Listed arcade in the wreckers’ sights

By Tristan Davis

We thought we’d left 2017 on a positive note for Melbourne’s heritage in our previous column, but plans buried in the details for the City South Metro station that came out late in December are one of the biggest threats to a Melbourne heritage interior, and our independent arts culture in quite some time.

Without any public fanfare, or indeed any kind of heritage or cultural assessment, the interface between the new station and Flinders Street Station has been designed to ram right through the heritage-listed art deco Campbell Arcade/Degraves Subway, with its salmon pink tiles and chrome shopfronts one of the cities most intact interior spaces.

Not only will multiple original shopfronts in the arcade be demolished to make way for a contemporary tunnel, but plans put all the rest of it behind sterilised, paid Metro ticket barriers.

These plans ignore the fact that the Campbell Arcade is on the Victorian Heritage Register as a state significant interior, and thus any change to it should be treated as no less severe than if half the Block Arcade were to be demolished and put behind barriers. They also disregard the subways important cultural place in the heart of the city.

Independent fashion stores and jewellery makers, a bespoke second-hand record store patronised by all of Melbourne’s budding DJs, cheap traditional haircuts and family-run newsagents all find a space in the arcade, but most prominent of all is the Sticky Institute, a community run, council subsidised zine space that’s occupied the arcade for over 20 years.

Sticky’s presence in the arcade not only gives a home to a unique community of makers and artists drawn from all across Australia but is listed as a primary reason for our inclusion near the top of the UNESCO World City of Literature list.

Melbourne needs affordable, accessible heritage spaces like this in its CBD, both as a branding for interstate and international visitors – something that sets us apart from 9-5, corporate-only CBDs like Sydney – and as cultural and civic spaces for locals of all demographics.

Will the Planning Minister and Metro Tunnel planners understand this before it’s too late? Or will Melbourne see another nail in the coffin of it’s quirky historic atmosphere?

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