A complete redesign of the proposed flagship Apple store at Federation Square in Melbourne has failed to win over the many critics of the controversial plan.
Through a drop to the Herald Sun late last week, Federation Square and Apple unveiled its new design for the major store to be built in the Melbourne CBD following widespread criticisms of the first design, dubbed a “Pizza Hut Pagoda”.
The Apple Federation Square store was announced by the state government late last year, and was met with widespread criticism over the privatisation of the city’s most significant public space, and a lack of community consultation over the proposals and planning amendments.
The new design, dubbed a “floating iPad”, is rectangular with glass windows on the first floor and coloured mesh on the second floor, with a public balcony overlooking the Yarra River and an amphitheatre for public performances.
The redesign is the result of discussions between the state government, Apple, the Melbourne council and Federation Square management, but was not released to the public for consultation.
The state government created a new steering committee earlier this year to oversee the design and construction of the new building in response to issues raised by the local council. The committee has set a number of guidelines for the redesign.
The new building has the support of Federation Square chief executive Jonathan Tribe, who said it was “more sympathetic” to the existing style of the space.
“The original design was very much a concept plan and was always subject to refinement,” Mr Tribe said in a statement.
“The refined designs complement Fed Square’s existing buildings and include a new roof design to allow for solar power as well as new solar shading design feature that enhances the energy efficiency of the building,” he said.
But the new look store has failed to win over many of the critics of the original proposal, with community group Citizens for Melbourne saying it doesn’t change the fact that a large multinational tech company shouldn’t have a store in a major civic space.
Citizens for Melbourne’s Brett de Hoedt said the state government again failed to consult the public on the matter, and any discussion about whether the new building was an improvement on the original is irrelevant.
“We don’t buy into that because we think that’s playing their game – saying that it’s just a matter of tweaking the design rather than the main issue, which is secret deals with the government. They generally don’t lead to good outcomes for citizens,” Mr de Hoedt told InnovationAus.com.
“We take [the redesign] as a compliment because we’ve let them know that obviously the first design was totally unsatisfactory and they have substantially redesigned, and I’m sure they would have rathered not.”
Mr de Hoedt also criticised the way the redesign was revealed to the general public through the media, featuring in an edition of the Herald Sun that also included an editorial arguing against the Apple store at Federation Square.
“Leaking it to the Herald Sun is no way to exhibit a design for such an important building. How about letting the people know properly rather than doing it through a newspaper that doesn’t want your store anyway,” he said.
The National Trust of Australia was also unimpressed with the new design, with Victorian chief executive Simon Ambrose saying it doesn’t change the issue of the required demolition of the Yarra Building to make way for the store.
“While it is encouraging to see Apple is open to redesigning its Federation Square store, it does not respond to the fundamental concerns that were proposed earlier about the demolition of a significant building in our city’s town square,” Mr Ambrose said.
“The updated design has also been prepared without community consultation with its most important stakeholders – the people of Victoria.”
Greens state MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell also remained steadfastly opposed to the store.
“These moderate design improvements can’t hide the fundamental fact that the Andrews government is demolishing part of Federation Square to build a store for one of the world’s richest companies,” Ms Sandell told InnovationAus.com.
“The community was never consulted on whether they wanted Apple to dominate our public square, and they haven’t been consulted on this new design either. Why is Dan Andrews so keen to give over our public space to a corporation like this without any real input from the public?”
The state government has responded to such criticism by saying that there are already commercial entities in Federation Square, including bars and restaurants, and that the Apple store will bring an additional two million people to the site annually.
State innovation minister Philip Dalidakis has also said that it would be a boost for the local tech sector.
“We will be the only such global flagship store in the southern hemisphere, second outside of the US and that’s an amazing opportunity for us to speak of our tech sector and our growing importance among the tech community. We can be a beacon of light onto others,” Mr Dalidakis said earlier this year.
The government has said that no public money would go toward the store, but the details of the lucrative lease in Federation Square has not be revealed to the public.
Citizens for Melbourne was formed earlier this year as a community group opposed to the Fed Square Apple plan. It has since launched a poster campaign arguing against the proposal and has met with politicians from all sides of the political spectrum, Mr de Hoedt said.
A Greens motion earlier this year calling on the government to revoke the planning permit for the store was shot down by the government and the opposition.
But Mr de Hoedt said he’s still hopeful that the politicians will change their mind on the store in the face of public criticism.
“We would still like the government to exercise the clause to stop the building from proceeding. We don’t think that’s impossible,” he said.”
“And the opposition hasn’t got a policy in writing on the store, so we have reason to believe that they would sit down and renegotiate with Apple to discuss moving the store into a retail zone,” he said.
“We don’t think the government would suffer any backlash if they stop an Apple store form being built in Federation Square. In this era of corporate overreach we’re as confident as we’ve ever been that the majority of Victorians don’t want it.”