Heritage-Listed Campbell Arcade Under Threat of Demolition21 May 2018
Campbell Arcade, a haven for creatives nestled in the Arts district underneath Melbourne’s Degraves Lane, is under threat of partial demolition as a result of current plans released by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) and Cross Yarra Partnership (CYP) to accommodate for the multi-billion dollar Metro Tunnel project due in 2025.
The proposed plans involve the complete destruction of all but one tenancy on the eastern side of the arcade, including heritage shopfronts, and all but two tenancies on the western side to make way for a direct underground connection between the new Town Hall Station and Flinders Street Station platforms via the existing subway.
Campbell Arcade was built in 1955 as a unique example of art deco curvature architecture. Although it has always operated as a shopping arcade, since 1994 it has been an established fixture on Melbourne’s art scene. The resident Platform Artists group displayed art until 2015, when The Dirty Dozen took over. The Dirty Dozen is managed by the City of Melbourne’s Creative Spaces Program.
Notable stores to be affected include niche record store Wax Museum, a 50-year old hairdresser and Sticky Institute, a not-for-profit self-publishing zine hub that has resided in the arcade for the last 17 years.
Beck, a representative of Sticky Institute, said, “There’s a lot of community down here; we’re like a little neighbourhood in and of ourselves.”
“What would be heartbreaking … is if they do have to knock down this shop and the barber’s shop. Because they’re a set, like a tea set … it [is] nicer when you have the whole thing on a tray.”
The MMRA website states that “the new Town Hall Station at the southern end of Swanston Street will improve access to some of Melbourne’s most iconic and important tourist destinations including Federation Square, Southbank, the Arts Centre, St Paul’s Cathedral and other culturally significant landmarks.”
Though acknowledging the importance of the project, the Melbourne Heritage Society have said that, “Besides consideration of built heritage impacts, the destruction of nearly half the shops and placing most behind the ticket barriers (of the station) presents a serious loss of cultural fabric for the city.”
At a meeting in December 2017 between the National Trust and the CYP, the CYP said that, “The proposal to connect the Town Hall to Flinders Street Station via Campbell Arcade aims to utilise existing infrastructure that is somewhat currently under-utilised, particularly in comparison to access points at Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street.”
The National Trust, however, remain “strongly opposed” to the current proposal, arguing that the arcade has “contemporary socio-cultural significance of the tenancies and use as an art space over the past two decades.”
“Any heritage assessment for this site should include a consideration of the architectural and aesthetic significance of the fabric, as well as the social and historical significance of the place, including its cultural value as an art space,” said the National Trust.
The CYP has been in continued dialogue with the shop owners in Campbell Arcade. According to Beck, the MMRA will relocate the shops if need be.
Feedback to the CYP has been submitted by the community and is awaiting response. Plans will then go through the State Minister for Planning Richard Wynne for approval. For now, there is nothing for the shops to do but wait.
Sticky Institute expressed that the new rail loop will ultimately be good for Melbourne as the city continues to grow and expand, although they hope that there are no more heritage building casualties.
“We all agree it’s going to be good when it’s here,” Beck said, “but getting there is the hard part.”