Queen Vic revamp at risk, says Doyle
A $650 million revamp of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is at risk because the state government hasn’t approved key planning guidelines covering its development, lord mayor Robert Doyle says.
Cr Doyle took the unusual step of releasing detailed plans for a 58-storey, privately developed tower next to the market that will include 308 apartments, a 300-room hotel, a childcare centre, community services and 56 affordable housing units.
The move puts Melbourne City Council on a collision course with Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who has previously rejected the idea of a tall tower on the council-owned land and is yet to approve new planning guidelines for the market’s redevelopment.
The new guidelines support a “discretionary” 100-metre height limit for the area, well under the council’s proposed 196-metre tower.
“We’ve got to the point in time, to keep faith with the public, we can’t stay silent about our plans for the market. We are now batting up against some deadlines that .. start to put the whole Queen Victoria Market project at risk,” Cr Doyle said.
“Those timelines are all in the minister’s hands,” he said.
Last July, an angry Mr Wynne went to the market’s deli area and warned Cr Doyle of his concerns about a 200-metre-high tower next to the market.
“The towers as proposed by the Melbourne City Council have got a 200-metre height,” he said at the time.
“If you think about that right next to the deli here, that is a massive development right on the doorstep of the Queen Victoria Market. At 200 metres, it is well out of scale with this important historic site,” Mr Wynne said.
The council’s plans are for buildings on the “Munro site”, which stretches along Therry Street and includes the Mercat Cross Hotel on the corner of Queen Street.
A key part of the project was the $33 million sale to developer PDG of the air rights above a portion of the Munro site, where it intends to build a 58-storey apartment and hotel complex.
The deal ties the council to a tight schedule, with planning approvals and work expected to start within the next three months.
It needs Mr Wynne’s approval of the planning amendment, and subsequent approval of the development application, before it can go ahead.
Mr Wynne said detailed information on the proposal had only recently been handed over, suggesting he would not be rushed into making a decision.
“We have to remember that this is the only freestanding market operating in and there are only a handful in the world, so any refurbishment of the market that is needed must be sensitive to this extraordinary asset we have,” Mr Wynne told The Age.
He said a proposal to build a 196m tower to help pay for the project would be “judged on it’s merits”.
“But I should point out that an independent panel recommended a height of 100 metres and the council are seeking to double that height,” he said. “On any number of occasions they have provided me with advice to refuse applications of a similar height.”
The plan is for PDG to also renovate some existing buildings on the site, construct a 720-space underground car park for market shoppers and build a community, maternal health and 120-place childcare complex at a cost of $53 million.
The revamp will be the biggest in the market’s 140-year history.
It also includes turning the market’s 1.5-hectare asphalt carpark into a public open space, building sprawling subterranean service areas under several of the heritage-listed sheds and redirecting Franklin Street to free up space that will be sold off to help pay for the market’s redevelopment.
The whole project is expected to create up to 12,000 jobs.
Cr Doyle said the height of the proposed tower was less important than its bulk. A 100-metre tall structure across the length of the site would be much more intrusive, he said.
“We wouldn’t do it, it’s too ugly. We would be compromising our own design principles,” Cr Doyle said. “We say that [the planned tower] is a better solution in the city context. All we want is the ability to put that on the table and argue it.”
Last month Mr Wynne gave approval to Crown casino to expand its Southbank site to eight hectares and build a $1.75 billion 90-storey tower.
Once complete, the tower will be Melbourne’s tallest building, at 322 metres, exceeding Eureka Tower by 25 metres.
Critics attacked the tower’s height, lack of setbacks and the approval proces, in which Mr Wynne amended the planning scheme instead of seeking formal feedback from the Melbourne City Council, as usually happens.