John Henshall, Founding Partner, Essential Economics

The proposed Apple Fed Square represents a complete lack of community consultation, an over-abundance of corporate interference in planning processes, and an ungainly corporate commercial intrusion into our central community space.

What have you done to OUR Fed Square?

I sent this letter to Richard Wynne, Minister for Planning:

Dear Minister,

This deal struck by the Government and the Department of Planning appears to have been highly secret. No public mention of the 'deal' was made until it broke in the media last week. And, most noteworthy, you did not mention this deal as a planning achievement for 2017 or as a development project to look forward to in 2018 when you gave your wrap-up speech to the planning and development sector at the Victorian Planning Authority function last week. I was in attendance and, unless I am deaf, I heard no mention of the deal.

Images_EE_Team_JH.jpgImportantly, Federation Square is indeed a public meeting place for all Victorians and for our interstate and international visitors. It is the jewel in Melbourne's crown (especially as our ‘City Square’ in Swanston Street emerged as simply the forecourt for the international Westin Hotel that enjoys 100% frontage to this otherwise 'public space'). In regard to Fed Square, it cannot be regarded as a ‘commercial’ space where the likes of Apple (or DJ's or Myer or Bunning's) can locate at a premium price. The Square does have commercial elements, but these are closely related to the arts and culture (lan Potter Gallery, ACMI, Koori Heritage Trust, and the like), and places to relax with friends and visitors (cafes and restaurants). Rank corporate commercialism has no place in our Fed Square.

And the architecture for Apple: good grief. One does not have to be an architect to observe that the proposed design for Apple is so 'out of synch' with the Federation Square design we have come to recognise for its uniqueness over the past years. The design looks like the architect is seeking to replicate a Frank Lloyd Wright holiday house at Seaford Beach. The proposed design bears no sign of ‘comfort’ with the existing Fed Square buildings, or the Square itself.

As for the public comments, I see that Apple is already naming the development “Apple Federation Square”, according to Apple's media release, quoting Angela Ahrendts (Apple's senior vice-president, retail; Apple media release date: 20 December, 2017). Already, we Victorians have lost our own central city iconic ‘community space’.

Ms Ahrendts is also quoted as saying “we're thrilled to move forward in the planning process for our new home” (my emphasis). Minister, what “planning process” has been involved? This is a parody of the accepted public planning process that serves our city and state-wide.

A spokesperson in your department mentioned how the Apple development will create some 250 construction jobs and 250 ongoing jobs (as I recall). The reality is that these ‘new jobs’ would be created wherever Apple was to build such a new store in Melbourne (or elsewhere). Our Fed Square is not important in that context.

This whole planning process and the outcome (thus far) is nothing more than a public debacle, the likes of which should not have occurred on your watch as our Planning Minister.

Yours sincerely,

John

John Henshall, LFPIA I can be contacted at john@essentialeconomics.com.

This letter was sent to the Minister for Planning before it was reported in the media that the Minister was not in favour of the redevelopment proposal, but was out-voted