year. Construction is expected to take 30 months.

Mr Corker has been discussing the plan with the Government and Heritage Victoria since last November and said he had received a "good vibe" that the project would be approved.

Denton Corker Marshall is the architecture firm behind the Melbourne Museum and the Adelphi Hotel.

Like the Adelphi, the new Windsor will have a swimming pool extending over a Melbourne laneway.

Mr Perry told reporters this morning the development was vital to the hotel's survival. Owner Adipoetra Halim, director of the Melbourne-based Halim Group which owns the hotel, would not say whether the Windsor was losing money.