Traffic “mayhem” at Queen Vic Market causes angst as council seeks extension to permit
Road traffic woes stemming from renewal works to Queen Victoria Market may drag out further after the City of Melbourne requested to extend a five-year Heritage Victoria permit for various projects.
Construction activities in recent months have led to a “traffic maze” of detours around the market, creating chaos and frustration for traders, shoppers, and residents who fear there may be no end in sight to the council’s $267 million redevelopment of the market.
But current disruptions may show no signs of abating after the City of Melbourne lodged an application with Heritage Victoria in November requesting to extend renewal works that have yet to begin, with the council having previously blamed pandemic-related issues for delays.
The permit, which relates to the installation of services within Sheds A, B, C, D, H and I, construction of a new centralised waste and recycling facility including installation of operable landscaping and public realm works within Queen St, was initially approved on December 3, 2020, with construction to be completed within five years of the permit being issued.
Heritage Victoria, in a statement, confirmed the amendment to the permit was being considered, which “only allows for an extension of time in which the works are to be completed,” and there would be “no change to the scope of works”.
However, if approved, the permit would allow for up to six years for works to be completed which could drag out disruptions to December 2026.
This has prompted concerns that the iconic market may be overshadowed by ongoing construction activities with the potential to further impact traffic conditions described as “extremely unpredictable and off-putting” with one resident saying they had twice seen cars driving the wrong way on Franklin St.
Residents and traders have also expressed disquiet that the potential approval of a $1.7 billion development at the market’s southern site, which proposes to build three towers up to 49 levels high and turning the existing open-air carpark into a public green square (called Market Square) after the council announced it would partner with developer Lendlease, would exacerbate the challenges already faced by the community.
Construction of this new precinct, to be known as Gurrowa Place, has been proposed to start next year and be completed in 2028.
“It is ridiculous. They’re not controlling the traffic flows into the place to make it work for the customers,” a market trader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Regular customers will just go ‘this is too hard’. You can’t get in and out of the place. The tourists won’t be too perturbed but anyone who has to come in by car will be tearing their hair out at the moment.”
“You can build this wonderful infrastructure, but they won’t have anyone to use it because customers would have all gone out to the ‘burbs and traders moved out to places that are cheaper to rent.”
Another trader said it took one customer about an hour to navigate traffic detours, including the closure of the Franklin St-Queen St roundabout.
“How often do you do that before you say, ‘this is a waste of time, I’m not bothering again?’”
They said customers who travelled from as far as Colac, were coming to the market every two or three months “instead of every two to three weeks because the parking is just horrendous”.
According to the council’s annual report, published in October, the market’s renewal was delayed but it assured, “Officers continue to consult with market management to best facilitate market operations during construction to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum whilst maintaining safety and project delivery”.
“To this end an extensive program of trader engagement sessions has been undertaken. A way finding specialist is assisting.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp conceded construction “can be disruptive”, “which is why we’re working hard to attract as many customers as possible to the precinct to shop and dine”.
“We’re working closely with Queen Victoria Market management to minimise disruption for traders – including access to temporary storage and delivery options – while encouraging more people to visit the market precinct,” she said.
In a statement, the council said some traffic detours were occurring as CitiPower relocated underground cables on Franklin St (including the Franklin St roundabout), Queen St, William St and Flagstaff Gardens to “enable the construction of Gurrowa Place”.
“Works are being staged, and include trenching sections of the road, parking bays and the footpath to install new cables. Works are scheduled for completion in mid-December 2023,” it said, adding access was being maintained with additional traffic management measures in place, including traffic controllers and digital signage to safely guide vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians around the work area.
The southern site development is currently subject to heritage and planning approvals with public consultation on the proposed Market Square having just finished in October.
CBD News spoke to many community members and residents who say the “current mayhem shemozzle” of traffic conditions had been unrelenting for months and called for it to stop or “at least finish the job”.
“Speaking with some stall holders on the weekend, they are saying that their midweek sales numbers have fallen off a cliff. It appears that unsuspecting drivers coming to the market are so frustrated that they are avoiding the market in droves,” resident Sean Kelly said.
Another resident Richard Grace said, “Depressingly, it is a taste of what is to come with the idiotic Southern Site proposal, a crass monstrous development that will build on/replace Franklin St north, that is a major road thoroughfare access to the market”.
Friends of Queen Victoria Market lobby group president Mary-Lou Howie said construction in and around the market was having a “detrimental effect on the QVM brand” since the renewal began in 2013.
“QVM’s heritage integrity is being blurred, diminished and subsumed into a broader precinct narrative,” she said.
“Unfortunately, state and federal legislation is weak in protecting our places of national significance such as QVM.”
The City of Melbourne said “three major milestones” had been completed this year including shed restorations, the opening of the Queen’s Food Hall and upgrade of the Therry St streetscape.
A new library and family services facility will open in November as part of the Munro development with market infrastructure upgrades along with the construction of the new Trader Shed soon starting.
“This program of works is expected to be completed at the end of 2025. Design works are also under way for the new Market Square and Queen’s Corner Building.” •
Caption: Residents are at wits’ end over the traffic “chaos” around Queen Victoria Market.