Market Square could honour the dead

By Sean Car,

An analysis of the community engagement for the future community space on the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) carpark has revealed a strong desire to honour those who lie beneath. 

The carpark, which was built over the Old Melbourne Cemetery, will be transformed into a 1.5-hectare green space under the City of Melbourne’s $250 million market renewal program. 

In October last year, the council launched an online public consultation program to seek the community’s input on what the new public space should incorporate. 

An analysis of the 135 respondents and two submissions by Global Research Limited has revealed high interest in a space that respects and fosters the Aboriginal community (of which a section of the old cemetery was dedicated to) and recognises the cemetery beneath. 

High importance was also placed in providing for informal recreational uses for local residents and workers, flexible space for curated festivals and events and “artistic, innovative and creative activities.”

A charter for the square and details of the design process are due to go before a council meeting in March.  

The community engagement report was presented to councillors at a council meeting on December 10, which followed the approval of a controversial plan to close part of Franklin St and a section of Queen St as part of the QVM renewal program. 

Unanimously supported by councillors, the plan will see half of Franklin St closed to traffic between William and Queen streets to make way for a new development at the southern end of the future Market Square, which will include 500 new car parks. 

Local residents and lobby group Friends of Queen Victoria Market (FQVM) had united against the plan, arguing that the Franklin St closure would “destroy the market as we know it.” 

“The closure of Franklin St’s two lanes east bound between William and Queen streets will have a significant negative impact on the quality of life for thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses in the Queen Victoria Market precinct,” a submission from residents stated. 

“There are currently three lanes of roads carrying traffic between William and Queen streets. The proposal is to direct all traffic in a circuitous route down a single lane in A’Beckett St. The traffic impact statement does not clearly address this issue.”

“Up to 600 cars an hour travel down the existing Franklin St. A 66 per cent reduction in capacity will create grid lock in the wider area.”

In response to these concerns, Cr Rohan Leppert included an amendment to the original motion from council management to investigate options to configure Franklin St west of Queen St as a two-way carriageway.  

A traffic impact report conducted by Cardno for the City of Melbourne has shown a significant increase in two-way traffic on A’Beckett under the changes, which would provide the only means of accessing 500 new car parks in the Munro site on Queen St. 

William St will also be reduced to single lane traffic to make way for new separated bicycle lanes, which residents argue will cause headaches for both them and future market customers. 

“This is the major access route for the new 500 space car park in the Munro site,” the submission stated. 

“There are thousands of new apartments with car parks being constructed in the precinct. Every new apartment, regardless of whether they are car owners, creates additional traffic.”

The new changes are expected to come into effect ahead of the beginning of construction of the southern development site, which is due to commence in 2022 following the completion of the Munro development.

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