The City of Melbourne last month put its money where its mouth is by buying 6500sqm of land abutting the Queen Victoria Market.
The redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Market is the council’s biggest project ever and the purchase of the land gives it many more options about how to go about it.
Explaining the $76 million purchase on October 15, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the project all of a sudden had been extended to a whole precinct strategy because of the extra land.
He predicted that in 10 years, the area would have the same significance to the north of the city that Federation Square has in the south.
“It will have a different feel to Fed Square, but it will be a major gathering spot and a major activity hub for our city,” he said. “This is the same sort of game-changer at the northerly end of the city.”
Cr Doyle said the purchase also protected the market from inappropriate development on its eastern side and gave the council more flexibility when deciding how traders could continue to operate throughout the renovation.
“The reason we have secured this site is that it adds to the nearly 14,000 sqm we have up on Franklin St at the top end of the market and adds about 6500 sqm on this element of the market – around about 100 metres on Therry St and about 50 on Queen St and we’ll now talk to traders about how they want to see that activated, what we might do, what uses it can be put to. It’s a very, very exciting development for us,” he said.
He said people should look to the Queen Victoria Hospital and Boyd School redevelopments to get a sense of how the council was likely to operate. In the case of the Boyd School in Southbank, the council traded most of its land to developers in return for community outcomes.
He said the council’s vision to turn the current asphalt market car park into green, open space was now more likely because of the purchase.
“I can’t emphasise enough how important and strategic this acquisition is,” he said.
“This is now a precinct plan about how we develop, how we enliven and activate this whole important part of our city, while retaining the jewel that is the Queen Victoria Market.”
And the Lord Mayor praised the owners of the land, the Munro family, for agreeing to sell to the council despite it not offering the highest price.
“We were told that we were not the highest bidder but, to the very great credit of the family, I think they have made a decision to say ‘we are a part of this precinct’, ‘we are part of the Queen Victoria history’, ‘we have a proud history on this site’, ‘we will make our contribution’,” he said.
“And I will certainly be talking to the family about ways that we can honour their heritage and their tradition on this site.”
Cr Doyle said he did not expect the council to win the expression of interest bid.
“You can imagine my surprise and my delight when the CEO announced to me that the family had agreed at that price. I was knocked over because I was coming into this with a fairly pessimistic view,” he said.
“It was like buying my first house. Remember that feeling? We’ve bought a ‘fixer-upperer’ too haven’t we? You have your heart in your mouth but it’s kind of exciting as well.”