New lighting, upgraded spaces and a new regional experience centre will be the focus as the Victorian Government pumps $20 million into an upgrade of Melbourne’s Federation Square.

Amid concern about site losing its community focus, the Victorian Government has announced what it says is the biggest upgrade in the site’s history and a new vision for the site as a civil and cultural hub.

A key part of the project will involve a new immersive Regional Experience Centre which will showcase the state’s best food and wine, music and culture.

Other upgrades will include:

  • New lighting to improve safety and highlight the Square’s famous architecture
  • Upgrades to the Deakin Edge Theatre and other spaces to better support events
  • Better signage and access.

The announcement comes as the government has accepted the recommendations of its review into the site.

Co-chaired by Victorian Government Architect Jill Garner and governance and financial expert Tim Eddy, the review found that there is significant stakeholder concern about several areas, including:

  • Increasing commercialisation and a decline in the site’s value as a civic, cultural and community space
  • Growing financial pressure to meet asset renewal and maintenance costs
  • A need for better governance arrangements.

According to the review, a challenge for Federation Square lies in its governance and funding structure.

Since its opening in 2002, the Square has been managed by Fed Square Pty Ltd, which was established in 1999 to oversee the Square’s development and management.

Under these arrangements, operations and asset management were to be principally self-funded.

Over recent years, the report found that growing pressure to meet costs has seen FSPL to increasingly prioritise commercial activities over community, cultural and artistic events.

This has led to concern about increasing commercialisation of the site, a decline in its vibrancy as a civic and cultural space and the site losing its value as a community asset and a place for all.

It calls for nine actions across three areas including:

  • Adopting a new community informed vision and new objectives which prioritises civil and cultural impacts and adopting a new approach to programming and visitor experience which aligns with the vision.
  • Ensuring that the built environment supports that vision by adopting design principles and strategies that acknowledge the heritage status of the place and guide future built-form opportunities, exploring opportunities to improve user experience and connectivity, strategically coordinating and integrating with adjacent precincts and strengthening design governance processes.
  • Improving governance arrangements by amending the constitution and charter; strengthening board capacity, including expanding skills and establishing additional subcommittees; and transferring portfolio responsibility to the Minister for Creative Industries.

In a statement, Minister for Create Industries Martin Foley said the importance of Federation Square should not be underestimated.

“Federation Square is the cultural and civic heart of Melbourne – it helps to bring us together and showcases our creativity, diversity and culture,” Foley said.

“These things that were important to Victorians pre-COVID will be more critical than ever as we reconnect and recover as a community and rebuild our creative and visitor economies.”

“Federation Square will continue to evolve as a dynamic cultural destination that reflects the best of Melbourne and our creative state.”


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