Developer deal struck in $1.7b Queen Vic Market revamp; three new towers proposed

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Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne has announced a historic partnership with property developer Lendlease to embark on an ambitious $1.7 billion transformation of the southern end of Queen Victoria Market.

The proposed development, the largest urban renewal project of its kind to be undertaken by the council, includes three new buildings consisting of build-to-rent units, affordable housing, student accommodation and offices, which will be all connected to the market by the restoration of the existing it’s superfluous heritage Franklin St stores.

There will also be a 1.8-hectare public park created at the existing open-air car park, to be known as “Market Square,” as well as a 220-space underground car park to be built within the development area known as the “Southern Site”, which is bordered by Franklin, Queen, and Peel streets.

A new Queen’s Corner Building will also provide a civic pavilion adjoining Market Square to the north, south and east, providing amenities for the public space and supporting the activation of the square. 

Construction is expected to begin in early 2024 and be completed in 2028, subject to planning and heritage approvals.

Overall, the project is expected to generate more than $1 billion in economic activity and create more than 4000 new jobs.

The major redevelopment is in addition to the council’s announcement of proposing to create a linear park on Franklin St that would stretch from QVM to the under-construction State Library Metro station, covering the equivalent size of three basketball courts.

According to the council, the linear park will be realigned to “unlock” the precinct redevelopment, which will be known as “Gurrowa Place”.

Designs have been released for the 1250-square-metre linear park, which would feature 40 trees, and see four lanes of traffic reduced to two.

At their July 11 meeting, councillors endorsed a public consultation process for the linear park, together with Market Square and the Queen’s Corner Building in what are billed as “new public assets”.

Cr Capp encouraged the community to have their say before consultation closes on August 23, noting the neighbourhood was expected to be home to 20,000 new residents and more visitors in the next two decades.

She said Gurrowa Place would transform the site into a “vibrant new precinct bursting with uniquely Melbourne experiences – creating an enduring legacy for the Queen Victoria Market for generations to come”.

 

An artist’s impression of the new southern site development at Queen Victoria Market.  

 

“This globally-iconic precinct will be a place to celebrate, with spaces for events, world-class retail and new laneways and arcades to complement the beloved market experience,” she said.

Three new buildings, which will be powered by renewable electricity, will overlook the historic market precinct, Flagstaff Gardens, and the CBD, with the tallest tower, at 49 levels, providing about 1100 student accommodation beds, to be delivered by Scape.

A “next generation” sustainable office and retail building will be spread across 28 levels and add about 43,000 square metres of new workplace, while a third 46-level tower will consist of 560 residential apartments including build-to-rent and 15 per cent affordable housing.

The restored Franklin St stores, which will be kept by the council, will “create a vibrant retail hub that complements the market’s unique offerings”.

 

Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Lendlease managing director of development Tom Mackellar.

 

The divestment of the southern precinct to Lendlease, which was formally announced on June 28, follows a landmark agreement with the state government in 2014 when it gifted the 3.2-hectare site to the City of Melbourne so it could be sold to the private sector, with all funds being reinvested in the market’s renewal.  

“Traders will benefit from more customers and activity, with every dollar of this sale reinvested into the preservation and renewal of the precinct,” Cr Capp said.

“Melbourne is the fastest-growing capital city in the country, and this development is a vote of confidence in our future. Lendlease could invest anywhere in the world, but it’s choosing Melbourne.”

Lendlease managing director of development Tom Mackellar said delivering the project was a “once-in-a generation opportunity” with the creation of Gurrowa Place beginning “the next chapter in the evolution of Queen Victoria Market”.

“Lendlease looks forward to working alongside the City of Melbourne, Scape and all project partners, and the community to deliver a reimagined precinct that preserves the heart and soul of this Melbourne landmark while ensuring it continues to thrive,” he said.

 

It will celebrate the rich history of the place, while introducing new spaces for the community and a vibrant precinct that welcomes locals and visitors.

 

The council said Market Square would be “unlocking one of the largest open spaces in the CBD”, and maintained there would be no loss of parking, with the new basement car park to be in addition to the 500 spaces already open in the Munro development.

Plans to remove the Queen St roundabout, as well as the design of the intersection are under way, though these have been met with concern with residents, along with altered future traffic conditions, which they say would “significantly impact the general access for cars to the market”.

But Cr Capp said public consultation would be held in about two months, which would include traffic management “and to get feedback on issues such as congestion”.

“I think the great thing about this project is that the residents … don’t need to drive anywhere, it’s such a fantastic precinct, everything you could want for places to work, places to shop, and places to study are right here,” she said.

“All of our efforts are really aimed at making sure that the precinct works well and so a lot of effort that’s already gone into looking at traffic management plans, street designs, and then consultation which is ongoing.”

Cr Capp said there would be staging of the development program “to ensure the open-air car park remains open”, in which half of the area will be used for construction staging, while “leaving half open and when we need the other half we’ll switch over.”

“We understand the importance of car parking to this precinct and particularly for our traders and their customers and we’ve maintained that commitment to parking availability.”

However, Friends of Queen Victoria Market president Mary-Lou Howie expressed concern the high-rise developments would “overwhelm and dominate the market”, with the profits being “driven by a cash-strapped council”.

“Lendlease, in partnership with the City of Melbourne, is building another massive wall like the since demolished Gas and Fuel building on Flinders St, which will divide the north and south aspects of the CBD,” she said.

Ms Howie added converting the open-air car park into a park was the council’s plan to “pedestrianise” the market, arguing it would not provide convenient and accessible parking, particularly for the disabled and the elderly.  

The new car park, Market Square and the Queen’s Corner Building will be the focus of the earlier stages of the project when construction begins.

Lendlease is collaborating with the Wurundjeri Elders on the precinct’s design. It has also worked with NH Architecture, Kerstin Thompson Architects, 3XN Australia and Searle x Waldron Architecture, in conjunction with Openwork and McGregor Coxall, to conceptualise the proposed development scheme for the site, which will be targeting carbon neutral precinct certification and 5 and 6 Star Green Star ratings.

Community members will be invited to have their say on a range of project components over the coming months.

Gurrowa Place will complement the heritage sheds’ restoration, the new Munro library and community hub, hospitality and retail offerings in the Munro development and Mirvac’s build-to-rent project on Therry St. •

To have your say on transforming Franklin St visit Participate Melbourne.

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