To market to market ...

By Adam Ford

The Queen Victoria Market was built in 1869 on its present site just north of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It has been Melbourne’s main fresh produce market ever since. 

The market, like much of the 19th century heritage Melbourne treasures today was threatened a number of times in the latter half of the 20th century.

Many of the original 1930s sheds were demolished in the late 1960s for car parking and, briefly in 1964, the entire site was earmarked to be flattened for the same.

Now controversy swirls again, with the City of Melbourne looking to facilitate arguably the most radical changes to the market’s operations in its near 150-year history.

Where the Lord Mayor began with a stated intent to “refresh the tired old lady”, the recently revealed plans appear to be more about broader precinct renewal than heritage.

The latest plans include a proposal to temporarily dismantle many of the sheds to allow construction of a service basement, and to replace the fresh produce next to the dairy hall with food venues and takeaways.

Council has already spent millions acquiring the neighbouring former Munro site bordered by Therry, Franklin and Queen streets to facilitate and help fund the renewal.

That site is host to a number of former low-rise red brick buildings that are of significant heritage value, but are mostly unprotected. The site is now earmarked by council for an apartment tower development of up to 200m high.

MHA, the National Trust, many stall holders and the Friends of the Queen Victoria Market hold significant concerns about what sort of market will emerge from this process.

While final plans are yet to be released, and the proposed reconstruction of the protected sheds would be unlikely to present heritage issues, the market’s core heritage values are all oriented around open space and clear sightlines.

MHA holds significant concerns that a 200m tower on the Munro site may permanently compromise those values. We also oppose any significant demolition of the Munro buildings, which contribute greatly to the scale and character of the precinct.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne will now have the final say on any development.

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