Converting an iconic theatre into a 16-storey five star hotel is no simple feat, particularly during Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns of 2020-22. But the result is a hotel that features mid-century inspired interiors, an iconic art deco façade and subtle nods to its halcyon heritage.

The new Le Meridien five-star Marriott hotel is situated in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD on busy Bourke Street, surrounded by narrow laneways and just 60 metres from Parliament house. A project of this magnitude, located in a heritage precinct, flagged significant challenges – so much so that some of the largest builders in the industry turned their backs on the project.

However, it was a challenge that L.U. Simon Builders relished. As pioneers in the industry, the firm wanted to be part of the continual transformation of Melbourne. “We developed a build methodology that satisfied the City of Melbourne sufficiently to let us demolish the former Palace Theatre,” L.U. Simon Senior Project Manager, Dennis L. Moschoyiannis said.

“It helped that we had 60 years of local knowledge to convince stakeholders that the job could be completed successfully, and that it would be done with minimal disruption to the adjacent Princess Theatre and public transport network.

“To dig 12 metres underground required specific rigs, equipment and even a mining conveyor-belt to remove over 5,000 trucks worth of material through the CBD.” Additional challenges included the fact that the original structure was a landlocked building, a heritage façade, public protection orders, neighbouring outdoor dining, one way traffic and the busy local tram network, not to mention over 120 protests at nearby Parliament House as well as impromptu city closures during construction.

“We would also like to acknowledge our key design consultants, Peddle Thorp, JBA, Northrop and Marriott Design,” Mr Moschoyiannis said. “This job would not have been a success without a devoted team providing not only professional but also practical services from start to finish.”

The firm commenced construction in November 2020, between Melbourne’s second and third lockdowns, and completed the build in October 2022, a year after the city’s sixth lockdown – handing over the project three weeks before its scheduled delivery.

After opening in March 2023, the venue has already become one of the city’s most popular hotel destinations. L.U. Simon Builders has also received numerous accolades for the development, including being named Master Builder of the Year – the third time the firm has achieved this honour. 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.

“The Victorian building and construction sector continues to push ahead on a path of success,” Geoff Purcell, President, General Contracting Sector Committee for the Master Builders Association of Victoria said. “The scope of work is tremendous and the outcomes for consumers continue to be spectacular.”

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