UPDATED: QVM Renewal: The Story Till Now

The National Trust has made a submission to Heritage Victoria regarding a permit application for development of the Southern Precinct of the Queen Victoria Market. The development proposal is the next phase of the QVM Precinct Renewal, a controversial program that has been ongoing for almost a decade.

In light of the very convoluted and extensive history of this nationally significant site’s renewal project, we have provided a timeline following the key outcomes since the agreement that set this program in motion nearly ten years ago.

Setting the Scene: 

The National Trust has been advocating for the protection of the QVM site for over 50 years. We recognise that like many cultural landscapes, QVM accommodates a variety of different cultural realities.  It has, for a very long time, been at the intersection of the drive to expand and upgrade the CBD, and the aspiration to conserve and resuscitate its open spaces and heritage values. Back in 1969, the Trust first surveyed and classified the site in it’s first campaign to “save the market”, in the prelude to the City of Melbourne’s 1970s plans for demolition and a $100M redevelopment.  In 1991, the National Trust recognised QVM’s history as Melbourne’s first cemetery, and revised it’s classification to identify the social significance of the site for the first time.

The National Trust maintains that the Queen Victoria Market’s core function for over 140 years should remain; as an affordable, accessible and diverse retail market serviced by small, independent businesses. The QVM site possesses heritage protections recognising it’s layered and ongoing cultural significance at the local, state and national levels.

The Agreement:

In 2014 the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne entered into a formal agreement to support a market renewal program. Subject to the delivery of key outcomes across the QVM Market Precinct. To support the market renewal, Crown land south of the Franklin Street Stores was transferred to the City of Melbourne with plans that the land would be developed. Funds from this development would be reinvested into the market, and this would ensure the renewal program would incur no cost to the Government.

Outcomes of the 2014 agreement included:

  1. Current car parking relocated and new open space on existing carpark
  2. Queens Corner building
  3. Franklin Street connection (New Franklin Street), roundabouts removed
  4. Franklin Street stores retained and new development sites for mixed use development to follow
  5. Enhance upper market sheds A, B & C, retain authentic character and experience

There was no public consultation on the terms of this agreement, effectively meaning that the City of Melbourne and State Government committed to the Renewal, and the key terms of the Renewal, without consulting with community stakeholders.

The Planning:

In 2015, the City of Melbourne prepared Planning Amendment C245 to facilitate the Market Renewal, including more intensive development around the market. The proposed controls represented a departure from restricted height limits and large setbacks intended to provide a transition from the higher built form of the central city to the very low scale of the Market.

Following extensive community consultation the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal Master Plan was adopted by Melbourne City Council in July 2015. Council later endorsed an Implementation Framework for the Master Plan in 2016. The Framework included proposals which had not been previously exhibited publicly, including the removal and eventual reinstatement of sheds A to D to allow for the construction of underground services for trader facilities.

In 2017 the planning controls to facilitate the market renewal and development of the southern site were approved under Planning Amendment C245. Amendment C245 facilitated the more intensive development around the market that now exists, moving away from previous controls which stepped down from the higher density of the central city to that of the market.

The National Trust published a position statement conditionally supporting the market renewal but raising our key concerns regarding the program in 2017. These concerns include but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining the open air nature of the market sheds.
  • Ensuring the Market continues to be an affordable place for all Melbournians to shop.
  • Detailed design for the replacement of the open-air car park with the public space enabling the Franklin Street edge to continue to be read as the southern extent of the market, rather than allowing the public open space to visually excise the Franklin Street stores from the rest of the market site.
  • Reducing the overwhelming scale of development proposed behind the Franklin Street Stores, and increasing the set back from the Franklin Street Stores.
  • Limiting the height of the “Queens Corner” building adjacent to the new public open space to 7m, or one storey.

Market Trader Infrastructure:

City of Melbourne’s plans for works including the dismantling, restoration and reconstruction of the western sheds A-D and the construction of a 3-level basement were refused by Heritage Victoria in March 2018. This permit refusal resulted in City of Melbourne essentially going back to the drawing board to revise the proposal for the provision of market infrastructure. In recognising “a need for a new engagement approach”, City of Melbourne Councillors supported the adoption of a new model of consultation for the renewal program in the form of the QVM People’s Panel. The Queen Victoria Market was also inscribed on the National Heritage list around this time, on 23 July 2018.

The National Trust was a participant in the QVM People’s Panel, which was made up of 40-members, including 15 trader representatives, customers, residents and interested stakeholders. The panel developed 14 recommendations, which were provided in a report to the Future Melbourne Committee in December 2018.

City of Melbourne Councillors endorsed moving forward with the next stage of plans providing new market infrastructure in 2019, and so detailed plans were developed. Planning applications for two purpose built traders’ facilities to compensate for infrastructure requirements lost in the refused Heritage Victoria permit from 2018 were then approved in 2021. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.

Munro Development:

In 2015, the City of Melbourne acquired the “Munro” site, a large site opposite the market on Queen and Therry Streets, to assist with the facilitation of the Market Renewal. The State Government Agreement was varied to recognise this.

With new planning controls approved by the Victorian Government in 2017, works on the Munro development commenced in 2018. The site provides additional carparking to replace spaces lost with the planned development of Market Square, and a new library and community hub will occupy three storeys of the development. Works are expected to be completed in late 2023.

On Site Restoration and Works: 

Restoration works on the market sheds began in 2019 and have continued throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. In 2022 works to the Food Hall commenced, with the Food Hall now set to reopen in 2023.

Southern Precinct Development:

In June 2023 City of Melbourne announced their partnership with Lendlease to deliver the development of the Southern Precinct of QVM. The development plans include; replacement of the open-air carpark with the public space Market Square, conservation and adaptive reuse of the Franklin Street Stores, construction of the Queens Corner building and the development of three towers behind the Franklin Street Stores. Alterations will be made to Franklin Street to facilitate these developments.

Detailed design plans for Market Square, the Franklin Street Stores and Towers 1 & 2 were only made publicly available through advertising of a Heritage Victoria permit application in mid August 2023. Heritage Victoria permits are required for; components of the T1 and T2 towers (which have been designed to cantilever over the Franklin Street Stores), works to the Franklin Street stores including partial demolition of the canopy due to the tower cantilever, and the development of the proposed Market Square. Further design of Market Square will be informed through a City of Melbourne led community consultation process. 

Following resolution of the HV permit application, the Southern Precinct development works including construction of; T1, T2, T3, and the Queens Corner Building, will require planning approval by the City of Melbourne. These works are subject to a Development Plan Overlay (DPO11) as part of planning scheme amendment C245, which allowed the increase in height limits and cantilever of the tower developments over the Franklin Street Stores. 

The full scope of the Development Plan works will also be the subject of a self-assessment under the EPBC Act due to the national heritage listing of QVM, which may trigger the proposal to require formal referral and approval from the relevant Australian Government Minister (the environment minister). The referral process includes a phase of public comment for a 10 day period where the referral is published on the EPBC Act portal.

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