Preston Market will be partially transformed into a high rise development that could house up to 2,200 apartments if a plan by the Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) were to go ahead.
The plan, which is also backed by a large development group, has been met with anger from the local Darebin community with locals fighting back against the proposal.
Local Facebook groups have been created, including Save the Preston Market, and have gathered members in the thousands to push back against the development plans.
Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.
The Save the Preston Market Action Group (STPMAG) has been the most outspoken in fighting the development. The STPMAG claim that the development group behind the proposal is the same behind a site that now sits on the Yarra largely unused.
“These massive blocks now sit untenanted and empty against the Melbourne skyline, with the developers unable to sell the apartments,” they said in a recent press release.
The STPMAG have also put together an alternative proposal:
“Local architects and planners together with the STPM Action Group have synthesized a Community Vision based on community submissions which were put forth in response to the VPA’s proposal in 2021,” they say.
“Of the 386 submissions received by the VPA, 381 were critical of the plan, with the only ones in favour being that of the developer and a handful of private interests.”
“The VPA Draft plan provides high levels of protection for the market with the exact same number of stalls at the current square meterage but with improved facilities,” the VPA told Beat in a statement.
“It even provides a plan that will allow continuous trading during the transition period as the site is developed. Part of the market area will be re-oriented to the south of the site but the iconic fruit and vegetable shed will be retained.”
The market first opened to the public in the early ’70s and has long been known for its bustling crowds and vocal shop owners. Known as being a multicultural hub in the cities north, it is the only market of “local and historical significance” which is not owned by its own local government.
In recent months the market has seen two of its longest tenured fruiterers close their doors for good. Independent Darebin councillor Gaetano Greco, who has long campaigned for Preston Market to remain unchanged, says the recent closures have “been really felt by the market” but that the markets popularity continues unchanged.
“It’s highlighted what’s going on,” she told The Age. “At the same time people love the market, the market still lives. They’ll keep coming. There’s been some turnover, but the market keeps coming out on top.”
Though owners of the businesses that have shut down have not spoken publicly, it is believed the impacts of COVID-19 as well as rising rent prices and the offer of only short-term leases played a part in them closing down.
A generational change could also be having an impact according to Original Fruit and Nut shop owner Fadi Hamdani.
“The new generation, they don’t spend money like older people,” he told The Age. “People used to come here and buy for big families. They don’t have kids at home, they buy less.”
It was reported as early as May last year that developers and the VPA had drawn up plans for a 20 storey apartment building.
The plan would see most of the 120 stalls moved and re-arranged to the front of Cramer St. Under these plans the current fruit and vegetable shed would remain to protect local heritage.
VPA chief executive Stuart Moseley stressed that the development would allow the market to remain around the same size, whilst also improving the area.
“Our draft plans ensure the Preston Market precinct offers new homes and jobs in a greener, sustainable precinct, including affordable housing, new public open spaces, new community facilities and improved transport connections,” Mr Moseley told The Age.
The STPMAG are holding a picnic and consultation meeting this Saturday at the Darebin Town Hall from 11am to promote the release of the “alternative community vision”, which they’re offering as a chance for people to get together to discuss the proposed development.
Find out more information about Save the Preston Market here.