CBD heritage under further threat

The Melbourne Metro Tunnel Authority (MMRA) plans to partially demolish the heritage-listed Campbell Arcade as it links Flinders Street Station to its new Town Hall Station.

The arcade appears on the Victorian Heritage Database, as “a rare and substantial example of late Art Deco design in a distinctive 1950s colour scheme.”

Its 2015 statement of significance goes on to say: “Campbell Arcade, designed in 1949, is of aesthetic significance as one of the most intact early post WWII public interiors in Melbourne with its salmon pink wall tiles, pink and black terrazzo floor, polished black granite columns and chromed steel shopfronts.”

Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) president Tristan Davies says the plans for Campbell Arcade is one of the most serious threats to CBD heritage is some time.

“Plans buried in the details for the City South Metro station that came out late in December are one of the biggest threats to a Melbourne heritage interior, and our independent arts culture in quite some time,” he says in this month’s Heritage Column – see page 20.

Mr Davies says: “Without any public fanfare, or indeed any kind of heritage or cultural assessment, the interface between the new station and Flinders Street Station has been designed to ram right through the heritage-listed art deco Campbell Arcade/Degraves Subway, with its salmon pink tiles and chrome shopfronts one of the cities most intact interior spaces.”

“Not only will multiple original shopfronts in the arcade be demolished to make way for a contemporary tunnel, but plans put all the rest of it behind sterilised, paid metro ticket barriers.”

“These plans ignore the fact that the Campbell Arcade is on the Victorian Heritage Register as a state significant interior, and thus that any change to it should be treated as no less severe than if half the Block Arcade were to be demolished and put behind barriers. They also disregard the subway’s important cultural place in the heart of the city.”

The City of Melbourne’s heritage portfolio chair Rohan Leppert said: “The new Flinders St pedestrian underpass option announced by the State Government obviously has a massive impact on Campbell Arcade, a highly significant place on the Victorian Heritage Register.”

“Every effort should be made to remove or minimise the impact on Campbell Arcade. The state government owes it to Melburnians to ensure that its heritage permit application process is as transparent as possible, and that the feasibility of all options are publicly demonstrated.”

The MMRA appears determined to proceed with the plan and is not looking at alternative options.

An MMRA spokesperson said: “The Metro Tunnel Project will continue to work closely with affected businesses as they prepare to leave Campbell Arcade.”

“The underground pedestrian connection is a vital part of the Metro Tunnel Project because it will allow passengers to connect with City Loop services without having to touch on or off their myki.”

“Using the existing arcade is an efficient use of existing infrastructure and lessens the disruption and impact to the heritage listed Flinders Street station.”

But MHA disputes that the new plan would result in less heritage damage to the Flinders Street Station complex.

“The previously published option of a tunnel leading to escalators rising through two tenancies on Flinders St, and then into the concourse, seems to have significantly less heritage impact, with only the loss of pressed metal ceilings and two altered shopfronts with no long-standing tenants,” the MHA website says.

In its original plans to connect Flinders Street Station with Town Hall Station, the MMRA proposed to tunnel under Flinders St further east of Campbell Arcade.

The new proposal has not been subject to public consultation, and only appeared on a new architectural diagram late last year.

MHA’s website further says: “The plans as proposed seem to involve the complete destruction but all but one tenancy on the eastern side of the arcade, and it and all but two tenancies on the western side placed behind ticket barriers.”

“The demolition involved here would include the pink tile walls, intact chrome steel shopfronts, original doors and doorframes, perhaps leaving only the pink terrazzo flooring and black granite columns.”

“An intervention of this size would surely be one of the largest destructions of a Victorian Heritage Register listed interior in decades.”

Melbourne MLA Ellen Sandell has started an online petition to “Save Campbell Arcade”.

MMRA says it will obtain all necessary planning and heritage permits before works begin.

But tenants have been told that as their leases come to an end, they will not be renewed. However, tenants may remain on a month-by-month arrangement until July 2019, when major works are expected to begin.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said: “The City of Melbourne is a strategic partner in the delivery of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. The use of Campbell Arcade as an underground pedestrian connection between Flinders Street and Town Hall stations was identified by Cross Yarra Partnership, the consortium selected to deliver the Metro Tunnel Project.”

“A connection to Campbell Arcade was not considered as part of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) planning process. The EES included a connection to the Flinders Street concourse.  The proposed link to Campbell Arcade was shown on draft Development Plans that were placed on public exhibition for comment last year. ”

“Any changes to Campbell Arcade will also require a permit from Heritage Victoria as the Arcade is listed on the Heritage Register.”

“The City of Melbourne is seeking to strike a balance between supporting the delivery of this important infrastructure project and to maintain the heritage values of this significant place.”

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