The Victorian government’s plans for a flagship Apple store at Federation Square have been quietly delayed by a year, as its two primary political supporters have been removed from the new ministry.
When the store was announced late last year, the state government said construction would begin in early 2019, with the store opening in 2020.
But Federation Square’s annual report has shifted these dates back a year, with construction on the store to begin in early 2020 and the store to open in 2021.
The store has been hit by a backlash over the commercialisation of the premier public space in the Melbourne CBD, and the secretive process behind the issuing of planning permits for it, which was done without public consultation or council approval.
The Victorian government has argued that the store would create new jobs and bring visitors to the city, and if it doesn’t go ahead at Federation Square it will be lost to crosstown rival Sydney.
But the two key government ministers who backed the store – tourism minister John Eren and innovation minister Philip Dalidakis – were removed from Cabinet following Labor’s crushing election win this month.
Re-elected Premier Daniel Andrews has stood by the Apple store.
“My position has always been: Do we really want this thing to go to Sydney, and all the jobs and all the opportunities that come from it? That’s not my view,” Mr Andrews told The Age.
The store has also been hit with a number of setbacks this year. Apple was forced to produce a redesigned version of the store in July to placate an irate Melbourne City Council, while a likely heritage-listing may also delay the plans.
Heritage Victoria confirmed in October that it had recommended Federation Square be included on the Victorian Heritage Register, with a final decision expected early next year. The listing wouldn’t completely derail the plan, but would require Apple to apply for assessment and permission from Heritage Victoria.
Federation Square’s annual report labelled the Apple store an “international win” for Melbourne.
“One of only six global flagship stores in the world, and the only one in the southern hemisphere, the introduction of this world-class tenant will attract an additional 2 million people to Fed Square each year,” it said.
“This project, which is consistent with the Civic and Cultural Charter of Fed Square, will create a range of significant benefits for the community.”
“An international win for Melbourne, Fed Square will welcome Apple to the Square with their new global flagship store in early 2021.
“Programming talks are underway with Fed Square’s cultural tenants and programming teams, and a daily program of free events will coincide with the launch of the global flagship store.”