This week’s decision by Heritage Victoria to refuse approval for the QVM underground construction is seen by some as the end of a key plank of QVM Renewal and by others as just a slight delay in the inevitable process that will see a long term city plan come to fruition.
The plan for construction of an underground labyrinth of service facilities for the fresh food offer in the upper market required removal, repair, improvement and re-assembly of old market sheds and apparently Heritage Victoria were not satisfied that the plans offered adequate protection of those sheds.
You may think this is purely a professional assessment of a construction proposal although the lack of feedback by Heritage Victoria to the CoM suggests there was a significant element of politicking going on here. In fact, we understand that the first phone call by Heritage after the decision was made, was not to CoM but to the Age newspaper.
There is also a belief that the State Government is attempting to avoid any serious decisions on the market until after the state election at the end of the year. It was certainly a mystery why Heritage Victoria had to ask for an extension of time to consider this matter last December without any apparent attempt to get more information before this week’s decision.
But that is all speculation, and offers little comfort to traders looking for some positive direction for a struggling market. The realities of small business retailing and politics just do not seem to share the same bed. The CoM have indicated they will appeal the Heritage decision and we can expect more activity behind the scenes over coming weeks and months.
One thing is for sure - the continuing fight against a professional planning project by CoM has two major consequences - it is wasting a lot of money, and it is ignoring the plight of struggling market traders. If we don’t get on with addressing this retail revolution and preparing QVM for the next 140 years, there are many who believe that we will be placing a grand old Market at serious risk. For many in the Upper Market it is already too late. We understand two more traders left this week and another has set next week for their departure.
One trader this week had a suggestion that may bring a bit of light to a dark tunnel. He suggested we should proceed with the New Market Pavilion. Why wait for the bureaucracy to get its act in order?
The NMP is partly intended to house relocated traders but it also to be a showcase for what QVM can offer. While the Amazon’s of this world continue their assault on retailing we can show how QVM addresses modern retail presentation and the growing demand for customer convenience.
QVM will always be about tradition but having a location (NMP) that draws a bridge between the old and the new makes a lot of sense. Speaking of bridges, the pavilion will bridge the Upper and Lower markets a lot better than a roadway. The NMP will show the best in stall presentation, and allow experimentation in trading hours and content. It could become a key to how our market relates to new consumerism. That is an exciting prospect.