There is a new newspaper/community news outlet called ‘The Rezzadent” and Carmen Jenkins wrote the following article.
Saving Preston Market
I have lived down the road in some capacity from the Preston Market for the past 22 years. With an almost perverted sense of pride, I’ll tell anyone who listens that the people who run the Hot Jam Donut van know me by name. My eldest child, now 21, was once a lost 4-year-old scooped up and saved by Melissa from Sam and Sons Grocers. I remember when Rhubarb Rhubarb was a tiny stall near the other ‘good toilets’, now a market stalwart its own right with great coffee, gorgeous staff and even better avocados. And then there is Cathy from the chicken shop who regals me weekly with stories of her beautiful little granddaughter.
After 22 years you make a lot of connections, you build a history, and that’s how you build community. Community doesn’t need to be based around spending, but the market has a special place in the north of Melbourne that’s captured the hearts of the community since it replaced the Thomas Broadhurst Tannery which was the original purpose of the site after colonisation.
In 1969 the then Mayor of Preston W. K. Larkins drove home the first stake into the building site that would be Preston market. Two million dollars was then an exciting and forward-thinking investment offering renewal, hope and advancement to the people of Preston, Thornbury, and Reservoir.
By 1970 the market was up and running and by 1976 had grown to include 46 green grocers, 15 delicatessens, 4 fish shops, 4 poultry shops, 19 butchers and a variety of small goods shops including toys, clothes, carpets, plants, and sporting goods. https://heritage.darebinlibraries.vic.gov.au/article/479
In 2004 Centro MCS, sold the Market to Salta Properties for $36.75 million. The new company has had plans to renovate the site ever since. For the past 17 years the Preston Market has been under the majority ownership of Preston Market Developments Pty Ltd (PMD), a joint venture between Australia’s Salta Properties and Medich Corporation.
What is the developer planning?
The draft plan for the Preston Market claims to retain part of the market building and proposes the balance of the market along the eastern side of the precinct, allowing space in the centre of the precinct for 6 new buildings that provide future homes and jobs. The highest building is 20 storeys, the smallest 10 storeys and by all indications the majority if not all will be 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. The current and future community will be supported by the new Preston Station, new open spaces, and community facilities. What those open spaces will look like, is underwhelming in the plans and do not seem to entail any greening of the space.
There is lots of underused spaces within the current Preston Market Property that could be better used by the community.
It’s the 6 building towers one at 68 metres in the centre of the market that has people most concerned by this development proposal, anyone who lives locally would consider this an overdevelopment that is developer driven, not driven by actual community need. Looking at percentages of population in this region Preston is a suburb of families, we need affordable housing that caters to families and 1- and 2-bedroom apartments don’t do that long term.
Save the Market campaign
The Rezzadent spoke to George Kanjere, who is one of the organizers of the current Save Preston Market advocacy group. There have been multiple iterations of the Save Preston Market campaign, and constant pressure from the Darebin Appropriate Development Association (DADA) and Darebin Council to maintain beloved aspects of the Preston Market, who have been behind appropriate development of the site since it was sold in 2004.
The Preston Market Precinct project has been identified as a project on the Victorian Planning Authority’s Fast Track Program. This means that the government has prioritised its development as a possible economic stimulus to the area as part of the Victorian Government’s packaged response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Who makes the decisions?
The local council doesn’t decide the future of the Preston Market. It’s privately owned and under state jurisdiction. But they can certainly have their say and the current council has voted against the latest plan put forward by the developer for the Preston Market property and made calls on the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne and the VPA to protect the future of Preston Market. Unless Wynne agrees it’s going to be a hell of a fight for the community.
Wynne is a formidable powerhouse in the Labor Party who seems to have a reputation for rarely listening to or working with communities versing developers. No-one knows this like the Dja Dja Wurrung people who have spent years trying to protect their birthing trees! Wynne has a litany of VCAT cases where he has overturned decisions made by local councils in favour of developers.
If we want to save our market, then we’ll need to stand and fight as a community. DADA and Save Preston Market, along with the council and local State MPs are the only way forward. However, the state seems very locked into the current design which includes the housing towers. Salta and Medich are well known developers of this high-density housing style.
At this stage the community needs the Victorian Government to forcibly acquire the land. As George Kanjere pointed out to the Rezzedent, they have no problem acquiring private housing in other circumstances.
A great example is the rail renewal project where land is acquired under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986. However, the process for land acquisition includes compensation for future earnings. For the Preston market this could be massive, costing the state and the public extraordinary amounts of money.
DADA and Save Preston Market are asking the state government to recognise that there is not enough protection of the significant and recognised heritage features of the market and to acknowledge that the 20-story dwellings proposed on the Murray Roadside of the market does not satisfy ESD (Environmentally Sustainable Design) standards as other buildings including the market will be overshadowed from northerly solar access during trading hours.
Good planning of the precinct is vital because, like many areas throughout Melbourne, Preston is facing transformational growth, with the population forecast to double in size to 68,000 people by 2041. And that’s not the only forecast to worry about. The Climate Emergency is no doubt on many locals’ minds, especially after the recently released IPCC climate report.
The dense urban design that is being flagged by the Victorian Planning Authority is not only out of scale with the local community but has not considered any of the environmental concerns that the IPCC report highlights.
This is even more important when taking into consideration the 2018 paper which outlines Preston the suburb, as one of the hottest in Melbourne. High Density housing does not help negate heat spots. Any development or re-development in Preston should be taking this into account. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/science/article/pii/S2212095517301141
The days of the market you knew could be coming to an end, either way. Senior and disability groups have spoken out in the past about the unlevel paths and the dangerous dash from the station across the market’s infamous carpark, which is also perilous for families with small children and prams. It would be fantastic to see the market retain its character but to also reach its potential as a jewel of the north with the appropriate and sustainable re-development that the community deserves.