The Victorian government has been accused of giving away cultural space to commercial interests by allowing global technology giant Apple to build a flagship store at Melbourne’s Federation Square.
The Yarra Building, currently home to the Koorie Heritage Trust, will be demolished to make way for the new store, with construction beginning in early 2019.
The trust will relocate to the Alfred Deakin Building, still within the site.
Victorian Tourism Minister John Eren says the only new generation Apple store in Australia will bring two million extra visitors and hundreds of new jobs while breathing new life into Federation Square.
It is anticipated the store, expected to open in 2020, will create nearly 500sqm of new public space, making it easier for people to move between the Yarra River and public park Birrarung Marr.
But Melbourne Greens councillor Rohan Leppert asked why a public consultation period had been bypassed.
“Federation Square … it’s Melbourne’s premier civic and cultural space in the city. So to give that over to a commercial use, and a great big commercial Apple-branded building is beyond me,” he told AAP on Wednesday.
“The public has a right to have some input at the very least into what that space looks like and going into the future.”
Cr Leppert also questioned the cost and sustainability issues of pulling down a building that was only 15 years old.
Greens MP Ellen Sandell took to Twitter, complaining that Federation Square was “built as a cultural and public space – not a shopping mall”.
But original Federation Square architect Donald Bates has shown his support for the plans.
“Apple Federation Square respects and expands on the original vision for the site, with more public space, extensive landscaping and better access to the river allowing more people to enjoy this renowned civic, cultural and commercial hub,” he said.