The City of Melbourne has applied for a heritage permit to allow it to start work on its Queen Victoria Market (QVM) redevelopment.
Some 20 documents of supporting material underpin its plan to remove half of sheds A, B, C and D so it can dig a four-storey services basement before reinstating the sheds.
Heritage Victoria (HV) received public comments until October 25 and has a further 60 days to make a decision.
A negative response from HV would derail the council’s plan to transform the market into a civic hub for the north of the city.
The city appears to be most vulnerable to rejection because proposed lift shafts and ventilation stacks protrude through the roofs of the heritage sheds in a number of places.
Documents submitted to HV show that the council intends to remove the shed trusses as single pieces. They will be braced, racked together and transported to another site to be restored. The methodology crucially counters earlier criticism that the sheds could not be effectively dismantled and reassembled because they were riveted.
The documents also highlight the general poor condition of the historical sheds. The faults found have potentially been over-exaggerated to support the case for renewal, as examiners have found fault with all but 19 of the hundreds of shed posts they looked at.
In sheds B and D, they recommend that all the posts be either repaired or replaced. In total 168 posts are to be replaced.
Some 11 stalls will go to make way for lifts and ventilations stacks and a further 27 stalls will be lost to the basement vehicle ramp. A new amenities block will take up the space currently used for 15 market stalls.
The council is confident it will receive approval from Heritage Victoria, with City Design director Rob Adams telling an information session on October 13 the council had been working closely with HV in the preparation of the application. Mr Adams said he was very confident HV would grant a permit.
In its application, the council points out to HV that it must consider economic as well as pure heritage considerations when making its assessment.
Earlier this year, the council released a business case, which concluded that only its proposed redevelopment of the market could secure its future financial viability.
Its heritage impact statement by consultants Lovell Chen says: “… the ongoing use of the QVM for market purposes is seen as being a reasonable use (and the most appropriate use) of the heritage place.”
“The extent to which a refusal of the application could be seen as affecting this reasonable use is an issue which can be considered in the general context of the considerable review and analysis work undertaken in the future planning for the QVMPR Program.”
“This work has highlighted the functional and operational challenges faced by the QVM in its current form and has identified various means through which the viability of the market use can be effectively secured.”
Lovell Chen says: “It is a question of achieving an appropriate balance, which in this case – it is considered – is achieved. The heritage values of the place will be maintained and the works represent a significant step in achieving a secure and viable future for the market.”
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said: “We propose to repair and restore the eastern ends of Sheds A to D onsite with intended improvements to include roof insulation and essential services such as access to power, water and better lighting for traders.”
“These improvements will allow the market to meet 21st century operational and safety standards, while retaining the traditional open air trading floor that traders, customers and visitors know and love.”
Cr Doyle said the council had worked closely with experts including architects and heritage consultants Lovell Chen, architects Grimshaw and engineers Mott McDonald on the proposals.
“We have strived to develop plans that apply design principles which protect the market’s character and authenticity, while delivering modern infrastructure to ensure a better trader and customer experience and much needed sustainability measures.”
“We plan to repair, conserve and reinstate the current heritage fabric like-for-like where repair is not possible, leaving the open air sheds in a sound condition for the future.”
The plans include new glass lifts and stairs to transport customers and goods from the basement operation and parking area into the heart of the market. The design, including the materials for the lifts and stairs, draws on the traditional market palette and features natural timber, steel and glass.
“These new lifts and service areas are located in clusters to reduce the heritage impact and visual interruption within the sheds,” Cr Doyle said. “The transparent lifts will integrate with the restored sheds and maintain the open market and laneway feel, allowing visitors to experience the theatre of daily market life.”
“Retaining the market’s heritage and ensuring it thrives for generations to come is at the heart of everything we do. That is why we applied for National Heritage Listing of the market, which is currently being assessed by the Australian Heritage Council.”
“We will ensure that Queen Vic remains a fresh food, open air market and retains its unique atmosphere, heritage and affordability, while delivering much needed upgrades to safeguard its future.”