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Victorian Greens, City of Melbourne urge radical rethink of Apple Fed Square

The Victorian Greens have called a motion in the state parliament to revoke planning approval for an Apple store designed by Foster and Partners in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

The move follows widespread backlash against the Victorian government’s decision in December 2017 to allow the demolition of a part of the square, designed by Lab Architecture Studio and Bates Smart, in order to make way for a flagship store for the global tech giant.

“The Labor government must now go back to the drawing board and consult the community on [an] alternative location for Apple or the parliament can block their bad plan in two weeks time,” said Victorian Greens MP Ellen Sandell, who launched petition against the plan for the store.

In November 2017, the Victorian parliament successfully used a rare parliamentary tool to revoke planning approval of a 13-storey mixed-use development designed by Clarke Hopkins Clarke.

A number of concurrent petitions against Apple Fed Square plans on Change.org have collectively amassed nearly 100,000 signatures.

The backlash is not only due the Victorian government’s lack of consultation but also concerns about the design of the store.

On Tuesday 6 February, the City of Melbourne has unanimously voted to call on the government to “commit to a significant redesign of the Apple Global Flagship Store at Federation Square” and “request cabinet to facilitate a new process, inclusive of public consultation, for the approval of the location and design of an Apple Global Flagship Store within central city.”

At a meeting of the council’s Future Melbourne Committee, councillor Rohan Leppert, who moved the motion, said “This comes down to one thing. We need to ensure the public of Victoria has their say over Melbourne’s premier public space otherwise the project should not go ahead. We should be encouraging the parliament to do what they to stop this from happening.”

Councillor Nicholas Reece the design reminded him of a “Pizza Hut pagoda.”

“It’s like something that’s rolled off an Apple store production line and they’ve just plonked it in Melbourne’s premier civic square.

“If you don’t consult with making fundamental changes to your premier public gathering place – well, what do you consult on?” he asked.

Leppert added, “Decisions like this over Melbourne’s public spaces cannot be made in the dark and cannot be made this way.”

The council received more than 800 submissions to the motion, which Leppert described as “a spectacular number.” More submissions on the motion were received than those received on the issue of marriage equality.

A newly formed group, Citizens for Melbourne, facilitated the submissions process which opened on late Friday afternoon and closed at lunchtime on Tuesday.

The group is convened by built environment professionals including architects Tania Davidge, Shelley Freeman, Michael Smith, urbanist James Lesh, architectural historian Rohan Storey, as well as Brett de Hoedt and Melinda Ovens.

The Victorian Greens’ motion will be voted on in parliament in two weeks time.

Councillor Leppert and Citizens for Melbourne’s Tania Davidge will speak in a public debate against the Apple flagship store plans at Federations Square on Tuesday 13 February.

One of Federations Square’s original architects, Donald Bates, and Victorian government architect Jill Garner will be part of the affirmative team in the debate facilitated by Open House Melbourne.

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