The biggest overhaul in the Queen Victoria Market’s 140-year history will entail a major transformation of its most beloved sections and construction of at least two high-rise towers.
The heritage-listed sheds that currently house the souvenir and fruit stalls would be temporarily removed as part of Melbourne City Council’s $250 million upgrade, and a sprawling underground services area built.
But the revamp may have hit a significant roadblock in Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who has serious concerns about it.
Under the five-year council plan, to be released on Thursday, the busy fruit and vegetable stalls in the market’s lower half near the Deli Hall would be shifted and replaced with restaurants and takeaway stalls.
These traders will be moved to the upper market area on Peel Street. Starting from 2018, both areas would have service areas built beneath them.
The Mercat Cross Hotel block, bought by the council in 2014 for $76 million, would be sold to a developer – either the union-linked CBUS or another company, PDG – and turned into apartments at least 30 storeys high.
These would not overshadow the market because they are to its south, but Mr Wynne said on Wednesday that there were “very serious questions that remain unanswered” about the proposed redevelopment.
“Serious hurdles remain in relation to the historic preservation of the market with this new redevelopment,” he said, adding the plan to “demolish and then reinstate some of the sheds is potentially problematic from a heritage point of view”.
Source: The Age
But Mr Wynne said the bigger picture of plans for the market was more concerning.
“I think there are serious questions about the integrity of the market as it is understood by Melburnians moving to a seven-day-a-week market, with the potential to erode its best elements,” he said.
“The proposal is also underpinned by two massive residential developments that as Minister for Planning I have got serious concerns about.”
Under its plan, the council will:
- transform the market’s above-ground car park on top of what was once thousands of settlers graves into a 1.5-hectare “market square”;
- oversee development of an apartment tower up to 100 metres in height (about 30 levels) on the corner of Queen and Therry streets;
- build new underground car parking on that Queen Street site, to replace the current car park;
- remove the large roundabout at the corner of Queen Street;
- and build apartments on the site of the Franklin Street storage sheds.
Lord mayor Robert Doyle said some people would remain unhappy despite everything the council was doing to create certainty for all market traders.
He said the project would create 12,000 jobs and generate half a billion dollars’ worth of construction. He pledged the council would “stage the [construction] program to minimise business disruption and keep traders open and operating throughout”.
The council was conscious the apartment development at the corner of Queen and Therry streets needed to be done well, he said.
“What I don’t want is two 100-metre-high boxes sitting there,” he said, adding that the development needed to be stepped back from the street.
Traders in the market’s lower areas and the Deli Hall said on Wednesday they were not happy with the plan, while those in the market’s less salubrious upper half were also concerned the redevelopment would drive them out altogether.
Jenny Pyke, of the Hat Project, who has been at the market for 35 years, said it would be “one massive building site while people try to run a market”.
“And they are not guaranteeing anybody anything. For traders like me, you think, ‘What is the big picture here?’ If you were cynical, you would say they were trying to drive you out.”
Another trader in the Deli Hall, who did not want to be named, said the plan to remove fruit and vegetables from the lower half of the market, where the organics and higher-end produce was, would ruin the market.
“We feel as though that lower market is the essence of the market,” he said. “People should be able to shop in that quadrant – dairy, meat, fish and fruit and veg – and not go off across the road.”
The proposal for the market will go before the council for approval on Tuesday.
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