Queen Victoria Market Back on The Heritage Agenda

The City of Melbourne has determined that it will again attempt to re-develop the historic and heritage listed Queen Victoria Market precinct. Previously Heritage Victoria blocked the re-development of the original market sheds. The battle to save the market and its character was long and hard fought. You can refresh your memories of the event here 

It would appear that the vision of former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is again being revisited. The aim of the then proposed development seemed to be to modernise the “food court” to resemble something more akin to the upmarket food halls found in department store environments. This perspective is completely at odds with what “old city” markets represent worldwide. The Queen Victoria Market is listed not only as a State Heritage Site but as a National Heritage Listing.

For more on the current situation please refer to this article from The Age by Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham: 

Fears $40m plan for Queen Vic Market will turn it into shopping centre

By Chloe Booker and Jackson Graham

April 8, 2021 — 2.00pm

A plan by the City of Melbourne to add two sheds to Queen Victoria Market at a cost of almost $40 million has renewed fears that the site will be turned into something resembling a shopping centre.

On Tuesday, the council will decide whether to invest $35 million to build a “trader shed” and “northern shed” on Queen Street, which would include logistics, storage, waste and recycling facilities, customer toilets and trader bathrooms and meeting areas.

A further $4.5 million would be spent on a refurbishment of the market’s food court.

The response from market traders to the plan was mixed, with some suggesting it would reduce the landmark heritage site to “a little boutique market”.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said the project would employ about 400 workers, in addition to 500 already building the Munro development and restoring the market’s heritage sheds, and help attract more shoppers.

The Munro development includes a community hub, apartments, retail and a carpark.

“These stages of the market renewal program will deliver 900 jobs for our city at a time when we need them most,” Ms Capp said.

“Businesses throughout the City of Melbourne have been hit hard by COVID-19 and major projects such as the Queen Victoria Market renewal are critical to create local jobs and support our economic recovery.”

However, the secretary of the Friends of Queen Victoria Market, Miriam Faine, said the plans went against the recommendations of the people’s panel, which was appointed to give the community a greater voice in the market’s redevelopment.

“We don’t think they are upgrades at all; we think they are continuations of the [former lord mayor Robert] Doyle plan,” she said.

“We think they will make life impossible for traders in every way.”

Ms Faine said the group believed traders would be forced to store goods and perishables in the sheds and that they were being built to accommodate franchises moving into the market.

She said the northern shed would cut off traffic access from Queen Street, which would mean traders would have to load and unload produce at designated times.

“These are designed to turn the market into a shopping centre and into an entertainment precinct,” she said.

Rosa Ansaldo, a fruiterer of 34 years, said there would not be enough new storage and traders would face challenges moving stock without forklifts in the market.

“[The council has] an agenda to get all of us out of here and only have a little boutique market,” she said.

“I want to see an upgrade that works for all of us.”

Queen Victoria Market fruiter Rosa Ansaldo is concerned long-term stall holders are being pushed out. 

Ms Ansaldo felt the council and market management had not listened to her over the past six years.

“Our livelihoods are all at stake; family businesses will go to the wall,” she said.

However, Leo Moda, an owner at Egg stall Eggsperts, said he supported the redevelopment, believing the new look would be cleaner and draw customers back.

“At the moment it doesn’t look nice when people walk through and see dirty rags,” Mr Moda, who has operated his stall for six years, said.

“Traders are mostly for it. The traders who have been here 20-plus years, they are against it, they don’t want to see change.”

Fruiterer of two decades Nash Bideci was indifferent to the plans but feared the ongoing impact if customers stayed away due to noise and dust.

In the past three months, after coronavirus rent-relief was withdrawn, Mr Bideci said his business had suffered a 40 per cent decline while nearby shed restoration works occurred.

“It might look good in the future, but at the moment we are paying full rent and it’s affecting us,” he said. 

The market’s chief executive, Stan Liacos, welcomed the development and rejected the claim it was part of a plan to turn the market into a shopping centre.

“It is imperative that to safely operate a business of our scale we need better infrastructure, storage and safer operations,” he said.

“These two projects will take us into the next century, because the facilities that we have are probably Dickensian and virtually have not seen investment since the 1800s.”

Mr Liacos said the investment would form part of the market’s recovery after a drop of about 80 per cent of its revenue because of COVID-19. This included millions spent on rent relief for traders, a reduction in car park fees and the loss of its night markets. The night markets returned in a reduced form on Wednesday and will be at full capacity in June.

Cr Capp said traders wanted an upgrade to the food court, built in the mid-1990s, as the current one limited the potential to expand their businesses.

She said the upgrade would also include an improved dining area with more seating, a cooking demonstration area, greenery and a new floor and roof

The plan would invest $4.5 million in refurbishing the market’s food court.

“The trader shed and northern shed will deliver important safety, efficiency and sustainability improvements,” she said.

Heritage permits for the two sheds were approved by Heritage Victoria in December. Construction is expected to start in early 2022, subject to approvals.

Friends of Queen Victoria Market has long been concerned about the council introducing fixed storage and refrigeration for fresh produce traders, and loading docks.

The group believes vegetable traders are being driven out of business so they can be replaced with stalls selling wine and takeaway food.

The battle over the redevelopment of Queen Victoria Market – the site of one of the most colourful and contested parcels of land in Melbourne – has been running for years.

The Queen Victoria market is the last remaining in Melbourne’s CBD. Gone are the Eastern and Western Markets, the Fish Market in Flinders Street, the Meat Market in North Melbourne. Markets such as the Queen Victoria are places of the people where shoppers come for fresh produce, the atmosphere and the open air. Generations of migrants have made the Queen Victoria their shopping destination and this is reflected in the huge variety of fresh vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and specialty products available. It is eclectic with a charming hustle and bustle. A sterile. modern foodhall just won’t be the same. It might be nice for council’s new residents located in the Munro Street development – but for the rest of Melburnians it’s pretty simply a disappointment.

The market represents one of the largest areas of relatively open space available in inner Melbourne and it is no doubt coveted by developers seeking new potential sites. Considering council paid $74M for the Munro Street site just imagine what the entire Queen Victoria market site is now valued at. 

Over the coming years, no doubt, further attempts will be made to water down the heritage listings that protect the market and its precinct. The first step in ensuring the protection of this wonderful location, its history, its unique architecture and fabulous eclectic atmosphere is to ensure its heritage value and listing are fully and totally protected. 

Heritage – it’s worth protecting the pathway from our past to ensure a rich rewarding and fulfilling future for our children. 

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It. 

One thought on “Queen Victoria Market Back on The Heritage Agenda

  1. The constant attack ,redraw of decisions already made,apparently done and dusted . Most alarming that these final draughts , heritage decisions and conclusions are bought again into question for discussion and alteration is indicative of a failed law that has no power or relevance,one that can be circumnavigated , dismissed or bypassed. The true question is does heritage law Planning , protection have any relevance or is it just a tokenistic joke , after all how many underground car parks or facilities can you fit under the Parthenon , no matter how convenient for the poor tourists

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