Sunday 27 August 2017

Oh Hell! It's here!

The renewal “we had to have” has finally arrived and it is going to make things easier and harder at the same time.

We have all spent a lot of time over recent years considering aspects of a QVM Renewal. Endless meetings, intense discussions, pressure groups, media interviews, political arguments, and more, have all been part of daily life at QVM. Now that we have detail and a starting date of October for construction of the temporary pavilion, we can get on with the job and for many that will be a relief. The sooner we get the disruption of construction “done and dusted” (oops, did I mention dust) the sooner we can bring our market up to what it needs to be for modern customer engagement.

So getting some direction at last will make our lives easier, but there are a few harsh realities that are now on our doorstep.

Construction will impact on business. And that is not just a bland statement, it is supported by a study conducted a couple of years ago following renewals at South Melbourne, Preston and Dandenong Markets. That study concluded that over 90% of traders were impacted in some way by renewal and that the drop in trader income for some was significant

Each renewal has its own characteristics and we know that on-going business activity has been a key focus for QVM. The “bloody big hole” under the sheds will certainly test that. There are things that can be done to minimise the impact of construction and to attract customers. The temporary pavilion is not just an alternative location for traders, it is a contemporary example of innovative architecture that will become an attraction in its own right and showcase traders in a whole new way.

For those impacted by construction there is a Trader Assistance package proposal which includes some form of financial compensation for those who can show hardship. (See separate article.)

We are breaking new ground with this renewal. Maintaining flexibility will be important and there are some good signs. The last minute change in the A,B,C, and D Shed underground to a much smaller footprint will allow more normalised trading around Queen St. That is very reassuring for many. That change suggests that even large, very expensive projects can be adjusted to achieve a better (albeit more expensive) outcome along the way.

Of course change brings with it uncertainty and clear communication will become a priority. As an example, the traders on Queen St. still don't know where they will be located when the pavilion construction starts in six weeks. When you are playing with Trader livelihoods, these processes need to be open, transparent, “squeaky clean”, and speedy.

This might be the renewal we had to have, and most traders are aware of the long term benefits from improving our market, but the potential for pain in between is very real. If QVM can keep their end of the bargain and minimise disruption and uncertainty, and traders can focus on adapting to change we will have the best chance of an easy transition and a better market for everyone.