Crown Melbourne unveils ambitious redevelopment for Southbank precinct
Crown Casino has announced plans for a major redevelopment of its complex in what is touted to “capitalise on the power of the Southbank precinct”.
The casino giant is finalising a master plan that would revitalise the 30-year-old entertainment venue with a new shopping mall, new international retail, and dining offerings among its proposed developments, as well as enhancing the connectivity to the Yarra River.
Crown Melbourne chief executive Mike Volkert said the upgrade would herald a new era for the precinct and begin a “shift from being a casino and hotel, to a world-class entertainment destination”.
“It will rejuvenate the precinct and reorientate the new entertainment complex, bringing joy, fun and excitement back to the city,” he said.
“We want to make sure visitors get to experience the best of Melbourne … there really will be something for everyone.”
Mr Volkert said Crown was currently in talks with luxury fashion houses from around the world and Australia to “develop an amazing shopping mall with a dedicated porte cochere for retail guests” as it sought to “encompass luxury in all its forms from high-end hotels and retail experiences; from fine dining to casual dining, and gaming”.
Mr Volkert also acknowledged Crown’s dominant presence within the community, which is home to 22,000 residents and more permit-approved dwellings and hotel rooms than the rest of Melbourne, with its master plan aiming to “capitalise on the power of the Southbank precinct”.
Crown would also create a more “vibrant and inviting” riverwalk feel with seasonal activations, better lighting, more entertainment, and a chance to partner with its stakeholders to “bring more life to the precinct”.
Yarra River Business Association executive officer Tim Bracher said plans to breathe new life to the complex were welcomed.
“We also hope that Crown may become more outward looking and that it will start engaging with its local community as well. The ‘fortress Crown’ reputation it has developed over three decades has not endeared it to other businesses and Southbank residents,” he said.
Community group Southbank3006 president David Hamilton said residents were pleased the new owners of Crown were “embarking on a project to refresh the complex that is ageing with many areas that are dated in design or tired”.
“Of particular benefit to the community is the commitment to upgrade and make more appealing the riverwalk area and to ‘bring the precinct alive’,” he said.
“Ideally their plans for this space on the southern bank of the Yarra should seek to complement the [City of Melbourne’s] Greenline project on the northern bank of the Yarra.”
However, he said a downside was that as a destination it “can ignore their impacts on the liability of local residents”, noting there was an “inherent tension in destination facilities and one which the Beulah development will need to address when it is ultimately completed”.
Mr Hamilton said the modernisation of the Crown should also deliver a benefit to traders and increase the profile of the adjacent areas of the promenade strip but added “it is unlikely to deliver any benefit to the wider Southbank community. For most, Crown is a peripheral institution in their daily life”.
Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna also welcomed the news, saying “the place is getting a bit tired so it’s promising to see that they have identified that and are prepared to make the investment”.
But he said he would have liked the plans to have included an update about Crown’s 1-29 Queensbridge St site, known as One Queensbridge, after Crown initially received approval to build a skyscraper, as well as deliver a once-promised $100 million worth of public benefits, before its planning permit expired in March 2019.
“We would like them to have an active plan for what they are going to do with that space, “ Mr Penna said, describing the current disused buildings at the site as derelict and “not a good look” for Southbank, which also had implications for perceptions of public safety.
“It’s just a really bad corner of Southbank. I would love Crown to have done something to address that, even if it’s the council using the buildings for community space.”
Queensbridge St is also connected to the neglected Kings Way undercroft, which the council has promised to turn into a community space with a skate park, basketball courts, climbing walls, sports courts, and a group fitness. The council said earlier this year that concept plans would be “announced soon”. •