As Melbourne embarks on a controversial $1.7 billion development, concerns mount over the impact on its beloved market and urban fabric

Work has started to remove the Franklin Street Roundabout to allow a massive high-rise development that threatens to recalibrate the Melbourne’s central business district and the heritage-listed Queen Victoria Market (QVM). The planned construction of a $1.7 billion development on Franklin Street between William & Queen Streets is being orchestrated by Lendlease and Scape with Melbourne City Council, under the banner of “QVM Renewal”. Erecting three towering structures on a major road thoroughfare and a modest roundabout will not merely a change of skyline, it’s a fundamental alteration of community dynamics and urban flow.

Initially conceived in 2014 by then Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and former Premier Dennis Napthine, the project aimed to transform the QVM into a bustling hub reminiscent of Europe’s famed markets. This grand vision, however, has devolved into a contentious affair, fraught with delayed timelines and shifting project scopes that have left many Melburnians sceptical of the purported benefits.

Critics of the development argue that the disruption it will cause — severing four critical traffic lanes and complicating access to the market — will do more harm than good. The market, a historic site and a linchpin in Melbourne’s urban identity, faces the risk of being overshadowed by commercial interests, quite literally by the high-rises planned to tower over its stalls.

The irony is palpable as this development coincides with national debates over market concentrations, particularly in the grocery sector. The construction chaos, likely to turn a simple trip to the market into a logistical challenge, might inadvertently funnel frustrated shoppers into the arms of supermarket chains, thus exacerbating the very concentration of market power that politicians decry.

Yet, there is a broader implication to consider. Urban development, when done thoughtfully, serves as a catalyst for cultural and economic vibrancy. But when mismanaged, it risks not just the aesthetics of a city but its very soul. Melbourne’s high-rise frenzy appears to be a textbook case of commercial interests prevailing over community needs. The projected completion of a 1.8-hectare open space adjacent to the market, promising relief and beautification, seems a paltry consolation if the market itself loses its allure and accessibility in the process.

As construction crews prepare to swing into action, the question remains: is this development a necessary evolution of urban space, or a grievous error that will haunt Melbourne for decades to come? For a city that prides itself on its liveability and vibrant public spaces, the stakes could not be higher. The unfolding saga at the QVM will test Melbourne’s commitment to preserving its heritage and character amid the pressures of modernisation and commercial gain.

For those vested in the city’s future, the unfolding developments will serve as a critical litmus test for Melbourne’s approach to urban planning and heritage preservation. As the debate rages on, the legacy of the Queen Victoria Market hangs in the balance, a reminder that in the rush towards the future, cities must not trample over their past.

The community’s response to this development is crucial. As ratepayers and residents, we have the right to know the impact of prolonged construction works in our neighbourhood – given the traffic chaos, obstruction, noise and pollution – who will be responsible for compensating anyone adversely affected by this project?

A petition has been launched to urge a reconsideration of the project to ensure that aligns more closely with the needs and values of Melbourne’s residents and heritage. To participate in preserving the integrity and vibrancy of the Queen Victoria Market, please sign and share the petition.

Please sign our petition by clicking on the link: chng.it/WBktgNgxFF