Salter plans dramatic revamp for historic InterContinental site
Ben Wilmot – Commercial Property Editor
Lisa Allen – Associate Editor & Editor, Mansion Australia | September 27, 2023
Funds house Salter Brothers is planning a dramatic overhaul of the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, which would see it scrap a 1980s extension to the heritage complex and replace it with a new tower of offices and luxury hotel rooms.
The move defies concerns about the city’s lagging office market and the surge in the supply of hotel rooms, with plans for a new mixed-use tower to rise beside The Rialto Towers on Collins St at a time when many traditional projects are struggling to get off the ground.
Salter Brothers is best known as a hotel funds manager but also counts equity investments and other asset classes in its empire, and it is pitching the tower as fitting in with surrounding commercial buildings, including the neighbouring Rialto Towers and Olderfleet building.
The two buildings that make up the existing hotel – the Winfield Building and the Rialto Building – are significant in Melbourne’s history as they hark back to Victoria’s building boom.
The Rialto building was considered a landmark office building and the Winfield Building dates to 1891 and was formerly the Wool Exchange Building.
The Grollo Group redeveloped the entire site, including refurbishing the two historic buildings and constructing the Rialto Towers, in the 1980s. This included an extension to the Winfield building that will be demolished under the Salter plans and replaced by the new tower, along with a refurbishment of the heritage buildings.
Salter said the heritage Winfield and Rialto buildings would be safeguarded and it has lodged an application with Heritage Victoria for a renewal of the well-known heritage assets.
Under the plans, they will continue to be used as a hotel, and the non-heritage 1980s extension would go, with other concealed heritage elements to be uncovered. The historic horseshoe shaped lane way will be reopened for dining, bars and shopping.
Architectural firm Cox has worked up the designs for a mixed-use building in what Salter called an elegant tower, which it says will bolster the precinct’s reputation. The tower would be largely concealed by the adjacent high-rise Rialto Towers.
The building tapers in from the western side boundary, protecting the airspace above the top of the heritage Rialto building, and is set back behind the Winfield building on Collins St.
The plan includes 270 new luxury hotel rooms, 22,000sq m of premium offices, 1,500sq m of retail at Collins St and Flinders Lane, and a new club housed in the Winfield building.
Salter Brothers managing director Paul Salter said that guests and visitors wanted unique experiences from hotels.
“Investing in the preservation of the Winfield and Rialto buildings and opening up the hidden heritage covered walkway to the public, are critical to the unique experience we want to offer here,” he said.
“Melbourne at its best is a contemporary celebration of our history and heritage. Protecting the heritage, keeping the hotel use and adding office and retail will contribute to a vibrant mixed-use precinct that will also support the ongoing revitalisation of central Collins Street,” he said.
IHG Hotels & Resorts Australia and Pacific managing director Matt Tripolone said that distinctive heritage buildings and laneways were cherished by Melburnians.
“The heritage aspects of our existing Intercontinental Melbourne are an important part of the appeal of staying here. So we are excited about the opportunity to welcome our guests to a fully restored heritage experience within a lively precinct,” he said.
The plan is subject to approvals by Heritage Victoria and the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning, with a planning application to be lodged shortly.
The developer hopes to kick off building works in 2025 with the project to take about three years.