The residents of Campbell Arcade has been sitting on an undecided fate since last December when a released draft design plan for Metro Tunnel involved demolishing part of the underground tunnel.
The tunnel links between Flinders Street Station and Degraves Street. It is also home to independent shops and a creative art space. Notable stores affected would be A Touch of Paris – a men’s hairdresser as old as the arcade itself and Sticky Institute – a zine specific space that has resided in Campbell Arcade for at least 15 years.
Campbell Arcade was the first major public infrastructure built and designed after World War II with a distinctive 1950s colour scheme. Its salmon pink tiles, pink and black terrazzo floors, polished black granite columns and chromed steel shopfronts are all aesthetically significant to the era and a very well-preserved example of post-war design in Melbourne.
The arcade was also specifically included in the revised Victorian Heritage Register listing for Flinders Street Station in 2015 because of its historical significant decór.
An online petition, “Save Campbell Arcade” by Victorian MP Ellen Sandell was launched in March hoping to prevent threats to the heritage-listed arcade. More than 800 people have signed the online petition. However, it has been five months since the petition ended and there are no updates on the design proposal.
Cross Yarra Partnerships (CYP) has noted in its draft planning scheme amendment that “the impact of the new works at Campbell Arcade would be modest in scale and can be dealt with at the detailed design phase” and that they will seek to conserve, restore or reconstruct any elements of significant fabric to the arcade.
A spokeswoman from Rail Projects Victoria said that Campbell Arcade will form part of the underground pedestrian connection between Flinders Street Station and the new Town Hall Station.
“The underground pedestrian connection is a vital part of the Metro Tunnel Project because it will allow passengers to connect with the existing network without having to touch on or off their myki,” she said.
“Using the existing arcade is an efficient use of existing infrastructure and lessens the disruption and impact to Flinders Street traffic and trams while the connection is built.”
Beck Sticky, one of the coordinators from Sticky Institute explained that there are no solid initiative on the demolition yet as the designers have gone back to revise the initial planning. There are also safety hazards to consider when the Metro Tunnel work begins.
“We don’t know who the plans are with currently and the plans have not been released to the public, so we don’t know what they’ve changed or how they’ve tried to make amendments. When those parties are in agreement the plans will be made available to the public,” she said.
“The subway has no air filtration as it is, it wouldn’t be safe or smart for us to be down there while they’re digging around creating construction dust – general work-site issues would come up, day in day out, it just wouldn’t be safe or easy.”
Rail Projects Victoria spokeswoman said that relevant heritage permits and approvals will be obtained before any works at Campbell Arcade commences.
Shops operating in the arcade said that they have not received any further information on the fate of their shops except that they will have to vacate next July when the project commences. They are not sure if they’ll be able to return after works completed.
“Currently, Sticky is on a month to month lease and when it comes time to leave the subway, we will relocate and maybe we’ll get the opportunity to come back to shop 10 when it’s all over – maybe we won’t,” Beck added.
“My hope is that we do and there’s minimum impact to the subway during these works. Campbell Arcade is a beautiful piece of Melbourne’s history and, whether or not Sticky gets to come back, I hope they’re able to minimise the impact on the area.”
According to the spokeswoman of Rail Projects Victoria, affected businesses have been encouraged to attend information sessions and provide feedback on the Metro Tunnel development plans which were open to public consultation earlier this year.
“We are working closely with affected businesses as they prepare to leave Campbell Arcade.”