By Meg Hill
Heritage Victoria formally recommended Federation Square for heritage protection on October 18, placing further difficulty onto the unpopular plans for Apple’s flagship store.
If confirmed, Federation Square will be the youngest site to be listed with heritage status in Victoria.
“Whilst it is only 16-years-old, Federation Square is Victoria’s premier civic space and considered a place of historical, cultural and social significance to our state and an architectural and engineering marvel,” National Trust of Australia CEO Simon Ambrose said.
“It’s appropriate. It’s a place for meeting, for celebration, for culture and it needs to have that recognition.”
There has been outspoken community opposition to the plans for the Apple flagship store since it was announced without community consultation in 2017.
The plans include demolishing the Yarra Building – home to the Koori Heritage Trust – and replacing it with one of Apple’s biggest stores.
The National Trust nominated Federation Square for heritage protection in August amid the Our City, Our Square campaign by Citizens For Melbourne.
Mr Ambrose spoke at the last Our City, Our Square rally in Federation Square on September 19 to oppose the Apple Store plans.
But Mr Ambrose said the National Trust was considering Federation Square for heritage status before it had heard of Apple’s plans.
The protection, likely to be approved, makes the redevelopment more difficult and gives momentum to the community campaign, but doesn’t stop the project in its tracks.
“There will be more protection for Federation Square. It will be assessed on its merits instead of just going ahead,” Mr Ambrose said.
“We’re not anti-Apple, we’re not anti-development, we’re just asking for appropriate heritage recognition and appropriate community involvement.”
“The proposed heritage registration will mean that there will be controls in place for the square into the future. Applications for development or activation will need to be assessed by Heritage Victoria on their merit.”
“At the moment nothing like that has to be done.”
The outrage about the nature of private entitlement over public space has been sharpened by the surprise nature of the announcement.
Just last month The Age revealed that former Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was the only person at City of Melbourne told of the State Government’s plans, and that the “visitor boost” used by the government as justification was based only on Apple’s estimates.
Tania Davidge from Our City, Our Square said that the campaign thought the decision was “wonderful” and it is helping facilitate submissions through its website.
“What’s really wonderful is that it has given people the ability to have a voice – which should have been done through government consultation with the community,” she said.
“We are currently working on an election campaign in key marginal seats. We are asking the parties their position and we will be handing out how to vote cards on election day.”
The heritage nomination is up online for 60 days, while submissions can be submitted. A foreseeable complication is opposition to the heritage status from Federation Square’s board, which has been supportive of Apple’s plans.
“Its important to ask people to have their say and to write a submission,” Mr Ambrose said.
You can make submissions at www.trustadvocate.org.au