Market’s historical integrity at risk over development, residents and heritage advocates fear
Residents have voiced strong opposition to a plan to build three large buildings on the southern side of Queen Victoria Market (QVM), arguing such a move would compromise the market’s rich heritage status.
The $1.7 million proposal announced in June proposes to build towers up to 49 levels high for student accommodation, residential apartments, and offices, while the existing open-air carpark would be converted into a public green square.
But residents have raised concerns that the proposed development, in which the council is partnering with developer Lendlease to undertake the project, would “prove detrimental” to the historic landmark of 140 years.
“The proposals for commercial and residential developments, while progressive, risk altering the essence of the market,” resident of 30 years Sean Kelly said.
“The fervent push to eradicate car parking in an attempt to promote public transport raises concerns,” he said, adding while it was a commendable notion for its environmental aspirations, it “overlooks the practical necessities of many market goers, particularly the elderly and families,” he said.
This delicate balancing act between progress and preservation isn’t easy, but it’s a challenge that must be met to protect the QVM’s vibrant essence. As we chart the course for its future, we must ensure that the QVM continues to resonate with the multicultural spirit of Melbourne, as it always has.
Another resident, Bob Evans, agreed, saying increased traffic congestion and loss of convenient parking, together with the uncertainty traders faced over the terms of their leases, “threaten the viability of the market”.
“The council boasts of its consultation processes, especially the Participate Melbourne websites. However, from experience, market stakeholders have realised that ‘consultation’ ignores views that do not align with pre-existing plans and objectives. The scepticism and frustration are palpable,” Mr Evans said.
Chair of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria’s heritage committee, Professor Charles Sowerwine, said the Society “deplored” the proposed development.
“If there is one thing the market doesn’t need, it’s more mediocre high-rise extending from Elizabeth St,” he said, adding the new park “is only a pretext” and would be “aimed at ‘events’.”
“As a green space, the new park will be hemmed in with high towers. The council have discarded the planning strategies of maintaining a low-rise heritage buffer around the market in favour of developer driven building.”
Under the plans, a linear park is also proposed for Franklin St, while the large roundabout at Queen St and Franklin St will be removed, much to the disappointment of residents who fought hard to save it, not only for its effectiveness to calm traffic, but also for its greenery.
“Many people are actually unaware of the Franklin St north/southern site development and its implications,” resident of 30 years Richard Grace said, adding “recent press releases show one angle from a ‘green’ park perspective.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the proposal, subject to planning and heritage approvals, was a “strong sign of confidence in Melbourne as a destination for investment, workers, residents and visitors”.
“These projects will cement the future viability of the market for traders, boosting visitation and improving the way Melburnians experience this precinct,” she said. •
Caption: Chair of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria’s heritage committee Professor Charles Sowerwine (right) with residents Richard Grace (left) and Sean Kelly (centre), who are concerned about the proposed development at QVM.