By Spencer Fowler Steen
Fears have been expressed that Queen Victoria Market (QVM) will lose business due to the proposed closure of the existing car park earmarked for a new “Market Square” .
In a speech to a Friends of QVM meeting on November 20, property developer and businessman David Legge said half of QVM’s visitors would be adversely affected by the “practically illogical” and “seriously flawed” plan.
About 60 people attended the meeting at the Drill Hall in Therry St.
He said of the 10 million visitors who came to QVM each year, five million arrived by car.
“You look at this from a business point of view and say: We’ve identified our most important customers, but now what’s the business plan? Let’s close the car park. Let’s actually piss off our most important customers,” Mr Legge said.
As part of the QVM renewal program, the existing 720 parking spaces would be replaced by 500 underground parks as part of the Munro development on Queen St, and up to 500 parks as part of the council’s proposed “southern development” on Franklin St.
Mr Legge said the planned discontinuation of parts of Franklin St and Queen St to accommodate proposed projects including the “Queen’s Corner building” and “Market Square”, would block access to the replacement car parks making driving an “extremely unpleasant” experience.
But QVM says its research indicates that only 32 per cent of the 10 million visitors each year come by car.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said in a statement to CBD News that customers parking in the Munro car park in Therry St would be less than 20 metres from the fresh produce in a nearby shed, with the furthest point from parking at the southern development site “not dissimilar” to that of the existing car park.
“Market Square will add to the attraction, with 1.5 hectares of asphalt transformed into a lovely public space for shoppers, residents and workers of the growing City North area,” she said in the statement.
“We have recently finished consulting with traders, shoppers, workers and local residents and their feedback will now help shape the plans for Market Square.”
Local resident and film director Tom Burstall earlier told the meeting that the “people’s panel”, which was designed to allow traders and the community to have a say in the plans, recommended to keep the exiting car park, but this was ignored by the council.
“The problem is that people don’t understand the main issue — traders and the community are being screwed, we’re having our best asset stolen,” he said.
Reason Party MP Fiona Patten said the City of Melbourne’s voting system was skewed towards a “small gerrymandered business fiefdom” which received two votes while residents were restricted to a single vote.
“As a friend of these markets I think that the response from council would be different if they were answering to the people not businesses,” she said.
Multiple traders at the meeting also expressed their concerns over a lack of communication from the council with traders who do not speak English, as well as a loss of the market’s social value and spirit.