Apple plans controversial flagship store for Melbourne’s Federation Square

Apple plans controversial flagship store for Melbourne’s Federation Square

19 January 2018

Melbourne residents are up in arms at the arrival of Apple’s first southern-hemisphere flagship in Federation Square—one of five in the world—reports architecture website Dezeen.

The two-storey Apple store designed by Foster + Partners will replace an existing three-storey building in Federation Square, a publicly owned plaza set on the bank of the Yarra River in the city’s Central Business District.

The tech giant will foot the bill for the demolition and construction and then lease the freehold for about 20 years.

The demolition will force the Koorie Heritage Trust, an Aboriginal cultural centre, to the Alfred Deakin building, also located in the square.

The deal was struck after two years of negotiations and promoted by Tourism Minister John Eren and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis, reports The Age.

The announcement was made just days before Christmas—a classic manoeuvre by governments conscious of ensuing controversy.

The plan has caused outrage among some residents, who say the local government didn’t consult the public before Apple signed the lease.

According to critics, activity at Federation Square will revolve around activity at the new Apple store—rather than its stated primary purpose to become “one of the world’s great public places.”

An online petition against the store, created in late December, has garnered more than 49,000 signatures. When it gets to 50,000, it will be delivered to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Citing “wide-ranging social and economic benefits” for Melbourne, Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said on Saturday it was in the city’s best interest to fast-track Apple’s development plans, says Business Insider.

Plaza managers Fed Square Pty Ltd, also defended the plans. “Federation Square operates on a commercial model, and there are already a number of commercial organisations operating in the space,” said a company news release. “All new commercial operations in Fed Square need to enhance the cultural life and amenity of the square and Apple’s proposal has aligned with this.”

Last week, the Victorian government twice promised to release concept plans detailing Apple’s demolition and construction plans for the store, but then reneged, reports The Age.

A spokesman for Minister for Trade and Investment Philip Dalidakis, said: “Apple is refusing the release the plans and I don’t think that will be changing any time soon unfortunately.”

The demolition and construction project will free up 500 square metres of new public space on the square and open up views to the river.

It is anticipated that the expansion of the square and addition of the store will draw two million visitors each year.

Work on the new Apple Store is expected to begin in mid-2019 and be complete by 2020.