Our new hotel will be called Motown.

Like all things, there’s a story, a process involved in the selection of that name; but all you see is the finished product, the final destination. (At least it’s not an acronym.)

Mona, the museum proper, has always been about the revelation of process. We want you to see how the sausage is made. (‘The sausage’ here stands for everything from the operations of the artworld, to the way the building itself was created; not to mention David Walsh’s—ahem— ego.) Mona is meandering, partial, gradual.

But Motown will be different. It’s a shout (to switch metaphors) rather than a whisper.

The design, like the name, cycled through many iterations over many years, emerging through the collective efforts of architect Nonda Katsalidis, David Walsh, and others.

‘We wanted an inverted suspension bridge,’ David says, ‘but then the value engineers got at it. Now it’s a shopping trolley that looks a bit like an inverted suspension bridge.

‘The horizontal distance from the land to the point is 53 metres,’ he adds. ‘It’s not modest.’

They wanted to cantilever over the water to make the most of the river views. A buildable and affordable solution, however, did not present itself right away—until they tackled another problem, which was how to incorporate a theatre into the hotel complex.

Ordinarily, theatres (or good ones at least) are built like a room within a room, with the inner room decoupled from the outer, to avoid the transmission of noise in both directions. That’s expensive, and they thought they would have to keep the theatre separate from the hotel. Then someone suggested suspending the hotel from above—making a cantilever buildable, and also acoustically isolating the theatre from below.

Motown Theatre
Theatre, part of the proposed Motown development

The hotel will be five star, and have 172 rooms, looking towards kunanyi (Mt Wellington), or up the river towards Claremont and Otago Bay. There will be a theatre, spa centre, outdoor concert stage and library, as well as conference and auditorium facilities, and several new artworks. Some of the art will be quite good. We are even working on some super-duper, ‘special experience’ rooms with some really-quite-good artists.

Walshie is particularly excited about the new library, which will be spread over three levels and will house his large and growing nerd fest of bibliophilic paraphernalia, courtesy of total lightweights like Einstein, Newton, Darwin and Dickens, as well as a hand drawn work of Donald Friend (who, quite frankly, sounds like an awful human being), and one of the earliest depictions of Australia by celebrated cartographer Joan Blaeu (courtesy of his mate Zeljko).

Motown Library
Library, part of the proposed Motown development

Hotel access will be mainly via the water, on Venice-style motoscafi ferries dreamed up in collaboration with Mona’s ferry operators, Navigators. There will be another ferry, and eventually we’ll have a boardwalk link to the main road.

All this costs time and money, of course—we don’t really know when it will open, but maybe in 2024, if we’re lucky. Nor are we 100 per cent sure how it will be paid for. The projected spend is currently pushing $400 million, which Walshie claims not to ‘have on him right now’. But then again he has claimed that before, and managed to cough up at the crucial moment.

To add to the list of we-don’t-knows: the name. ‘Motown’ is tentative. Originally it was going to be HoMo (Hotel Mona); after consultation with the Mona staff force, and with the community beyond, we decided to ditch it. As much as we had meant the name very much in a celebratory way (we hoped the name would keep homophobes at bay), it was decided that it wasn’t David’s joke to make, what with his white man’s sausage and all. Then we tried ‘Thalia’, after one of the three graces in Greek mythology; turns out there is already a place with that name in Tassie. We attempted to bribe/threaten with violence the owners to change the name, to no avail.

Motown Atrium
Atrium, part of the proposed Motown development

‘As you can see’ says Walshie, ‘I’ve been through so much, but gotten nowhere.’ He continues:

While all this was going on we had a vague plan to operate the hotel presently being constructed at Parliament Square on the Hobart waterfront. I had a name for that. It had been suggested to me by my mate Dallas out of the blue. That name was ‘Motown’. I really like ‘Motown’. The original Motown was a brave (and successful) experiment. It empowered a minority, it encapsulated a vision, and it’s shorthand for a significant movement. But the Parliament Square hotel was leased to more cashed up operators (Marriott)—it’ll be called the ‘The Tasman’.

So I arrived here. No name for the hotel at Mona, but a great name for a downtown hotel. And I’m thinking, ‘The Mona hotel, if all goes well, will be a community. It’ll become a downtown area. Motown it is’. So Motown it is. Unless I change my mind in the next few years, or Dallas comes up with a better idea.

Motown overview >

Mona’s development application for Motown has been submitted to Crown Land Services and Glenorchy City Council. Once Crown approval has been granted, the development application assessment process will formally commence with Glenorchy City Council. When the Glenorchy City Council assessment process begins, members of the public will have the opportunity to comment. This is expected to take place in the new year.

Mona held a Motown community information session on Monday 17 December 2018. Watch it here:

Time: 1hr 15mins
Size: 181MB