Save Campbell Arcade

By Tristan Davies – Melbourne Heritage Action

With tunneling continuing unabated on the Metro Tunnel, Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) is concerned that plans for demolition in one of the city’s most significant arcades are still not publicly available, or seemingly open to any scrutiny or objection.

It has seemed obvious from the start of community consultation years ago that Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) has considered Campbell Arcade an afterthought when it comes to planning. Unlike other heritage sites impacted, plans for partial demolition of the arcade and removal of long term tenants were only discovered buried in tiny detail within complex planning documents.

The underground arcade, opened in 1955 in a late salmon pink art deco style, sits alongside the Block and Royal Arcades as intact architecturally significant walkways listed on our state’s highest level of protection, the Victorian Heritage Register. Despite this we are still yet to see any formal plans submitted to an open review process with Heritage Victoria, meaning Metro is tunneling towards an inevitable demolition process as if that’s a fait accompli despite no heritage approvals or concrete plans for what the interface between the arcade and new pedestrian tunnel to Town Hall station will look like.

If any other heritage arcade mentioned such as Block or Royal were threatened with the same level of demolition, we would certainly see more public consultation. The lack of this may also reflect an attitude towards a space that for many decades now has been a creative hub in the city, including Sticky Institute, a not-for-profit community space and zine store, which has operated in the arcade for 20 years, as well as the similarly old Dirty Dozen art gallery lining the former department store display cases, pop up local fashion stores and a record store/performance space. With low rent creative- and artist-run space continually being gentrified or demolished in the CBD over the past decade, a space such as Campbell Arcade has become even more important for the diversity and creative energy of a city that prides itself on being a place for everyone, not just those with money and mainstream tastes. 

All of this seems to have been consistently ignored by RPV, which has offered little concrete information for current tenants and the public.

While the importance of the Metro Tunnel for the future of the city is well understood, we hope the authorities behind it can also recognise the importance of underground heritage and underground creativity for the future of our city, and act more transparently and proactively to reach an open and inclusive future for the Campbell Arcade •

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