Markets The New Target For Developments

Melbourne is fortunate to retain some excellent outdoor/indoor markets. The Queen Victoria market is a nationally listed Heritage site as well as also being Victorian Heritage listed. South Melbourne market has been successfully revitalised yet retains its character. Markets are traditionally the province of the people. They provide an eclectic mix of produce, delicatessen items, clothing and homewares at prices most people can afford. Unfortunately, there are others who view these wonderful, vibrant places as huge opportunities for real estate development. The latest in a long line of targets is the Preston market.

Preston market is relatively recent, having first opened in 1970. Markets are bustling, exciting places, traders are mostly small businesses and it’s a model that has survived the test of time. 

Property developers covet the large expanses of land these sites often represent. In this case the Preston market has been identified by Planning Victoria as a desirable project and has been fast tracked in its planning.

For the very latest update please read this article from The Age newspaper, dated 17th May, 2021. 

Fears for future of Preston Market as apartment plan looms

By Rachel Eddie

May 17, 2021 — 11.59pm

Preston Market could be redeveloped to make room for 2200 apartments under draft planning rules that the council says could wreck the 50-year-old “heartbeat of the local community”.

Up to 20 storeys of apartments could be built on the northern end of the 5.1-hectare site, according to plans drawn up by the Victorian Planning Authority and released for consultation on Tuesday.

Planning Authority and released for consultation on Tuesday.

The market would be repositioned to front Cramer Street, at the southern end of the site, and retain the existing fruit and vegetable shed to protect local heritage.

But most of the 120 stalls would be moved, allowing stallholders to keep trading during construction. The floor space for traders cannot be reduced under the proposal.

The planning authority has been reviewing the development rules for the precinct and fast-tracked the process after it was asked to identify projects that were close to shovel ready and had a high economic value to help boost the economy after COVID-19.

The authority wants to make better use of the private land to provide jobs and housing, arguing that well-connected land of that size was rare and was needed to tackle urban sprawl.

Preston Market borders Preston station, which is due to be elevated as part of a level crossing removal project.

Buildings could be up to 12 storeys high with setbacks on the southern end of the market precinct. They could be 16 storeys in the centre and 20 storeys at the northern end to make room for between 4500 and 6000 residents to move in.

Ten per cent of the apartments would need to be affordable housing and the developer would have to donate 10 per cent of the land value to create open space, most probably opposite Preston City Oval.

VPA chief executive Stuart Moseley stressed that the draft rules would make sure that any development retained a fresh food market of about the same size.

“Our draft plans ensure the Preston Market precinct offers new homes and jobs in a greener, sustainable precinct, including affordable housing, new public open spaces, new community facilities and improved transport connections,” Mr Moseley said.

Darebin Council has previously rejected development applications for the site, but a proposal to construct four buildings between nine and 14 storeys high was approved on appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The current planning controls had no heritage protections and did not provide a clear future for the market, the VPA said.

The new plans would add local heritage protections to retain the market’s character, while giving certainty to its future and improving layout and access.

How the Victorian Planning Authority imagines the market could look at the Cramer Street entrance.

Credit: VPA

Darebin mayor Lina Messina, whose first job in high school was at the market, said the precinct was “the heartbeat of the community”.

“Council is worried that under this plan, most of the market could be demolished,” Cr Messina said.

She said the council would make a submission after reviewing the details of the plan, to ensure the market remained where it was.

Councillors hardened their position on the market in March, voting to advocate for the market to be retained on the current footprint with mandatory height limits of 12 storeys.

Darebin Council also called for Planning Minister Richard Wynne to intervene in a change.org petition, launched earlier this month.

Construction would be unlikely to begin until at least 2024, subject to any permit applications which would also need to go through a consultation and approval process.

Sam Tarascio, managing director of part-owner Salta Properties, said the owners were committed to the success and longevity of the market.

“There is a growing demand for a more modern community market environment that continues to serve the needs of the existing traders and the community, and supports growth in Preston.”

The draft plans will be open for consultation for eight weeks on the Engage Victoria website. 

Rachel is a city reporter for The Age.

The Queen Victoria market is still under threat of development by the Melbourne City Council. It seems extraordinary, but to date the City of Melbourne have yet to create and present a Master Plan for this National Heritage iconic site! 

Expect an update on this over the next few weeks. Balance Architecture attended a recent meeting where parties interested in preserving the unique nature of the Queen Victoria market met for a walk through with Melbourne City Councillor Rohan Leppert. It seems very likely that a new steering committee representing all parties interested in the status of the Queen Victoria market will now be formed.

Queen Victoria market artist impression. Attribution: Urban

Iconic markets such as the Queen Victoria, the Prahran market and the South Melbourne market should most definitely be saved from predatory developers and their land grabs. But so too should markets like Preston, Dandenong, Croydon and others that truly serve the community. Too often they disappear quietly (Moonee Ponds and Brunswick markets) and represent a lost community asset. 

It’s time to say “No thanks!” and ensure the future of ‘people’s markets’ such as Preston market. It’s high time to recognise the value of strong links with our food producers and the wonderful selection of farm to market produce that can only be found at markets.

Heritage – It Matters. Preserve It. 

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