A group called Our City, Our Square has launched a crowdfunding campaign to “buy back” Federation Square for $40 million.
While the group says that pledges to the tongue-in-cheek campaign won’t ever be "called upon", it hopes to raise awareness and ultimately halt the demolition of the Yarra Building, which is set make way for a flagship Apple Store.
When the tech giant announced the plan in December 2017 there was an immediate backlash across social media, with many criticising the Andrews government for prioritising commercial interests over cultural. At the time, the government said the store was expected to bring an additional two million people to Federation Square annually. Designs were then revealed in July 2018.
The Yarra Building currently houses The Koorie Heritage Trust, which will relocate across the Square to the Alfred Deakin building.
Our City, Our Square, which is volunteer-run, is urging Victorians to help raise enough money to “outbid” Apple. The group’s Pozible page estimates that they’ll need to raise $40 million – or around $7 per Victorian – but also makes clear that the fundraising effort primarily functions to raise awareness.
“You can afford to pledge lavishly to this crowdfunding campaign since we’ll only be collecting if the State Government agrees to our proposition for the public to buy back Fed Square for $40 million,” reads a disclaimer on the Pozible page. “Sadly, that’s unlikely. Satisfying Apple – rather than Victorians – is the Fed Square CEO's top priority.”
The group claims to have secured over 100,000 signatures for a petition, and has plans to meet with political stakeholders. Ultimately, it is looking to secure heritage listing for the space (the National Trust's nomination was accepted in August 2018) and has campaigned the City of Melbourne, the State Government, Heritage Victoria and the Australian Heritage Council to make this a reality.
At the time of writing, the campaign had raised over $189,000 of its $40 million target.
For more information, and to support the campaign, head here