In order to survive and thrive, Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is evolving with the times.
In a bid to restore the market to its former glory, the City of Melbourne has approved a plan to add two sheds at a cost of almost $40 million.
The plans involve the demolition of an existing trader building at 16-94 Peel Street, and a toilet block located within the market, to make way for a new three-storey building with four basement levels to use as loading, storage, waste and trader facilities.
A new shed on the northern side of Queen Street will also be upgraded to include logistics, storage, waste and recycling facilities, customer toilets and trader bathrooms and meeting areas.
“The Trader Shed and Northern Shed will deliver important safety, efficiency and sustainability improvements,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.
An additional $4.5 million will be spent on a major refurbishment of the existing food court, which was built in the 1990s.
Officially approved by the City of Melbourne last week, the redevelopment plans have been supported by many, who believe the market is outdated and long overdue for a facelift.
However, the plans and the subsequent closure of Queen Street due to the works have been bitterly opposed by a large group of traders.
Rosa Ansaldo, who has managed a fruit and vegetable store at the market for 34 years with her husband, Paul, and their sons, John and Tony, said she is concerned about the impact of the works on customer numbers.
“We’re worried that the noise and dust will drive customers away,” she said.
“But, above all, we’re frustrated that they haven’t given us information about the new logistics and storage processes.
“The closure of Queen Street during the day will make the work much more complex and at the moment, we don’t know where our vans will be able to park.”
Rosa Ansaldo, who has been a trader at the market for 34 years
The market’s popular fresh fruit and vegetable stalls are already competing with large supermarkets and new “hipster” grocers in several suburbs, and the dwindling number of visitors to the market suggests the need to seize new opportunities.
Although some traders, such as Ansaldo, argue that “it doesn’t matter what they do if they can’t bring people back to the market”, others believe the redevelopment is the only way forward.
According to its CEO, Stan Liacos, the market has survived thanks to the growing popularity of its Night Market on Wednesdays but, in the face of lockdowns and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of visitors has rapidly plummeted in recent months.
“The works that we’re proposing are very necessary for the future of the market”, Liacos declared, adding that the market’s new car park will be opening in July.
“Investing in the market will attract more people and make it safer and more comfortable for both customers and traders.”
Liacos added that the partial closure of Queen Street in the middle of the day is a necessary safety measure.
“We estimate that between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm we will be closing part of Queen Street, because it’s very important that we have a safe environment for our customers and traders,” Liacos said.
“[Traders] will be able to bring in their stock in the morning and in the evening; I don’t believe they need to be concerned about that.
“Of our 600 traders, this may be a problem for around 20 of them but we will support them.”
As the renewal project continues to polarise the city, one can only hope that it manages to strike the perfect balance between preservation and necessary evolution.
Melburnians can rest assured that the heritage of the building will not be undermined, with the works gaining approval from Heritage Victoria in December.