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Music academy elated after securing long-term lease at South Melbourne Town Hall

Music academy elated after securing long-term lease at South Melbourne Town Hall
Brendan Rees

The historic South Melbourne Town Hall is set to become a world-leading music institution after the City of Port Phillip entered a new lease with the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM).

The historic Town Hall has been temporarily closed to the public since June 2020, after the council undertook a major restoration and renewal of the site.

But as part of a new arrangement, ANAM will spend $20.5 million in capital investment to the ageing building under a 35-year lease, which can be extended to 50 years if ANAM provides a further $19.5 million.

The announcement was made after Port Phillip councillors voted unanimously at their March 15 meeting to award the long-term lease to ANAM.

ANAM board chair John Daley said they were delighted that the council and the community had thrown their support behind ANAM’s vision for the South Melbourne Town Hall.

“It will be exciting to make the Town Hall into a world-class venue appropriate for one of the best music education institutions in the world; many of the world’s finest musicians come to ANAM, and we are certain that they will be inspired by this great building,” he said.

“By working together, we can rejuvenate this magnificent building. It’s a huge commitment to the future; many of the ANAM musicians who will be training in the Town Hall, and those members of the local community who will be able to enjoy their music-making, haven’t even been born,” he said.

Port Phillip Mayor Heather Cunsolo said the lease would secure the long-term future of what has been a much-loved landmark for 140 years.

“We’re excited that ANAM’s presence will further enhance South Melbourne’s reputation as a vibrant, cultural hub for both visitors and our community,” Cr Cunsolo said.

“The investment required under the lease also means this impressive building can reopen and again provide a focal point for community gatherings and events as well as hosting civic functions such as council meetings and citizenship ceremonies.”

Under the lease, ANAM will be responsible for the building’s routine maintenance while the council will be responsible for capital and major services maintenance and renewal.

The council will soon undertake a multi-million-dollar repair and renewal program to prepare the building for occupancy.

Once complete, spaces will be made available for local community group hire at a discount rate, with a booking system to support community hire of the spaces.

ANAM will offer free membership for the of Port Phillip community and establish a South Melbourne Town Hall Cultural Fund with $1 from each ticket sold for every event in the building to fund arts and cultural activities in Port Phillip.

ANAM has been a major tenant of the Town Hall since 1996 with other arts, cultural and community organisations having, until recent years, occupied other parts of the building until the temporary closure.

The decision of councillors to award the lease followed their consideration of the more than 560 submissions during a recent consultation about the proposal which attracted 554 submissions, of which 91 per cent supported ANAM remaining at the Town Hall. 

As part of the Town Hall’s rejuvenation, ANAM will deliver two state-of-art performance venues (for music, dance, drama, comedy, receptions), catering kitchen for functions and events, improved front-of-house amenity, including a café/bar, and extra rehearsal studios among other major improvements. •

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