Hundreds of protesters gathered last Friday at Queen Victoria Market to show their opposition to the planned redevelopment and construction of a massive skyscraper.
The $250 million redevelopment will scrap the nearby car park and displace the antique sheds, threatening what the protesters describe as “the heart of Melbourne.”
Among the objectors is former prime minister Paul Keating, who went on local radio that day to voice his concerns for the heritage of the market.
“In essence, it does not need fixing up,” Mr Keating told ABC’s Jon Faine, “And the building is twice the height it should be on a site of this type.”
Mr Keating’s opinion on the project is shared by many vendors and customers alike.
Antique watch and hat salesman, Farukh Sazegar said, “There has been absolutely no guarantee for the stall owners and no care for what the market means to the people.”
“The developers have shown no sympathy. They don’t want a thriving market. It’s too hard for them to manage, and so now I’m concerned for my livelihood.”
Mr Sazegar said “the ambiguity of plans for the new market” is intentional because the reconstruction will cater to a reduced capacity of “those living in the new flashy buildings.”
A similar redevelopment occurred in London’s Borough Market, which Lord Mayor Robert Doyle had visited and listed as an inspiration for his plans for the Queen Victoria Market.
However, after its revamp the Borough market now receives a mere 20 per cent of its original business and is wrought with “wrangles over leaseholds, rent increases and a climate of fear among traders,” as reported by The Guardian.
Artist’s rendition of proposal
Many expect prices to rise with the planned 58-storey building that once constructed will be Melbourne’s tallest building, towering over the market at 322 metres and occupying the parking space.
“The parking is bad enough now, I just won’t be able to come anymore,” said lifelong patron of the market, Maria Matheson, “It will be too expensive to shop and for parking.”
“I’ve been coming to the market since 1955 when my family moved from Malta. It just seems ridiculous.”
The Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and has been attracting tourists and locals since its opening in 1878.
As Mrs Matheson said, “It’s simple. Whenever someone visits Melbourne they come to the Queen Victoria market.”
© Queen Victoria Market all rights reserved
The long history of the site is an issue for Mr Doyle’s plans as the market is constructed on Melbourne’s oldest cemetery.
Developers have begun negotiating through several pieces of legislation that protect the rights of bodies dating back to the colonial era, which includes the graves of convicts and indigenous people.
Mr Doyle will be forced to dig through more than a rib-cage or two if he wants to get his hands on “the heart of Melbourne.”