The Queen Victoria Market Renewal Project: The Case for

As part of the enabling stage of the Queen Victoria Market Renewal Project, the City of Melbourne has finally revealed their plans for the former Munro site, to be developed by PDG Corporation into a mixed-use development comprising a 58-storey Bates Smart designed-tower of 308 dwellings and a 300-room hotel, after the developer was awarded the rights to develop the site on CoM's behalf. 

The Council will sell the site known as Lot B (refer plan below) which covers 93-151 Therry Street, 452-468 Queen Street and the rear 128-130 Franklin Street, to VG Property Holdings No. 6 Pty Ltd for $33m to help offset the cost of development.

Proposed sale of Lot B. Source: City of Melbourne Council Committee Agenda 6.10

In addition to the 196m tower, the Munro site will also accommodate 56 affordable housing units, a 120-place childcare facility, a maternal, child health and family services centre, a community centre and kitchen, artist spaces and a gallery. Designed by Six Degrees these various uses add up to approximately $90m in community benefits, according to council, second only to One Queensbridge Street's $100m public benefits package.

Th new built form proposed for the historic Munro site. Image: City of Melbourne

This despite the site not falling within the boundaries of the Amendment C270 planning controls which affect the Capital City Zone. Instead council has prepared Planning Scheme Amendment C245 for the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal project, which would also apply to the Munro site. According to the City of Melbourne, the amendment proposes to:

  • Apply a public use zone to the Queen Victoria Market to reflect its ongoing importance as a community place. As a registered heritage place, development of the site will continue to be subject to permits from Heritage Victoria
  • Protect the existing heritage sheds and the new open space from overshadowing
  • Ensure adequate sunlight
  • Provide environmental wind control – promoting comfortable pedestrian conditions at street level.

This will be achieved by:

  • Rezoning the majority of the Queen Victoria Market land and Queen Street extension that is currently zoned Capital City Zone (CCZ1) to be Public Use Zone (PUZ7)
  • Rezoning the Queen Victoria Market car park, currently zoned Capital City Zone (CCZ1), to Public Park and Recreation Zone (PPRZ)
  • Applying a new Schedule to the Development Plan Overlay (DPO11), which incorporates a vision and design requirements for development of land, including Council owned land, adjacent to the Queen Victoria Market
  • Deleting existing Schedule 14 to the Design and Development Overlay (DDO14) from the Queen Victoria Market and land to which DPO11 applies
  • Introducing revised built form controls for new development over the remainder of the area covered by the existing DDO14
  • Amending the Built Environment and Heritage within the Hoddle Grid Policy (Clause 21.12) to delete an existing policy statement relating to the existing DDO14
  • Amending the existing clause 22.02 Sunlight to Public Spaces to include a provision that development should not overshadow Flagstaff Gardens between 11am and 2pm on 21 June.
Amendment C245 planning map. Source: City of Melbourne

Amendment C245's proposed planning controls would allow for the creation of vital (usable) open space for the northern quadrant of the city thus adding another string to the market's bow as one of Melbourne's most visited attractions. This would be achieved by relocating car spaces to within the Munro site footprint and freeing up the the market's existing surface car park for public space.

A row of red brick strip shops will lamentably be demolished to allow for this development however the greater benefit to Melbourne lies in the $90m benefits package plus the future public open space - a minor sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.  

Just as significantly this allows for the Queen Victoria Market to enter the 21st Century from an operational perspective, which in turn will improve the market environs visually and allow it to operate more efficiently.

Like many markets around the world, the Queen Vic has suffered years of neglect and experienced periods of financial difficulty for traders, as people turned to shopping centres and supermarkets and more recently online shopping. 

I don't care how long you've been going to the market for or what movie you were in 10 years ago, the sight of vegetables and fruit dumped on the asphalt to rot in addition to pedestrians conflicting with private vehicles and forklifts is not best practice, nor is it safe or hygienic.

As a point of reference and global benchmark, Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona. Located in Barcelona’s El Born district the market designed by EMBT, re-opened in 2005 following 7 years of 'rehabilitation'.

As local residents the architects, Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, also had a personal and emotional connection to the neighbourhood, and a had a strong desire to implement a concept which provided clear and defined open space, while respecting the history and memory of the market.

Santa Caterina Market was the first covered market in Barcelona, opening in 1848. Three sides of the white-painted masonry perimeter walls of the 1845 rectangular market structure were retained and the same granite pavers used on city streets in the neighbourhood were employed within the market interior.

Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona. Image: EMBT

The late Enric Miralles provided the following quote in relation to the project but I think it could quite easily apply to the QVM:

The first mistake is to talk about old and new. Whatever has managed to survive into the present is current, useful, and contemporary. And it permits us to move back in time in order to continue forward. To be permanent is contrary to existence. Things are forever changing.

Therefore new buildings cover the existing ones. They mix up; they blend in order to make the best qualities of that place appear. So it is logic to use terms like conglomeration, hybrid, etc… Terms that tries to go beyond the black and white dichotomy. 

It is worth noting that unlike Santa Caterina Market the Queen Victoria Market's historic sheds will be dismantled, refurbished and reinstated while works are undertaken to create a labyrinth beneath the market's sheds for waste removal and delivery of goods.

The ship has well and truly sailed with regards to towers in the precinct

Additionally, it is difficult to argue a 58-storey development on the Munro site would adversely impact the precinct when just a few metres away a wall of towers rising well over 200m, provide a backdrop to the market to the east.

Critically these towers (with more along the way) have added hundreds of residents to the area, thus making the need for additional open space, amenity and community infrastructure to service the city an even greater concern. 

The 58-storey tower in context. Image: City of Melbourne

With overshadowing of the Flagstaff Gardens and the new public square prohibited during the relevant times as outlined in the planning controls, the fear of overshadowing of the historic market sheds and halls is a non-issue as development sites are located largely south of the Public Use Zone.

Likewise this notion of the market becoming a high-end supermarket or shopping centre is a baseless assumption doctored up by those fearful of change. 

Overall, I believe the Munro development is a step in the right direction and necessary in order to deliver a long-term vision for the future of the Queen Victoria Market, which has been long neglected and ensure it remains viable for generations to come.

The design team comprising Bates Smart and Six Degrees under the stewardship of Director City Design Prof. Rob Adams, should ensure a quality outcome for such a significant site while further adding to the fabric of the Market Precinct.

If One Queensbridge set the precedent for public benefit outweighing planning requirements then the Queen Victoria Market Precinct should be judged on its merits. If ever there was a site that deserved recognition or classification as a site of state significance it's the Queen Victoria.

In fact it could be argued the market itself is a public benefit.    


Adam Ford's picture

And, golly, Doyle's PR people could scarcely have put it better.
We've already seen the images, the extent of demolition on the Munro site seems obscene. The case has not been made for such a large tower at that site, and "we need it to be that big to be profitable" is not a valid submission within the planning scheme.
"The market itself is a public benefit." Yes. Correct. One that already exists, so that's quite literally not an argument pro this development.
All that's needed is to create some proper public plaza space around the market, the entire rest is overkill.

Irrespective, you need to convince the planning Minister, who yesterday called this a "project with few friends." Best of luck.

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johnproctor's picture

Putting in plazas will make it a nicer space but the commerciality and logistics management of the market proper won't improve and the plazas will be compromised with the rotting fruit, forklifts and other junk typical of the market today (which would also stop those spaces being filled with seating and other activations typical of good spaces)

While I haven't considered the merits of this specific Munro development put forward in this proposal the principle of significant development, car parking and community services on the Munro site to help fund the full modernisation of the logistics of the market while allowing the heritage sheds and food halls to be retained and creation of genuine public spaces seems sound to me.

The operator (city of Melbourne) understand the business, its operations and ongoing viability. People, including Wynne can put their head in the sand about the underlying issues with the space and if they do the market will keep getting shitter and more decrepit and eventually fail completely.

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Aussie Steve's picture

Well said JP. I too seems to think this is a step int eh right direction. I don't have an issue with the demolition of some of the buildings along Therry St and the adaptive reuse of others, and the proposed tower and the new brick forms along Therry St. It all looks like a great mix of old and new with good community outcomes, public spaces, and commercial viability.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

adaptive re use Steve? theyre completely demolishing all the block bar a sliver of corner facade. I'd have less of a problem with this if they were adaptivly re-using the munro site.

Is there really much of a rationale for all the market facilities underground more than the aesthetic dislike of people of upmarket people?
I think Adam raises some valid points about the entire rationale of this project never really being sold to the public, or discussed at all really, we're simply to take team Doyle on face value that there's someone inherently dying about the market that just needs a high rise tower to help fix, when many traders don't agree

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George D's picture

I'd just like to buy a croissant and a bag of vegetables after 2pm.

According to the traders and their vociferous friends, this is an assault on Australian values.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

One of the key objectives of the redevelopment of the market is to replace the surface car parking area, which is ugly and has a detrimental impact upon the heritage significance of the market

Putting the parking spaces underground was not viable due to the old cemetery located under teh car park. The parking spaces have remained there for so long because nobody could come up with a way to maintain the number of parking spaces on site (as demanded by the stall holders) and redevelop the area into open space.

When the Munro site came up for sale the Council jumped on the opportunity to provide the replacement car parking spaces on a site directly across from the market. It was a very elegant solution to an almost intractable problem.

The row of shops along Therry Street were built during the inter-war period and were rebuilt after a fire in 1945. They are plain utilitarian buildings and there only real contribution to the heritage values of the precinct are there consistency with the building scale in Therry Street and the compatibility of materials used in the buildings.

These values could easily be replicated in any new buildings, particularly if they reuse the existing bricks.

As for the tower, the site is easily large enough to provide for a tower which exceeds all of the new built form requirements contained in the scheme including the setback, overshadowing and plot ratio requirements.

The backdrop to views from the market and the existing car park is already a view of the high rise skyline of a major metropolis. To say that there is any sense of still being in a Victorian era low rise city when viewed from these areas and that a 196m high tower would intrude into these views any more than a 100 metre high tower would is naïve.

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db2's picture

It is not just Richard Wynne vs MCC.

From the Herald Sun, Victoria Market Stallholders and Trad­ers Action Group urged the State Government to dump the concept, even calling for the market’s board of management to be sacked.

Whether the STAG is right or wrong it has come outright against the development.

There is also an anti-development Facebook group:

Seriously, I think this particular proposal is dead-on-arrival with both Wynne, STAG and certain other folks against it.

The only way to save the project is to stick Wynne, MCC, PDG and STAG in a room and not let them out until something is agreed upon.

I am an optimist so I think, much like 447 Collins St, something will get agreed upon. I do expect the tower to get a major trim.

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Adam Ford's picture

John Proctor, the City of Melbourne is NOT the operator of QVM. There is no argument that the market doesn't need a refresh. But there's also no clear argument that the Munro site has to be trashed in order to achieve that.

As for Nicholas' suggestion that "These values could easily be replicated in any new buildings". Let's rephrase that ... "heritage values can be replicated in new buildings". And there is categorically no way that statement can be allowed to stand.

The 'new brick form" is entirely invented and therefore has ZERO historic/referential value.

People do realise that heritage relates to actual HISTORY, right?

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

I said that two particular attributes of the exisiting buildings (the maerials used and the scale of the buildings) could be replictaed in any new building. If well designed a new building could easily fit into the streetscape as well as the exisiting buildings without being an imitation heritage building.

The history that these buildings represent is as an exampe of how some buidings built in that period were dull, utilitarian and built with the most common building materials used at the time.

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Melbourne_Fragments's picture

Well you do still kinda get that sense of a low rise precinct when actually walking around the market and along Therry/ Queen Streets, its only from in the current carpark you really see the urban context of towers. I also think for what its worth a tower 50 metres away across a main street is different to a few right next to the market.

The row of shops also feature pretty rare inter-war shopfronts, and brick arched interiors, quirky retail spaces that are unlikely to appear in a new commercially driven develoopment. They also contain some market traditions like the Soap shop as well as some great modern additions.

Id be interested in whats behind the shops too, including two heritage laneway buildings at the rear we dont know the future of.

There are certainly a lot of positives in the proposal too mind you. Its hard to pick out facts from hyperbole as well with some comments from the friends of QVM group, though if half of what they say is true we probably should look at sacking the management

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Bilby's picture

Don't forget, the City of Melbourne was the body who originally heritage listed the entire Munro site - a site that remains under its own Heritage Overlay to this day. This has in turn kept the value of the site low relative to other properties without this restriction. Now the council wants to profit from the demolition of a place that it has previously declared historically and culturally significant.

If you ask me, this risks undermining the moral authority of government as protectors of heritage more generally.

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johnproctor's picture

Adam ford, maybe I'm wrong but I think this makes CoM the operator of the market...

Queen Victoria Market Pty Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of the City of Melbourne. Queen Victoria Market Pty Ltd is responsible for managing the day to day operations of the market. As owners of the Queen Victoria Market, the City of Melbourne has oversight and responsibility for any capital improvements at the site. - See more at:

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johnproctor's picture

Bilby - I don't disagree that com implemented the controls, but there seems to be a misnomer that heritage overlay = absolute protection. It actually just means you need to consider heritage in any decision made but that demolition can still be allowed. It's also quite rare for internal heritage controls to be placed on buildings (an issue noted by Melb fragments)

Arguably city of Melbourne should be a leader on heritage and doing more to maintain buildings on site, on the flip side in spending public money perhaps they should be pushing the envelope to improve the economics of the project.

As I said in my post, I'm not commenting on the specific development though as I haven't seen enough plans, reports to understand the development and decisions made. I will say I can't imagine a reason why demolition in full is required of any (or perhaps so many) buildings on site given the number of street frontages, exisiting laneways etc available. That has nothing to do with a 196m building though which I think is perfectly suitable for the site given the surrounding context.

Having said all that. DB2 I agree with you. Hard to see this being approved. After the minister said 'is doesn't have many friends' it doesn't give him much room to move on approving it... What a shame he cornered himself like that.

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Bilby's picture

For some context to my comments, John, I've never said that a heritage overlay means "protection" of every piece of built fabric. However, the wording of the overlay does indeed say that demolition of listed properties will not normally be entertained, and that the purpose of the overlay is to conserve the heritage fabric of the place.

So when the City of Melbourne (who placed the overlay over the Munro site) propose something like 90% demolition of all the heritage properties on the site, including whole streetscapes, I'd say that they are making a mockery of their own planning instrument - and weakening their own moral authority in defending the city's heritage more generally.

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Adam Ford's picture

JP the point was there's an independent board that administers/operates the market. If your point was City of Melbourne are the OWNERS, then that is correct.

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johnproctor's picture

Yes. CoM are the owners and ultimately get to make the key decisions around funding the market.

While its day to day operations are managed by its Board independently. That very same board (and the market) is reliant on the teet of CoM for its existence.

Thats the thing about being the 'owner' of something when funds are needed from outside the business you have a choice to provide those funds or not. And when things aren't going well and you can see the business is failing you have to make decisions to protect your asset.

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