QUARTER QUESTION: Market Square plan has no clear purpose, developer says

December 8, 2023 BY

An artist's impression of how the redeveloped Market Square Quarter could look. Image: SUPPLIED

A LEADING property owner and developer in central Geelong is unenthused about the Market Square Quarter Masterplan, saying its purpose is unclear and its visions will likely go nowhere.

Endorsed by the City of Greater Geelong council and released for public comment last week, the draft masterplan drawn up by MGS Architects aims to, according to the city, “guide development and progressively reinvigorate the city block bound by Malop, Yarra, Ryrie and Moorabool streets”.

The city’s preferred “Malop Heart” option for the block would create:

  • A north-south pedestrian “Eat Street” with outdoor dining, creating an extension of Union Street through the site
  • A new plaza on Malop Street that benefits from northern light
  • An adaptable central open space to support outdoor events and markets
  • A tower development of between five and 12 storeys above parking, with the potential to include a supermarket, and
  • Conversion of Union Street to slow traffic speeds with more greenery planted.

The city cannot unilaterally bring the concepts within the masterplan to life as most of the block is privately owned, including Market Square itself – a fact the masterplan acknowledges – but MGS Architects state the city “believes it is worth advocating for the considered transformation of such sites in recognition of the strategic importance of this location to the whole of Geelong”.

“This document sets forth an ambitious but considered vision for this transformation, so that the Geelong community as a whole can have their say and help us collectively achieve the best outcomes for this location.”

Batman Management Group has developed and is developing several projects within Geelong’s CBD.

The group’s chief executive officer Bill Votsaris said he did not understand the masterplan’s overall objective.

“With anything like that, the first question you should ask is: what are you trying to achieve with this masterplan?

“If you ask an architect to design something and you give them the brief, they’ll design something according to the brief.

“It hasn’t been made clear to us what the purpose of this masterplan is, and it’s therefore very hard to understand what will be achieved from it.

“For instance: are they trying to give some guidance to the people that own property about what they could do with their own property? I would have thought that anyone with property here would engage their own professionals to design whatever they’re going to do based on their use of the space.

“Is it because they [the city] want to lobby the state government to do some compulsory acquisitions?

“It’s a piece of paper with some pretty pictures that most likely will never see the light of day.”

Mr Votsaris said he agreed that Market Square needed redevelopment, adding it was “an opportunity gone begging”.

“I think the state government should have put the convention centre there, and it would have been all done and dusted.”

Cameron Hamilton, managing director of Hamilton Group – which is developing the Bright & Hitchcocks building that neighbours Market Square – declined to comment.

For more information about the masterplan or to give feedback before February 11, 2024, head to yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au/MSM