Apple's plans for its first flagship store in Australia have been dealt another blow, with The Age reporting that the proposed location in Melbourne has won Heritage Protection status until late 2018.
The Victorian branch of Australia's National Trust is said to have nominated Federation Square for protection earlier this month, shortly after Apple submitted revised blueprints for the planned store on July 19.
The Heritage Protection status means no work on the square can take place until December 21, 2018 without explicit permission from the National Trust. With Apple not hoping to start construction until next year, the date on its own isn't a problem, but the move by Heritage Victoria suggests that permanent protection is the final goal.
The construction of the new store would require the demolition of the well-known Yarra building, which has infuriated Melbourne residents and led to major protests suggesting the public space should not be given over to a corporation.
In February, Melbourne's City Council backed a motion to lobby for a new store design, and Apple's revised plan was positively received by the Federation Square leadership, but it looks as if public community groups have yet to be convinced.
"The interim protection order allows us to take stock and think about what makes Fed Square truly special," said Citizens for Melbourne president Tania Davidge, speaking to The Age. "Hopefully, after eight months of discussion behind closed doors, Victorians will now have the opportunity to have a say about the future of their public, cultural and civic square."
The city of Melbourne's Heritage portfolio chair Rohan Leppert said the public backlash to the proposed Apple store proved that Federation Square "is a site of state significance", and said he was glad that Heritage Victoria was taking the proposal to permanently protect Federation Square seriously.
"Heritage Victoria's decision to apply an IPO formalises these public heritage values and is very welcome, as is the exceptional leadership of the National Trust," he said.
Despite the square being granted temporary protection status, the state government is still siding with Apple on the issue. Responding to the news, tourism and major events minister John Eren said it would be "unprecedented" to heritage list a site that is only 16 years old.
"To do so could lead to significant implications for future projects," Eren told The Age. "This will not stop us delivering the Metro Tunnel and other vital projects that are good for Melbourne and good for jobs."
Top Rated Comments
I sincerely apologize to Apple for all the bs that this situation is arising to.
Let Apple build their redesigned store in Fed Square. Theres a damn 7-11 there for goodness sake.
What a joke.
“Heritage” significance, though? That’s a laugh. The place didn’t even exist until 16 years ago, and people today still think it’s hideous. The ONLY reason the area, with its visually busy stone aesthetics and monolithic buildings, garish hobbled steps that people don’t even like sitting on, is because that space is what we have. That could have been said about ANYTHING that’s built there, and that includes a nice Apple Store, but people just like what they know, no matter how bad the current space is. Again, it’s what we have, and we do use it.
What’s there isn’t worth protecting. Same goes for that Terminal Bar or whatever it’s called. Yes, I’ve had a beer there a few times. It’s not a nice place, which is quite surprising because it faces the river and the balcony should be better designed to take advantage of that. Somehow, they messed it up.
Same goes for the other restaurants and bars in Federation Square. None of it is worth keeping untouched and unchanged.
They're both commercial businesses, but worlds apart in the service they offer to the community. After all, it stands to reason that someone passing through Fed Square may want to recharge their public transport pass, or grab a snack. It offers a service to the members of the public already using the square.
There's no reason someone casually passing through Fed Square would suddenly need a new phone, or tablet, or computer so quickly that they couldn't wander a few blocks over to a store placed within a dedicated dense-commercial zoned district. That's the problem. The Apple Store doesn't need to be there. It could be anywhere else. Apple wants it there because it serves well for their brand image.
But Apple's brand image shouldn't take precedence over the wishes of the people of Melbourne on how their public space is used. The people should be allowed to formally have a say in the matter, and from what I understand both the Andrews government and Apple have so far denied them their right to do so.
Hopefully Fed Square receives permanent heritage protection status, if only to enforce due process and consultation on what should and shouldn't be constructed there.
But @first-to-tea explained it better than I ever could, so anyone unaware of the situation should have a read of their post above.