Fed Square gets heritage listing

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Melbourne’s Federation Square has officially been granted heritage listing, thanks to the Victorian government’s controversial plan to knock down part of the public space to make way for a ‘flagship’ Apple store.

The inclusion of the civic and public space in the centre of Melbourne on the Victorian Heritage Register will protect it from any similar large-scale changes in future.

The Heritage Council handed down its decision on Monday, finding that Federation Square is of “cultural heritage significance” to the state due to its “historical, aesthetic, technological and social significance”.

The inclusion of Federation Square on the heritage list was welcomed by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) chief executive Simon Ambrose.

He said that while the listing does not prevent any future change or development at the site, these plans would need to “consider its architectural, social and historical values”, and go through adequate public consultation.

“Federation Square belongs in the hands of Victorians, and the National Trust’s vision is that it thrives as our state’s premier civic and cultural space,” Mr Ambrose said.

The Victorian government had planned to knock down the Yarra building at Federation Square as part of a deal with Apple for the global tech giant to establish a “flagship” store at the site.

The plans were announced at the end of 2017 and were met with a widespread and sustained public backlash, centring on the lack of transparency about the plans, the commercialisation of the public area, and the design of the Apple store.

The National Trust nominated Federation Square for inclusion on the heritage register last year, leading to an interim protection order being placed on the site, which prevented Apple from starting work on the store.

Federation Square management applied for a permit to knock down the building anyway at the start of this year, but this was rejected by Heritage Victoria as it would have resulted in an “unacceptable and irreversible detrimental impact on the cultural heritage significance of Federation Square”.

This led the Victorian government and Apple to completely scrap plans for the store in April, with a review into the financial and governance arrangements of Federation Square launched.

It was a major blow for the Victorian government, which had stood by the plan for more than a year despite major criticisms. Both of the main proponents of the scheme in the government – John Eren and Philip Dalidakis – were removed from Cabinet following last year’s election.

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