Millions of dollars go into the Palais

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Most live music venues don’t receive taxpayer funding, but in St Kilda there is a strong opinion that the Palais, in need of $40 million worth of repairs, be funded by battlers from across the state.

Port Phillip Council has gone so far as to proclaim “the Palais cannot save itself”, and it seems nor can Council, as it has gone begging to State Government.

St Kilda’s sense of entitlement has encouraged rock legend Tex Perkins to throw his hat into the recent State Election in order to make the Palais an election issue. It must have worked because the Victorian Labor Party committed $13.4 million, in addition to $7.5 million committed by Council.

“The reason I put my hand up to run for the seat of Albert Park was to ensure the future of the Palais Theatre. My hope is that the government and City of Port Phillip can move forward to commence repairs as soon as possible, to ensure the Palais continues to hold a special place in Melbourne’s entertainment scene.” Tex Perkins said.

While Council is begging for funds, it has also invited Expressions of Interest in a first step to secure a long term lease of up to 25 years in order to maximise private sector contribution toward the building repairs.

So it would seem a tripartite funding arrangement is in the making where Council, State Government and the private operator all chip in to meet the estimated cost of repairs of up to $40 million.

Niel Croker, who currently manages the venue, was unable to comment on the Expressions of Interest process, as the rules of the process prohibit him from doing so, but he was eager to point out the venue’s success over the past few years.

“In the seven years we have managed the theatre we have worked very hard to make this a real community asset, while of course at the same time managing it as a responsible commercial operator. So today we have a unique independently run, community focused theatre that has grown to now be listed in the top 20 Concert Theatre Venues in the world.” Neil Croker told St Kilda News.

Mayor Amanda Stevens told St Kilda News, “the Expressions of Interest process is a transparent way of testing the market by identifying interested parties”.

The value to the community is undeniable. The Palais is the largest theatre in Australia with a seating capacity of 2896, and an estimated annual patronage of 317,000.

But when this journalist gazes at the Palais while standing on St Kilda Beach it reminds him of a bald mans comb-over. From that end it looks like a tin-roofed cotton shed. The proposed refurbishments will do nothing to change that.

One plan that could have made that space inviting from the beach was shelved. It was the much maligned St Kilda Triangle development. In addition to the theatre, the site would have gained shopping outlets, restaurants and bars, a TAFE college, an underground car park, and a boutique hotel. But a newly elected Council reneged on the contract and paid the developer $5 million to walk away.

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