Melbourne's citizens are still not on board with a controversial plan to establish an Apple flagship store in the city's Federation Square even after a public debate with some of its fiercest proponents.
Last December Victorian premier Daniel Andrews made the snap announcement that the square’s Yarra building would be demolished to make way for a flagship Apple store.
The premier was criticised for failing to consult publicly on the decision, and for allowing a large commercial retailer to set up shop in a public space.
Additionally, despite ongoing negotiations between Labor and Apple since 2016, the Melbourne city council only found out about the deal in December’s surprise announcement.
Critics and proponents of the plan participated in a debate last month over the future of the square.
The statement put to the speakers was ‘the proposed Apple store will be a win for the square and the city’.
When doors to the event opened, 82.9 percent of the audience sided with the negative team. The remaining 17.1 percent indicated they were neutral or favoured the affirmative.
The two-and-a-half hour debate covered the proposed design features of the Apple store, public space vs commercial space, and transparency in public planning.
By the end, attitudes were more mixed, but a majority of the audience, or 66 percent, remained against the proposal, according to polling from Open House Melbourne.
While the speakers advocating for the Apple store were unable to completely sway the audience, 27.1 percent of respondents said they felt more sympathetic to this view after the debate.
However, 41.4 percent said they were even less sympathetic.
The majority of respondents said they attended the event to gain more insight into the controversial project.
But despite the public reticence, the $50 million build is still going ahead.
Construction will start in early 2019 and the store is expected to open in 2020. The redesign of Federation Square is expected to attract an extra 2 million visitors per year.