Apple’s troubled Melbourne flagship store has been pushed back a year

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Oz new store
The original, now abandoned design for Melbourne's flagship Apple Store.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s proposed flagship Apple Store in Melbourne, Australia’s Federation Square has been pushed back at least a year. Work was originally scheduled to start in early 2019. However, now it won’t begin until 2020 — with the eventual opening taking place in 2021.

If it even happens at all, that is.

Problems from day one

Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, the state of Australia which is home to Melbourne, continues to support the Apple Store. Speaking with newspaper The Age, he said that, “My position has always been: ‘Do we really want this thing to go to Sydney and all the jobs and all the opportunities that come from it?’ That’s not my view.”

Two ministers who drove the Apple proposal — John Eren and Philip Dalidakis — recently left Andrews’ cabinet. Andrews says that this will make no difference to the eventual plan.

In addition to the extra revenue an Apple Store would bring, the proposed “revitalization of Federation Square” would create more than 500 square meters of new public space, among other improvements. Right from day one, it has proven controversial, though. The overriding criticism of the Apple Store is that it is located in a space intended for public events. These include cultural performances and public protests.

Objection!

Earlier this year, an attempt to block construction of the store failed in Australian parliament. However, Apple has also had to make changes, such as scrapping its original store designs, boasting an elaborate pagoda-style roof. This new design has also been criticized for causing a, “loss of definition to the square.”

The store’s proposed location was additionally afforded a heritage protection order which delayed any work being carried out until the end of 2018. While this was largely symbolic (as noted, the building wasn’t due to start until early 2019), it was a telling decision.

Federation Square chief executive Jonathan Tribe told The Age that the exact timeline was always likely to change. “As with all major capital works projects, time frames are likely to shift in the initial stages of the project,” he said.

Senator Derryn Hinch, a member of the Justice Party, has spoken out against the Apple Store. “I loathe the rotten thing,” Hinch said. He described the deal to bring Apple to the Federation Square as, “a shabby, short-sighted deal with Apple that virtually says a precious, rare, public space is up for sale.”

Will Apple continue waiting?

Apple, for its part, has seemingly been patient waiting for this furore to subside. However, there’s likely a limit to how long it will do this for. In May this year, Apple ditched plans to build an 850 million euro ($960 million) data center in Ireland after a series of delays caused by complaints.

Will the same thing happen here? For the sake of local Apple fans, we’d hope not. But things aren’t looking great right now.