As part of the enabling stage of the Queen Victoria Market Renewal Project, the City of Melbourne has finally revealed their plans for the former Munro site, to be developed by PDG Corporation into a mixed-use development comprising a 58-storey Bates Smart designed-tower of 308 dwellings and a 300-room hotel, after the developer was awarded the rights to develop the site on CoM's behalf.
The Council will sell the site known as Lot B (refer plan below) which covers 93-151 Therry Street, 452-468 Queen Street and the rear 128-130 Franklin Street, to VG Property Holdings No. 6 Pty Ltd for $33m to help offset the cost of development.
In addition to the 196m tower, the Munro site will also accommodate 56 affordable housing units, a 120-place childcare facility, a maternal, child health and family services centre, a community centre and kitchen, artist spaces and a gallery. Designed by Six Degrees these various uses add up to approximately $90m in community benefits, according to council, second only to One Queensbridge Street's $100m public benefits package.
This despite the site not falling within the boundaries of the Amendment C270 planning controls which affect the Capital City Zone. Instead council has prepared Planning Scheme Amendment C245 for the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal project, which would also apply to the Munro site. According to the City of Melbourne, the amendment proposes to:
This will be achieved by:
Amendment C245's proposed planning controls would allow for the creation of vital (usable) open space for the northern quadrant of the city thus adding another string to the market's bow as one of Melbourne's most visited attractions. This would be achieved by relocating car spaces to within the Munro site footprint and freeing up the the market's existing surface car park for public space.
A row of red brick strip shops will lamentably be demolished to allow for this development however the greater benefit to Melbourne lies in the $90m benefits package plus the future public open space - a minor sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.
Just as significantly this allows for the Queen Victoria Market to enter the 21st Century from an operational perspective, which in turn will improve the market environs visually and allow it to operate more efficiently.
Like many markets around the world, the Queen Vic has suffered years of neglect and experienced periods of financial difficulty for traders, as people turned to shopping centres and supermarkets and more recently online shopping.
I don't care how long you've been going to the market for or what movie you were in 10 years ago, the sight of vegetables and fruit dumped on the asphalt to rot in addition to pedestrians conflicting with private vehicles and forklifts is not best practice, nor is it safe or hygienic.
As a point of reference and global benchmark, Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona. Located in Barcelona’s El Born district the market designed by EMBT, re-opened in 2005 following 7 years of 'rehabilitation'.
As local residents the architects, Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, also had a personal and emotional connection to the neighbourhood, and a had a strong desire to implement a concept which provided clear and defined open space, while respecting the history and memory of the market.
Santa Caterina Market was the first covered market in Barcelona, opening in 1848. Three sides of the white-painted masonry perimeter walls of the 1845 rectangular market structure were retained and the same granite pavers used on city streets in the neighbourhood were employed within the market interior.
The late Enric Miralles provided the following quote in relation to the project but I think it could quite easily apply to the QVM:
The first mistake is to talk about old and new. Whatever has managed to survive into the present is current, useful, and contemporary. And it permits us to move back in time in order to continue forward. To be permanent is contrary to existence. Things are forever changing.
Therefore new buildings cover the existing ones. They mix up; they blend in order to make the best qualities of that place appear. So it is logic to use terms like conglomeration, hybrid, etc… Terms that tries to go beyond the black and white dichotomy.
It is worth noting that unlike Santa Caterina Market the Queen Victoria Market's historic sheds will be dismantled, refurbished and reinstated while works are undertaken to create a labyrinth beneath the market's sheds for waste removal and delivery of goods.
Additionally, it is difficult to argue a 58-storey development on the Munro site would adversely impact the precinct when just a few metres away a wall of towers rising well over 200m, provide a backdrop to the market to the east.
Critically these towers (with more along the way) have added hundreds of residents to the area, thus making the need for additional open space, amenity and community infrastructure to service the city an even greater concern.
With overshadowing of the Flagstaff Gardens and the new public square prohibited during the relevant times as outlined in the planning controls, the fear of overshadowing of the historic market sheds and halls is a non-issue as development sites are located largely south of the Public Use Zone.
Likewise this notion of the market becoming a high-end supermarket or shopping centre is a baseless assumption doctored up by those fearful of change.
Overall, I believe the Munro development is a step in the right direction and necessary in order to deliver a long-term vision for the future of the Queen Victoria Market, which has been long neglected and ensure it remains viable for generations to come.
The design team comprising Bates Smart and Six Degrees under the stewardship of Director City Design Prof. Rob Adams, should ensure a quality outcome for such a significant site while further adding to the fabric of the Market Precinct.
If One Queensbridge set the precedent for public benefit outweighing planning requirements then the Queen Victoria Market Precinct should be judged on its merits. If ever there was a site that deserved recognition or classification as a site of state significance it's the Queen Victoria.
In fact it could be argued the market itself is a public benefit.