A $1.7 billion revamp of Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is set to go ahead after approval for the makeover was given last week.

The Victorian Government has approved a development plan for the transformation of the 3.2-hectare southern site of the market.

Set to be known as ‘Gurrowa Place’, the site is bordered by Franklin Street, Queen Street and Peel Street.

Its transformation is being undertaken by Lendlease in partnership with the City of Melbourne and student accommodation provider Scape.

A key part of the project involves the development of three high-rise buildings along Franklin Street.

The three buildings will feature a 28-storey next-generation workplace along with around 560 build-to-rent apartments, accommodation for up to 1,100 students and world-class retail.

The build-to-rent apartments will include around 80 affordable homes (15 percent of the total).

The student accommodation places will be managed by Scape.

The three buildings will be connected to the market though restored Franklin Street stores and Market Square (see below).

The development will also include:

  • Transformation of the existing open-air carpark into a new 1.8-hectare public park to be known as Market Square.
  • A new civic pavilion known as the Queens Corner Building, that will adjoin Market Square to the north, south and east and will provide space for council and community use.
  • Restoration of the heritage Franklin Street stores to retain and celebrate their heritage culture and character. The stores will be transformed into retail and hospitality outlets that will open up onto the future Market Square.
  • A 220-space underground basement car park that will help to compensate for the loss of existing open-air parking spaces that will make way for the new park.

The site’s history has been honoured after consultation with Wurundjeri Elders.

The name ‘Gurrowa’ means a place of exchange.

In addition to approval of the development plan, an early works permit has been issued.

This will allow the commencement of excavation to create carparks in the basement of the project’s towers.

Permits will then be required for the remainder of the buildings. Applications for these will be assessed against the project’s development plan.

The latest approval follows an earlier execution of contracts between Lendlease, Scape and the City of Melbourne in respect of the development.

Lendlease has also commenced discussions with capital partners who are interested in investing in the project.

Victorian Planning Minister Sonia Kilkenny welcomed the latest developments.

“Building more quality homes around places like the iconic Queen Victoria Market means more Victorians can benefit from our thriving, liveable and vibrant capital city, with thousands of jobs nearby,” she said.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp agrees, adding that the project represents the Council’s most significant partnership with the private sector.

“Gurrowa Place will become home to thousands of new residents, attract more market customers and boost business for traders – while unlocking one of the largest open spaces in the CBD,” she said.

“We’re one step closer to starting work to enhance the traditional market experience Melburnians and visitors know and love.

“This $1.7 billion vote of confidence from Lendlease is Council’s most significant partnership with the private sector – which will create more than 4,000 jobs and secure the market’s future.”

However, the project is not without its critics.

A group known as Friends of the Queen Victoria Market – which staunchly opposes the project – has almost 5,000 followers on its Facebook account.

Charles Sowerwine, Chair of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, says that the planed redevelopment represents a developer led proposal that will damage the market at its heart.

“This Melbourne City Council proposal to surround the Queen Victoria Market with 25 to 40-storey towers continues council’s mismanagement of the market,” Sowerwine wrote in a letter published in The Age on June 28 last year.

“The ‘public space’ is not a park but an event space. Council strategy is events, fast food and hospitality, which will crowd out fresh food. As a green space, the new park will be hemmed in by high towers.

“Following the discredited Doyle plan, the council is destroying the low-rise heritage buffer around the market. The market isn’t ‘tired’, it just needs better support and publicity, fair treatment of traders and encouragement of a new generation of traders, including those from more recent migrations.

“If there is one thing the market doesn’t need, it’s more mediocre high-rise extending from Elizabeth Street.”


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