Construction industry delays hamper Queen Victoria Market renewal

Construction industry delays hamper Queen Victoria Market renewal
Brendan Rees

Delays facing the revamp of Queen Victoria Market’s (QVM) new Food Hall as well as sheds being closed for restoration “continues to have a significant impact,” a City of Melbourne report says.

The report cited supply chain difficulties and availability of labour had impacted the market’s $250 million renewal, with concern also “expressed about the impact of these matters on trader viability and customer attendances”.

“In addition, increased traffic congestion around the market is impacting on visitor attendance,” it said.

Work to transform the market’s existing food court into a vibrant indoor dining destination began in February 2022, however, the council said that during demolition, it was discovered that existing underground services were in poor condition and required upgrading.

“This coupled with ongoing construction industry delays, including a shortage of materials and challenges with sub-contractor resourcing, means tenants won’t be able to start their fit-outs until January 2023,” the council said in a statement.

“While construction is underway, pedestrians and vehicles are being diverted around the site, but the rest of the market remains open.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said while the council’s major investment in the market precinct was “progressing well” following the completion of restoration works in two-thirds of the market’s historic sheds, “unfortunately, the current challenges facing the construction industry are also affecting the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal program”.

“We know this is disappointing for the market’s tenants, traders and customers, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to assist Queen Victoria Market management to entice more customers to the market and support traders,” Cr Capp said.

“The Queen Victoria Market is one of Melbourne’s most iconic attractions, and we’re committed to securing its future, and revitalising the precinct, for generations to come.”

Owner of The Hat Project stall at QVM Jenny Pyke said the disruption of the renewal had been “much more difficult” than what she anticipated.

“It’s pretty tough going. Just the continued disruption, the customers don’t know whether the place is open or not,” she said.

“We’re spending all our time directing people where to go. It would be great if it could be hurried along and have less impact on the traders.”

“It just makes it incredibly stressful knowing we’ve got a couple more years to go.”

The report, which was tabled at the council’s September 20 meeting, said the City of Melbourne’s 2022-23 budget did not make no allowances for trader rent relief, but non-financial help would be provided.

The matters outlined in the report said it “should be a focus” for the council’s market renewal team when an audit and risk committee meeting is held in November.

Cr Capp said key milestones had been reached in August, with dozens of fruit and vegetable traders returning to the newly restored A and B sheds.

“New trader facilities have also been installed in those sheds, improving the way business owners access essential services and comply with health and safety standards,” she said.

Restoration works at E and F sheds are currently under way and the final stage of the project is on schedule to complete in early 2023 as originally planned.

The council is investing $30 million as part of the precinct renewal program to repair, conserve and restore the market’s 12 historic sheds – many of which have been in continuous use since the market’s opening in 1878.  Eight sheds have now been restored, including sheds A to D, and J to M. The restoration project is scheduled for completion in mid-2023, as originally planned.

However, Friends of QVM president Mary-Lou Howie said trader confidence had hit “rock bottom” with the renewal making it increasingly difficult for customers to navigate the construction to access stalls in the upper market.

“The longer the renewal goes on the more damage it does to its reputation as Australia’s premier market,” she said.

“We are only halfway there. H and I Sheds are yet to be renovated, then Queen St becomes one big construction site with the building of the proposed Northern Shed, the trader shed which includes lunch, meeting rooms and showers, the gold plating that no trader needs, and the underground waste management system.”

“There is no doubt that the future relocation of H and I fruit and vegetable traders for an indefinite period will impact negatively on the dairy, meat and fish halls.”

Traders can continue to access the Small Business Mentoring Service and the Trader Connect Program for additional support and advice. •

For more information: melbourne.vic.gov.au

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