Plans announced last month for Apple’s first global flagship store in the southern hemisphere have prompted outrage among Melbournites, who are criticizing the complete lack of public input in the project’s approval process.
The new three-story building, designed by Foster + Partners, would require the demolition of the existing Yarra Building, and would change the character of Federation Square, a popular public location for gatherings and events. But before being announced, the project was already fast-tracked through the first stage of planning approval, thanks to a partnership with the city.
In response to this secrecy, and to the plans themselves, a petition on Change.org to prevent the Yarra Building’s demolition has already gathered over 40,000 signatures, and a number of notable figures from the world of architecture and planning have already spoken out, including Laura Murray of the Planning Institute Australia, Adrian Gray of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and Vanessa Bird of the Australian Institute of Architects.
In a letter sent to the government minister for planning, Richard Wynne, the three call for an increase in transparency in future planning processes.
"In response to your recent approval, we jointly write to voice our concern over the lack of a clear and transparent planning process with no opportunity for community consultation for such a significant development in Melbourne's most iconic public square," the letter reads.
"Collectively, we advocate for the de-politicisation of the planning process and such a decision will only set a precedent for poor planning decisions in the future. We believe that such a significant proposal for this publicly owned civic space should have gone through a transparent competitive process to ensure the most suitable tenants were selected."
An FAQ that supplements the project on the Federation Square website defends the project, as well the process taken towards its approval.
“The Government has deemed this to be a project of state significance because of its wide-ranging social and economic benefits for Victoria and therefore the Minister for Planning exercised his powers to exempt a planning scheme amendment from public notice as it is in the broad interests of Victoria to do so.”
Apple has unveiled plans for their latest global flagship town square retail concept, to be located in Melbourne's Federation Square. A product of a partnership between Apple, Federation Square and the Victorian Government, the store is envisioned as a shared resource that will increase the amount of public space in the square and will offer daily programs to "inspire and educate the community."