Builder awarded top honour for Palace Theatre redevelopment

Brendan Rees

The builders behind the 16-storey Le Meridien five-star Marriott Hotel have been named the Master Builder of the Year after the controversial redevelopment of the 110-year-old Palace Theatre.

L. U. Simon Builders completed the $100 million Bourke St project in October last year before the hotel opened in March, featuring 235 rooms, including executive suites across 12 floors, as well as a restaurant, bar, and café.

It also has function rooms, a gym and rooftop pool with sweeping views across Parliament House and the MCG.

At the time, the project was so large and challenging that some of the largest builders reportedly turned their back on any redevelopment.

But L. U. Simon senior project manager Dennis L. Moschoyiannis said the company had “developed a build methodology that satisfied the Melbourne City Council sufficiently to let us demolish the former Palace Theatre”.

“It helped that we had 60 years of local knowledge to convince stakeholders that the job could be built and that it would be built with minimal disruption to the adjacent Princes Theatre and public transport network,” he said.

“To dig 12 metres underground required specific rigs, equipment and even a mining conveyor-belt to remove more than 5000 trucks worth of material through the CBD, this was trammelled by a landlocked building, a heritage façade, public protection orders, neighbouring outdoor dining, one way traffic and busy tram network, not to mention over 120 protests at nearby Parliament House as well as impromptu city closures during construction.”

Mr Moschoyiannis also acknowledged their design consultants, Peddle Thorp, JBA, Northrop and Marriott Design.

“This job would not have been a success without a devoted team providing not only professional but also practical services from start to finish.”

L. U. Simon Builders was awarded the honour at the Master Builders Victoria’s 2023 Excellence in Construction Awards held in September, the third time the firm has taken out the title.

The ceremony noted the company’s “meticulous work reimagining the former site of the historic Palace Theatre”.

The project team also won the Australian Institute of Building’s National Building Professional of the Year award and was similarly honoured, by the Victorian chapter – also for the third time.

L. U. Simon Builders began the project’s construction in November 2020, between Melbourne’s second and third lockdown.

The redevelopment prompted an outcry from the community after the Palace Theatre was demolished, which also sparked debate about the city’s gradual loss of heritage buildings. •


Caption: The new Le Meridien five-star Marriott Hotel in Bourke St.

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